Brunson: Double belly busting


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in the London Telegraph in 2005.

Doyle Brunson index.

Historical note: The following explanatory note didn’t appear in the series, but was sent with each column as submitted.

Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson stands unchallenged as the most celebrated poker player who ever lived. In 2005, at age 72, he won an unprecedented 10th championship gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker. He is among the few living members of the Poker Hall of Fame, and his books  are the bibles for poker professionals.. Through www.poker1.com and www.doylesroom.com, Brunson has teamed with Mike Caro, today’s premiere poker educator, to offer a free learning experience to players worldwide. This column is founded on  those collaborative teachings.


Doyle Brunson

“You must be out of your mind playing a hand like that!” the old man ranted, lifting himself from his seat slightly, but not leaving it.

The game was hold ’em. I had made a straight on the river to beat him. This was 40 years ago and I hadn’t established my poker reputation yet. So, occasionally, I’d get myself in a situation where an opponent would fly off the handle, get nasty, insult me. That doesn’t happen today, because nowadays my opponents know what I’ve accomplished and tend to be intimidated rather than confrontational.

“I thought you were a pretty fair player until now.” The man’s anger hadn’t cooled one bit. “You put all that money in, just so you could try for a gut shot straight. You’d need an open-end straight to justify that call! You’re lucky today, kid, but you better keep your fingers crossed permanently, because you’ll need to.”

Looking back

Even at that early stage of my career, I liked the old man’s reaction. Now that I’m pretty much getting to be an old man myself, I can look back on those early days of poker in Texas and see that I was doing many things right back then. And players with 50 years of experience were still making the same old poker mistakes they make today – like this guy. He had assumed I’d made a bad bet, been called, and gotten lucky, but I hadn’t.

When I say I liked the old man’s reaction, here’s what I mean: I like my opponents to think I’m lucky. That works in my favor. It makes opponents want to chase me down. It also scares them, because there’s nothing more intimidating than good luck.

When opponents think you’re lucky, they’ll envy you and feel comparatively sorry for themselves. That’s when they’re easiest to beat. And one of the ways you can appear to be lucky, while actually playing solid poker, is to aggressively bet double belly buster straights. And when you win a hand by connecting for the straight, you should never point out to your opponent that it was a double belly buster.

I’m certain that many of my readers aren’t familiar with the term double belly buster straight. But they should be.

The old man was no doubt familiar with this type of hand, but like so many players – experienced and inexperienced – he forgot to check out the possibility that it was what I’d just played. Instead, in the agony of being drawn out on and feeling sorry for himself, his natural inclination was to assume I had made a gut-shot straight. Here’s the difference…

A gut-shot straight, often called an inside straight, gives you just one rank of card that will complete it. For instance, if you hold A-10 and the board is J-8-7-3, then you need to catch a nine on that final river card to make your jack-high straight. That’s why players rightly prefer open-ended straights, allowing double the cards to complete them. An open-ended straight looks like this: You hold 8-7 and the board is A-9-6. Now you can complete your straight by catching any of eight cards of two separate ranks, any five or any 10. As great as that sounds, there’s an even better straight attempt than an open-ended one.

More trecherous

It  provides the very same opportunity to complete as an open-ended straight, but it’s much more treacherous, because opponents aren’t as likely to recognize the possibility. And if you connect, they’re apt to overlook the eight-way reality and interpret your hand falsely as having been a lucky strike, an inside straight draw.

There are many incarnations of double belly buster straights. Here’s an example: You’re in the big blind, nobody raises, and you hold Q-6; so you see the flop for free and it’s 10-9-8. Now you have eight cards to complete a straight and two tries to catch one of those eight – on the next “turn” card or the final “river” card. But if you connect, many of your opponents won’t see the truth. They’ll just see that you caught either a jack or a seven smack in the middle and will be, at best, scratching their heads or, at worst, angry that you raised with Q-6 on the flop and ended up making an “inside” straight to win.

Let them think that. Just keep betting and raising with those double belly busters and your opponents will have belly aches. In poker, their pain is your gain.  — DB

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  1. Great article. Its interesting to note that whenever I see an example of a Bouble Belly Buster explained, they always use Q – 6 as the pocket. As I play each season I chose a specific hand to track just to see how it performs and indeed Q – 6 can be very powerful. Its interesting to note that of all the hands I’ve tracked over the years, King-Anything (except Ace or King) tends to be a very poor performer.

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