So you raised pre-flop, your opponent(s) called and you now head to a flop. What do you do now? The following article aims to discuss the various aspects of continuation betting (c-betting) in poker, including when you should bet, when you should give up, how position effects c-betting and the size of your continuation bet relative to the size of the pot. Let's start!
The effectiveness of your continuation bet will be a combination of your equity (strength of your hand), the board texture and your opponents tendencies. The first thing you should know about is this, the best boards to continuation bet are dry flops. The reason for this is because the less coordinated the board, the harder it is to hit. Ideal boards are boards with one high card and two low cards, without a flush draw. Basically, any board that is unconnected without a flush draw. For example, Ad 2c 7h or Kd Qs 2h.
Another interesting caveat about dry boards is that if our opponent continues, they will usually call our c-bet instead of raising. Most medium strength hands will be called and most monsters will be slow played since our opponent likely figures we will not have hit the board very often.
So for example, we raise pre-flop and the flop comes down T22. If we c-bet our opponent is not very likely to raise TT or a 2. The implication of this is that we do not have to worry about getting raised very often and we can bet both our bluffs and marginal strength hands for thin value to take down the dead money.
Flops that are bad to continuation bet are "wet" flops. These are boards that are coordinated with flush draws and straight draws. It is also weighted towards middle cards.
For example, as a pre-flop raiser the board 8d 9d Tc is worse to continuation bet than say, As Ks Qh (though neither are great). The reason for this is a lot of pre-flop calling ranges include middle suited connectors and medium pairs. As the pre-flop raiser you are more likely to hit the high card flop than the low card flop.
It is as simple as this - the more coordinated the board is, the more likely it is that our opponent has hit the board strongly.
When I say boards are either good or bad to continuation bet, this is relative to your pot equity in the hand. For example, if you have a set or two pair or a strong draw on a wet board, you of course want to continuation bet it. What I mean by saying a board is bad to continuation bet, is that the board is bad to continuation bet without strong equity.
If we have a strong hand or a strong draw we can profitably bet almost any flop because our pot equity accompanied by the fold equity we generate by betting is more than enough to turn a previously -ev situation into a +ev situation.
If we have a medium strength hand on a coordinated board we may not want to continuation bet when we have position. Especially if we are facing an aggressive player. Frequently draws and big hands will be fast played. Also, your opponent is more likely to bluff raise a wet board because he can represent more hands.
An example would be checking behind Jx on Jd 8d 9c. You have to weigh up the odds of being raised on the flop and having to fold our hand versus getting value from worse hands and letting hands that would fold the flop have a free look at cracking our hand that would have otherwise folded if we had bet.
As a general rule of thumb, with a medium strength hand we should be more likely to go for thin value and protection against passive players. Against aggressive players who will frequently raise our continuation bets when they have a draw, we can sacrifice some equity by allowing them to have a free card so that we donít get raised off our hand when they are bluffing/semi-bluffing.
When out of position you want to be c-betting more than when you are in position. The reason for this is because when you are in position, you can frequently check back a number of hands.
For example, imagine you have pocket queens, raise from early position and get called by the button. You head to the flop out of position and the flop comes down, Kd 2s 5h. In this spot you want to be continuation betting your pocket queens instead of checking. The reason for this is because out of position, our hand becomes very hard to play profitably without the initiative. Inversely, take the same scenario, but now we raise from the cutoff (CO) and the big blind (BB) calls. In this spot on a Kd 2s 5h board, we would want to check this back a portion of the time to control the size of the pot.
When you are in position, you can profitably cold call a lot of implied odds hands such as suited connectors and small pairs which you can't play profitably out of position. For example, if we are an early position raiser and are called by a player in late position and the flop comes down 4 5 6, our opponent could have hands like 44, 55, 66, 45, 56, 67, 78 in his range.
Inversely, if we are on the button and raise pre-flop and get called by the big blind, assuming our opponent is a competent player, he should fold all of these hands out of position (with the exception of maybe 55 and 66).
