Raising Continuation Bets
One of the ways to increase your non-showdown winnings is by raising continuation bets. When timed correctly, these raises can have a positive effect on your winrate. Raising the continuation bet (cbet) implies that we are not the preflop aggressor. For this there are two possible scenarios: There is a raiser and we call in position (IP), or, less often, there is a raiser and we call out of position (OOP). The reason why the second situation will occur less often is because it is harder to play a hand profitably OOP, while IP it is easier to play a situation profitably.
The cbet% from Holdem Manager is, without a doubt, the best way to determine whether or not to raise a cbet. So what cbet% are we looking for when thinking of raising the cbet? To answer this question, we will take a look at how often a range of hands will hit the flop. By hitting the flop I mean hitting something against which a cbet raise is not a good idea. For this I'm using a program called Pokerrazor, which uses a custom condition. This condition is: top pair or better, an open end straight draw, a flush draw with two hole cards and a flush draw with one hole card.
An average UTG raise range is 22+, AJ+, ATs, KQ, KJs. Some player are tighter, some a little looser. This range will hit our condition about 35.2% of the time. If we add a couple of hands to that range, we get: 22+, AJ+, ATs, A9s, KQ, KJs, QJs, JTs. This range will hit the flop 35.4% of time. Not much difference as you can see. A wider range such as 22+, A5+, A2s+, K9+, K7s+, QT+, Q9s+, J8s+, 76s+, 97s+ will hit our condition 31.4% of time. Even a player who raises 40% of his hands on the button will still hit the flop 29.3% of the time. Therefore we can say that a good average of hitting the flop is about 1 in 3 or 33%. What is noticeable is that wider ranges don't do that much worse than tight, small ranges. This is important to know, as it contradicts the assumption that you can raise more cbets against players with wider ranges. Only with ranges over 40% of all possible hands this percentage starts to decrease to 27%, which is still quite close to 33%.
Now that we know this we can already establish a relationship with the cbet%. A player with a cbet% of about 40% or less will almost never lay down his hand to a raise, as he will always have a fairly strong hand. Someone with a cbet% between 40% and 65% will also often have a strong hand, although there are some bluffs in the mix as well. Players with a cbet% between 65% and 100% cbet a lot, especially those above the 75%-80% mark.
Of course a large sample is very important here. Cbet% will only become worth considering after a large number of hands. If someone plays 18/15/3 and you have 500 hands from this player, this means that he raised 0.15 x 100 = 75 times before the flop and has the chance to place a cbet. If he than cbets 50 times, his cbet% will be 50/75 or 66%. But samples are liable to variance. With statistical methods you can calculate with 95% accuracy between which two extremes the actual cbet% will lie. With a sample of 100 hands, his actual cbet% will lie between 43% and 90%. With 200 hands it will be between 50% and 83%. With 500 hands it will be between 56% and 77% and with 2000 hands it will be between 61% and 72%. As you can see, with a sample of 2000 hands it is possible for a player who cbets 61% of the time in the long run, to be listed in the database with a percentage of 66%. These are all variance effects. You can see how a big sample is necessary before the cbet% becomes reliable.
When calculating how often a hand will hit the flop like we just did, we didn't have as much information as we will have once our opponent places his cbet. This information is the flop itself. Let's use the following example. Imagine a player with a range of 22+, AJ+, ATs, KQ, KJs. As we know from before, this player will hit the flop 35.2% of the time. But this was before we saw a flop. After seeing a flop, a lot can change. We will look at six flops and calculate how often this range will hit top pair or better, a flushdraw with two hole cards, a nut-flushdraw with one hole card or an OESD.
Flop 1: , range of opponent will hit condition 44.7% of the time.
Flop 2: , range of opponent will hit condition 37.9% of the time.
Flop 3: , range of opponent will hit condition 34.4% of the time.
Flop 4: , range of opponent will hit condition 44.7% of the time.
Flop 5: , range of opponent will hit condition 27.7% of the time.
Flop 6: , range of opponent will hit condition 25.7% of the time.
Flop 7: , range of opponent will hit condition 33.3% of the time.
Flop 8: , range of opponent will hit condition 23.9% of the time.
Let's now take a wider range: 22+, A5+, A2s+, K9+, K7s+, QT+, Q9s+, J8s+, 76s+, 97s+. Let's see how often this range will hit the flop.
Flop 1: , range of opponent will hit condition 45.2% of the time.
Flop 2: , range of opponent will hit condition 49.0% of the time.
Flop 3: , range of opponent will hit condition 35.0% of the time.
Flop 4: , range of opponent will hit condition 38.2% of the time.
Flop 5: , range of opponent will hit condition 22.2% of the time.
Flop 6: , range of opponent will hit condition 22.3% of the time.
Flop 7: , range of opponent will hit condition 35.4% of the time.
