Continuation bets

ChuckTs

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Another 1/2 drunk + hungover rant!

I meant to get this done by the time the article contest closed, but I R slow, so here it is. Nick; if you're going to put this in the articles section (if it's worthy), of course feel free to delete this thread or w/e.

I've just finished reading HoH for the Nth time, so please excuse me if I subconsciously regurgitated anything from the book. As usual, any opinions/arguments/comments/criticism/corrections are very welcome.



A continuation bet, by definition, is a post-flop bet made by the pre-flop raiser on a flop which hasn't improved his hand (ie, paired his hole cards or better). We could argue that any post-flop bet made by the pre-flop raiser could be called a c-bet, but for the sake of simplicity and keeping things clear, we'll stick to the definition above.

So how often should we be throwing out c-bets? Well there's no clear-cut answer to that, but by taking into account the following factors before making a c-bet we can ensure that we pick the best spots possible.

The texture of the flop is something you must consider before throwing out a c-bet. The ideal flop for a continuation bet would be one which has most likely missed your opponent(s). In general, people tend to play pocket pairs, big connectors (often suited), and most aces for raises preflop, so the flop which has most likely missed them would be a low, uncoordinated rainbow flop. Like 5c2h9d for example. The worst flop for a c-bet would be one that is suited, connected and contains all high cards; something like QhJhTh.

The texture of the flop also defines how strong your hand is, and often times you'll have missed the flop but will have actually improved your hand's chances of winning. For example, you raise pre-flop with AhKh, get a single caller and are checked to on a flop of 6h9h2c. Although we haven't moved up the hand rankings ladder, we've picked up tons of equity with the nut flush draw and two overcards. We should definitely throw out a c-bet here, and we'll definitely call a check-raise should villain decide to do so. AKh has so much equity on a flop of that texture that it's rarely correct to fold a draw that big.

Another very important factor to consider is the number of players who are still in the hand. A single opponent will miss the flop roughly 2/3 of the time, and although we will too, by being the aggressor pre and post-flop we can take down a lot of pots by representing a bigger hand than what we really hold. As we increase the number of opponents seeing a flop, the chances of them collectively missing the flop decrease, as does our chance of taking down the pot with a c-bet. The ideal number of opponents to c-bet into is one. Versus two opponents, our c-bet will still win frequently enough to make it a profitable play. As we reach three or more opponents, it starts to become a losing play unless we find ourselves in a very favourable situation (e.g., uncoordinated flop vs. weak-tight players who fold without trips or better).

Your opponents styles should also be something you factor in your decision of whether or not to c-bet. If your opponents are loose-passive, they'll be more likely to hold on to a draw or even a weak bottom pair or the like. A loose-aggressive opponent might even raise your bet with absolutely nothing, knowing that you're tossing out a standard c-bet with just overcards and that you can't call his bet. If your c-bet gets called or raised by a looser player, you'll have to make some tough judgment calls as to whether they're doing this with something that has you beat, if they're bluffing at you or if they're even drawing. It gets much simpler when we play against tighter players who stick to A-B-C poker. Generally, when they call or raise your c-bet, they will be holding something that has you beat, and you can safely fold your overcards knowing that you're probably behind.

Now that we know when to bet, we have to figure out how much to bet. Consider betting the full pot. We lay our opponent 2:1, which is plenty enough to shut out any draws, and we only need the bet to work half the time for us to break even. The problem with betting the full pot, however, is the fact that we lose too much when we do run into a hand. So we should be betting smaller...how about a quarter the pot? Well we now have solved the problem of losing too much when we run into a hand, and we will only need the bet to work one in four times, but now we're laying our opponent 4:1 on his draw which is plenty to call with a straight draw or flush draw.

A half-pot bet is the perfect size for a c-bet, and here's why: We lay our opponent 3:1, just enough to make drawing hands pay enough to draw 'incorrectly', but still small enough not to be too costly long-term. We also only need to win one in three times which is very acceptable.

Even though a half-pot bet is the ideal size for a c-bet, we can't make that bet all the time. If we were to make our continuation bets exactly half the pot every time, and bet three quarters the pot or larger when we actually do hit a flop, it should be extremely easy for other players to pick up on that and use it against us. We need to vary our c-bets and our actual value bets so that we disguise them and make sure our betting patterns aren't too easily recognizable to our opponents.

Keep in mind that others often don't make these adjustments, and you can use their betting patterns to your advantage.

As is all poker strategy, this guide is very general and should by no means be followed religiously. Every hand is unique and this guide should only serve as a reference for different factors that one needs to consider before making a c-bet.

Hope this helps!

glgl

-ChuckTs
 
blankoblanco

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Vn article, Chuck
 
skoldpadda

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Great article... I'd consider your first example though more of a semi-bluff than a continuation bet (although by your definition, sure).

A half-pot bet is the perfect size for a c-bet, and here's why: We lay our opponent 3:1, just enough to make drawing hands pay enough to draw 'incorrectly', but still small enough not to be too costly long-term.

