Continuation Betting in Poker - RaSZi
A Continuation Bet, nowadays often just referred to as C-Bet, implies that you continue betting on the Flop after you raised preflop. It is important that you learn to evaluate the texture of the board, so that you know when and when not to apply a C-Bet, if you didn't hit the flop obviously. Nowadays players C-Bet almost every Flop, but in the long run that will cost you a lot of money. In this article I will be focusing on the situations where you C-Bet after missing the flop, as these are the situations where most of the mistakes are made. C-Betting with Aces or Kings is pretty much a standard move and there's hardly ever a reason not to continue betting with these hands.
When I was playing $1/$2 NL I was playing quite tight-aggressive. I only opened with premium hands and never re-raised with rags. As a result, the only hands I would C-Bet with would be AK, AQ and AJ. Then I started to realize that, if I can steal the pot on the flop with AK, this should also work with J-high. If you re-raise somebody preflop and they put you on a strong hand, that doesn't mean u necessarily always have to have one too. But bear in mind that most players where playing relatively tight in those days. So I started playing incredibly loose-aggressive, stealing almost every pot. This is the important thing about C-Bets. If you never C-Bet with a missed , you only play the hand for its flop equity, and it doesn't happen too often that you hit a flop with that hand, so you start incurring losses. It is important to stay aggressive with these hands if you started off aggressive before the flop.
Now lets talk about the flop texture. A good flop texture implies that the flop looks good for your C-Bet bluff and that your opponents' range of hands, with which he can call your bet, is low. Your own hand doesn't really matter in this situation, because you're bluffing. As soon as you miss the flop, you often just play the player, and not your cards. The best possible flop is 1 high card and 2 low cards, ideally with big gaps in between them. An example of a good flop would be , and a perfect flop would look something like . On a Q-high flop like this I will often continue bluffing until the river if he decides to call my bet on the flop, unless he shows strength of course. Your own hand doesn't really matter in this situation. If you raised with a hand like before the flop, your hand turns into a bluff as soon as a flop like this hits the board, which is fine.
The advantage of stealing a pot with a C-Bet is that you have taken over the initiative in the hand and often the other players will assume that you are holding the best hand. This doesn't mean, however, that it's always a good idea to C-Bet a flop. An example of extremely bad flops is or . I will not C-Bet my on flops like these. These are just simple check-fold situations as the range of possible hands that my opponent will want to see a flop with are too big, and often he's already hit on the flop. On a flop like he MIGHT call once with a pair of 8's or 5's. He will also call you with a hand like and maybe with a gutshot.
But when looking at a flop like , your opponent will call you with all 8-x, 7-x, 6-x, 5-x, 4-x hands. He will call with all low and medium pairs as well as with higert suited connectors in the hope to hit his gutshot or backdoor flush. Often it will also be the case that he already hit the flop. As you can see his range of hands that he will call my C-Bet with are much larger than with the K-high flop, something you have to bear in mind at all times. So on a board like this, just forget about the C-Bet. Your opponents have far too many reasons to call your bet as there are still so many draws out there.
OK, so those were the flops on which we don't C-Bet. Now back to the perfect flop. Let's say you're playing a $0.50/$1 NL 6-max table, you're in the cut-off with and raise to $4, and the small blind calls. The Flop comes . You bet $7 into a $9 pot as your C-Bet. More than half the time your opponent will fold his hand here. It is important, however, to C-Bet strong and actually present a strong hand. If your C-Bet is too small it represents weakness and gives your opponent better odds to call your bet. Now lets say your opponent calls your C-Bet. No problem, you still have a backdoor flush draw, a backdoor straight draw, but most importantly, you have the initiative. So when the turn shows a safe card, you get another chance to take down the pot. The range of your opponent here is K-Q, K-J, K-10 combinations, and maybe gutshot combinations like Q-J and J-10. Also possible, but unlikely, are hands like A-K or K-9, and you should never rule out pocket pairs, so maybe even a set. Now assume the turn shows a and your opponent checks. In this case you always fire the second barrel. On a turn like this I would bet out $17 almost 100% of the time. This is hugely +EV as he will have to fold all drawing hands. Furthermore, all hands with a pair of 9's, all low pairs, all gutshot combinations and often even weak K's will fold in this situation. At the end of the day, you raised before the flop and bet out big twice, so your opponent must think that you have a strong hand. Many players will make that call on the flop (float) just to see how you react on the turn and maybe steal the pot if they spot weakness.
Therefore you could almost say that you need to make 2 C-Bets nowadays, as more and more players will call your bet on the flop. Just make sure that you always play these sorts of hands in position, otherwise you will make it very easy for your opponent to call with a monster hand in position. Always think about what your opponent did preflop and in which position. This will help you narrow down his possible hand ranges. Always watch out that you don't get tangled up in trying to bluff someone while he is just trying to check-call you with a set. This type of play will improve your reads on players immensely, as you will always have to be aware if bluffing makes sense or if you're just throwing away your chips.
There is one more important situation when it comes to C-Bets. When re-raising someone preflop with air, you often have to continue being aggressive on the flop. Let's say you re-raise with from $4 to $13 and your opponent calls. (Always make sure your in position with these hands). If the Flop shows something like , I would always C-Bet around $17 or $18. This board is actually perfect for a C-Bet in this situation because you are clearly representing a hand like AK or AQ here. Always think about the hands that your opponent puts you on and how you can represent strength.
As you can see, C-Betting is very closely related to bluffing because as soon as you miss the flop your hand turns into a bluff. Giving up these hands just because you didn't hit will lead to great losses. You should also expect to deal with swings, as your bets increase the size of the pots you play. Make sure to pay attention to the texture of the board, think about the hand ranges of your opponent and if the flop helped him, and if you do decide to C-Bet, be aggressive.