Flop 8: , range of opponent will hit condition 23.2% of the time.
As we can see, it is not always the best idea to raise flops with high cards (flop 1, 2 and 7) or drawy flop (flop 3 and 4), especially against tight ranges, as our opponent will hit these flops frequently. Other flops, such as 5, 6 and 8, are much better to raise as our opponent will seldom hit a hand worth calling with. Raising is cbet is therefore always better on a dry board. This is not only because our opponent will hit these flops less often, but also because our opponent will often fold the better hand on dry boards. Imagine he has 99 and the flop shows . If you then raise, he can't really put you on a strong draw, as there isn't one on the board. Therefore he has to think you are holding TT+ or maybe even a set. If the flop is drawy, however, he can put you on more draws, which makes it easier for him to play back at you.
Imagine we're playing a 100NL game and we're on the BTN. Everyone folds to the CO, a 20/18/4 payer with a cbet% of 76% over 800 hands. He opens to $3.50 and we call with . The blinds fold so the pot is $8.50. The flop shows . He bets $6, making the pot $14.50. We can now choose to make the raise. Let's say his raising range from the CO is about 28.5% of all hands. This range will hit top pair or better, a strong flushdraw or an open ended straight draw only 21.1% of the time. So it is very likely that he's bluffing here. We raise to $17 and he folds.
The higher we raise, the more often the cbet raise has to be successful in order for it to be +EV. We know that the EV of a raise like this is equal to:
EV = (fold%)(potsize) – (not-fold%)(raisesize)
And because not-fold% is equal to 1 – fold%, we get:
EV = (fold%)(potsize) – (1 - fold%)(raisesize)
To make the raise breakeven, we set EV equal to 0. This way we can find out what fold% we need for our raise to be +EV. The potsize is $14.50 and our raise size is $17. When putting these numbers into the equation we get:
0 = (fold%)($14.5) – (1 - fold%)($17)
And now we calculate the fold%;
0 = (fold%)(14.5$) – (1 - fold%)(17$)
0 = (fold%)(14.5$) – (17$ - (17$)(fold%))
0 = (fold%)(14.5$) – 17$ + (17$)(fold%)
17$ = (fold%)(14.5$) + (17$)(fold%)
17$ / fold% = 14.5$ + 17$
fold% = 17$ / (14.5$ + 17$)
fold% = 0.5397
As long as our opponent will fold to our raise more than 53.97% of the time, our raise will become +EV. Seeing as his preflop range will only hit the 2-5-7r flop 21.1% of the time, it seems like a good idea to raise his cbet here.
The general formula that you can use to calculate how often someone needs to fold to make your raise +EV is:
Some people might argue that if your opponent bets $6 and you raise to $17, the raisesize is $11. Just to eliminate any misunderstandings: that is NOT what I mean with raisesize. With raisesize I mean the amount that comes out of your stack to raise your opponent, which in this case is $17.
To make things easier for you, you can use the table below. The size of your raise will always be a certain ratio of the potsize. In our example the pot was $14.50 and our raise was $17. This raise is 1.17 times larger than the pot of $14.50. This ratio is what the following table is based on.
As you can see, the larger the size of your raise, the more your opponent will have to fold to make it +EV. Raising too much isn't good for anything, as opponents will often fold to a smaller raise as well. Raising too little can be tricky as many opponents will still risk a call with nothing if you minraise, for example. Also important: betting 1x pot from the table is not the same as pressing the "bet pot" button on your poker software. If you raise pot at the table, you first call the initial bet and then raise all the money that is in the pot, including your call. This is different from the 1x pot bet from the table as your call is not included in this. My advice is to count the pot first before making the cbet raise. You then decide on how much you want to raise and what the ratio is between your raise and the pot size on the table.
Imagine the potsize on the flop is $30. Your opponent cbets $20 and this makes the pot $50. An appropriate raise here would be around $60, which is 1.2 times the size of the pot (60/50). As you can see from the table, your opponent will need to fold his hand 56% of the time (or more) to make this play +EV.
What method you chose to determine how often your opponent will have to fold to make your cbet raise +EV is up to you. You can use a calculator and the formula to find out the percentage, or you just take a quick look at the table above. Both methods are easy and quick to use at the table. For live games the table is probably the easier option, although people you are good with number can also calculate the percentage in their head using the formula.
Whatever you do, just make sure it's +EV. Adjust your raise sizes to not create a disadvantage for yourself. Don't raise to little, but also don't raise too much. Also make sure to raise on the right boards. You don't want your opponent to think you're on a draw and semi-bluffing him. You also don't want his range to hit the flop often. Dry boards with 3, maybe 2 low cards are ideal for this.
And as always, feel free to post any remarks, questions, reaction etc on our forum. I hope you enjoyed the article and learned a thing or two.
Kurt Verstegen (Riverdale27)