If I have a nut straight or flush draw, this is not strictly true since I'll hit these draws sufficiently enough to make them profitable if the bet is for the rest of my stack.
 
ChuckTs

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D'oh...seein some mistakes in there already (4:1 on a 1/4 pot bet is wrong...)

A half-pot bet is the perfect size for a c-bet, and here's why: We lay our opponent 3:1, just enough to make drawing hands pay enough to draw 'incorrectly', but still small enough not to be too costly long-term.

This was supposed to mean this

A half-pot bet is the perfect size for a c-bet, and here's why: We lay our opponent 3:1, just enough to make drawing hands pay enough to draw 'incorrectly', but still small enough not to be too costly long-term should we run into a hand.

Great article... I'd consider your first example though more of a semi-bluff than a continuation bet (although by your definition, sure).

TY sir. And ya, my whole article could be 'wrong' if we just change the definition. Hence why I just stated the def. from HoH to make it simpler.

If I have a nut straight or flush draw, this is not strictly true since I'll hit these draws sufficiently enough to make them profitable if the bet is for the rest of my stack.


:/ True. But like I mentioned, these are very general points and of course don't apply to every situation. In your example, I wouldn't leave my opponent with < a half pot left in his stack anyways with my preflop bet.
 
Kenzie 96

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Very nice article Chuck. Thanks .
 
NineLions

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Nice, Chuck.

BJ started a thread a while back about when to c-bet, but I think I have a tendency to do it too much, so I had been thinking about thinking of situations when NOT to c-bet, and I think you've given a good framework for that.
 
Bombjack

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Typically you see the high-stakes online players make c-bets of around 80% pot in the heads-up and short-handed games.

However in the High Stakes Poker (live 8-seater) games these tend to be more like half pot or sometimes less. I don't know why it's different - any ideas?
 
Bombjack

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Nice, Chuck.

BJ started a thread a while back about when to c-bet, but I think I have a tendency to do it too much, so I had been thinking about thinking of situations when NOT to c-bet, and I think you've given a good framework for that.
Yah I never quite got round to writing my thesis on that, although Chuck's done a good job above...
 
The_Flash

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I like the disclaimer at the beginning of the article. Well-written considering you may or may not have been completely in your right mind ;)
 
J

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Very nice article Chuck, I can't believe this hasn't gotten many replies. I agree on how important c-betting is, you can't expect to win hands only when you hit the flop, that won't take you far. Anyway I have a question about how you handle c-bets in certain scenarios.

As I've said many times I'm mostly a tournament player (if you've read my posts even your cats and dogs know that by now). C-betting is essential there, so is developing a strategy against it, but we'll talk about the latter another time. On PS, when you reach the 4th level of a tourney blinds are 50/100 (in other sites the blind structure may be different, I don't know, I only have a real money account on PS). Once the blinds are that high, if I don't have a stack big enough, say over 3.5k, I often run into the problem that c-bets, although probably still correct to do, make me lose control over the size of the pot. Perhaps an example will explain this better, and I'm going to use one from another thread.

Blinds are 50/100. My stack is 2400. I'm 1st to enter from late position, I raise pot to 300 (a standard 3x BB raise) with AK. The button calls, he's been kind of a loose caller, his stack is 1750, blinds fold, we're HU. So, pot is 750. Flop is a rainbow 9 high. So, I decide for a c-bet of 400, and, after taking some time, the button calls. The question that I have is how do you play the rest of this hand now that he called and the turn is a blank? Here's the situation: my remaining stack is 1700, his is down to 1050, and the pot is now 1550. This is what I mean when I say I lost control of the pot size because of the c-bet, because pot is now bigger than his stack. If he has a small pair or he hit middle pair (he's loose, he might have entered the pot with Axs), he's likely not to give up any more because of the pot size if, say, I bet the turn. Or, if he has something like JTs, he might hang around and try to outdraw me, again doing it because of pot size.

I know that you can say that I should evaluate better when or not to c-bet, since it doesn't work every time and against every opponent, and you're right, I probably used bad judgement against this guy, too bad for me. But with that flop and having AK I don't think it's not worth a try. So my question is, when that happens, how do you handle the rest of this hand if you miss the turn? Should I go into check/fold mode since I only have A high? Should I bet again? I know it depends on your opponent but its not uncommon to be in the dark like this situation where his range could be very wide, you might be ahead, you might be behind. In the doubt, what do you do?

I know your thread is about c-betting and this goes probably further, but it is a consequence of it and if you play tourneys (which I know you do) it will present itself every now and then. Of course it also happens in cash games as well. I'm not trying to say that c-betting is wrong, that would be silly, but it does, at times, put me in critical situations that I'm trying to learn to handle. Would like your opinion on that specific case in the example.


P.S.: I think your next article should be again about c-bets, this time, though, on what strategies to use against an opponent that will often do it.
 
F Paulsson

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Good work, slacker!