What are the implications for this in regards to c betting? Well, when we are on the button playing vs the BB we can continuation bet these low flops a lot more profitably than if we are in early position and the pre-flop caller is in late position. Also, because we are the button, we can represent a wide range of hands on a lot of flops since our raising range is very wide and includes low cards, high cards or one of each.
The size of our continuation bet as a rule should be between half and the full pot. The more coordinated the board is, the larger our continuation bet should be (in relation to the size of the pot). The more dry the flop, the smaller our continuation bet should be.
The reasoning behind this is simple and two fold. On super dry boards, for example A 7 2 rainbow, our opponent either is continuing with the hand or he is not. If our opponent has 9 T, he's most likely folding on the flop whether we bet full pot or half pot. Essentially, if we bet more than half pot and he does happen to call, the extra money is wasted if we can't continue. If our opponent has Ax, 7x or a pocket pair 8s-kís he is going to call our continuation bet whether we bet half pot or full pot.
Quick tip: Leverage your bets to get the most value for your money.
Inversely, on wet boards, the larger we bet, the more often we can fold out weaker hands that might otherwise call.
Let's say we raise pre-flop with XX, our hand doesnít matter. The flop comes down 7QJ with a flush draw. If we bet half pot our opponent is likely to call with hands as weak as AT 8T 7x. However, if we bet 4/5 pot we are more likely to get folds out of these hands. The other reason we bet larger on these boards is because on wet boards we are c-betting less frequently. When we do c-bet we usually mean business and have some kind of pot equity. For those circumstances we want to build a pot. The threat of big bets on the turn and river usually means our opponents will fold the weaker portion of their range on the flop.
One thing you must not do is modify your bet sizing based solely on the strength of your hand.
If you play a certain number of hands with someone and regularly do this, it won't take long for someone to pick this tell up. It's ok to vary your bet sizing based on board texture, it is NOT ok to vary your bet sizing based on hand strength. I know you may be tempted to bet small with the nuts to keep them in, and big with air to bluff them out, but donít do it. If you are the pre-flop raiser with AA and the flop comes down A72 and you usually c-bet $3.5 into a $6 pot, donít decide to check when you have top set. This is especially true against regular, competent opponents. On the other hand, against an unknown fish it may be okay to experiment with your bet sizing a bit.
In 3 way pots I usually continuation bet pretty often on dry boards because it's still pretty hard for my opponents to connect very hard. I have also recognized that in multi-way pots your continuation bet often gets more respect.
For example, you raise XX pre-flop and are called in two spots. The flop comes down K 6 5. In this spot you might get a fold from say pocket 7′s or 8′s if you continuation bet into two people where you would have gotten floated if it was a heads-up pot. Also, people often float ace high rainbow and king high rainbow flops to bluff, they will always fold these hands and float you less in a multi-way pot due them giving you more credit for a stronger range.
Long story short, the more players in the pot, the more likely someone is to hit the board, so don't continuation bet as widely, especially on wet boards. In 4 way pots, I donít continuation bet dry boards with pure air. Sometimes I will with over cards and backdoor draws, but I class that as equity, not air.
Against loose-passive players, usually the bad players at the table, you want to continuation bet less and give up on more flops when you have no equity.
You can still continuation bet with weak hands with equity, for example bottom pair, two over cards, or backdoor draws. However, these players will call you a large amount so it's often good to give up on the flop and let them take the pot. The worst players will call almost every continuation bet, so you may even consider giving up on completely dry flops. There will be a spectrum between these loose passive players who call too much and tight nits who folds too much.
Ideally, you want to be continuation betting more with air hands against the people who will fold and less against the people who will call. Simple!
Useful tip: If you use Poker Tracker or Hold'em Manager, look up the fold to continuation bet statistic to see how often your opponent folds. Remember, you need a sample of at least a few hundred hands (preferable thousands of hands) to put any merit into the accuracy of this stat.
Advanced tip: You may find some loose passive players who call a lot of flop bets (float) but fold to a lot of turn bets (Poker Tracker stat: fold to turn bet). Against these players, a good strategy would be to bet the flop with the intention on following up on almost any turn card. Essentially, you will be inflating the pot and creating dead money so you can make a profitable bet on a later street.