You said that you just finished HoH again, so I'm guessing that this is where your inspiration for "half pot C-bet" comes from, and I'm just here to point out that while this is (mostly) ideal for tournaments, this is not necessarily true for cash games, where a pot sized bet is usually the norm

*looks at the class over his glasses*

Now who can tell me why the continuation bet should usually be larger in cash games than in a tournament?

...

Chris, take your hand down! Let someone else answer for once!
 
dj11

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Loved the article, and would have considered it probably best article in the contest.

However, it reminded me about getting dealt AJs when the last hand flop was AAJ. Or getting yesterdays FR PW 3 minutes late.

Think you should be SOL for the contest (rules are rules).

But this becomes one of the excelent CC articles on particular subjects.

And I too would love a reply to Joeeagles continuation thoughts about continuation betting.
 
F Paulsson

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Blinds are 50/100. My stack is 2400. I'm 1st to enter from late position, I raise pot to 300 (a standard 3x BB raise) with AK. The button calls, he's been kind of a loose caller, his stack is 1750, blinds fold, we're HU. So, pot is 750. Flop is a rainbow 9 high. So, I decide for a c-bet of 400, and, after taking some time, the button calls. The question that I have is how do you play the rest of this hand now that he called and the turn is a blank? Here's the situation: my remaining stack is 1700, his is down to 1050, and the pot is now 1550. This is what I mean when I say I lost control of the pot size because of the c-bet, because pot is now bigger than his stack. If he has a small pair or he hit middle pair (he's loose, he might have entered the pot with Axs), he's likely not to give up any more because of the pot size if, say, I bet the turn. Or, if he has something like JTs, he might hang around and try to outdraw me, again doing it because of pot size.
In these situations, we need to "think ahead" before acting. When we bet here we really need to consider the situation we'll be in if he calls. We already know what will happen when he folds. We have three options:

1. Intentionally make him pot committed, thus forcing him to call on the turn. This may not be the best thing to do with ace-high.
2. Make a smaller c-bet, of the kind that doesn't make us pot committed on the turn. If the board is uncoordinated, we don't have to worry about draws.
3. Check.

Usually, #2 is the best option. If we bet 250 instead of 400, the pot will be 1200, our stack will be 1850, and he will have exactly 1200 left also. I choose #2 because if he calls, I'm going to check the turn. If he has a big enough stack left to feel "playable" still, it's much less likely that he'll try to bluff me on the turn since any bet is making him pot committed. When we bet 400, he's already committed to the pot by the turn so if we check, I feel that he's more likely to take the chance to push us out.

I mean, our c-bet with AK on a 9-high board is essentially for pot protection because we figure to have the best hand. If he was fishing with a speculative hand and missed, he's going to fold to a $250 bet (almost) as often as a $400, if the board is uncoordinated. The principle at play here is that you don't risk more than you have to in order to get the job done.

(I realize you aimed your question at Chuck; hope you don't mind me answering)
 
brutus

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:icon_thum very nice article chuck im sure it will help alot of people
 
dj11

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Now who can tell me why the continuation bet should usually be larger in cash games than in a tournament?

Being a tourney player with little success at cash games, I will still take a shot at this one.

In a tourney, the primary and I repeat PRIMARY consideration should always be survival. Till your very last chip, you still have a shot at it. This is not to say one must whimp out often, but in a close call, error on the side of survival.

In a cash game, a c bet will need to be more persuasive because even busting out, a player can get right back in it by opening his wallet.

Am I even close?
 
F Paulsson

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In a tourney, the primary and I repeat PRIMARY consideration should always be survival.

...

Am I even close?
Good answer! It's an important aspect, but not the one I was thinking about.
 
NineLions

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Good work, slacker!

You said that you just finished HoH again, so I'm guessing that this is where your inspiration for "half pot C-bet" comes from, and I'm just here to point out that while this is (mostly) ideal for tournaments, this is not necessarily true for cash games, where a pot sized bet is usually the norm

*looks at the class over his glasses*

Now who can tell me why the continuation bet should usually be larger in cash games than in a tournament?

You're not old enough to need those kind of glasses FP. But the image is pretty easy to visualize.


The question makes me realize that most of my reading has been tourney oriented, perhaps that's because that's where the more serious books have are focused.

My guess would be stack sizes relative to small blinds, along with, as dj said, a greater willingness to go broke at the table in a cash game as opposed to a tourney.

In other words, a greater willingness to try to stack someone off because of the implied odds.
 
Bombjack

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Probably because tournaments tend to be low-M situations, whereas in cash games there's usually a lot of money behind.

In tournaments players can't draw profitably because they don't have any implied odds, so it's more a question of who has the best made hand on the flop. If your opponent doesn't have a strong made hand, he'll have to fold to even a small continuation bet. The point of a large continuation bet is to make drawing unprofitable.

For example, if effective stacks are only 10 big blinds, there's a raise and a call, by making a small continuation bet it's clear that if the other player calls you'll be playing for stacks, and there's no need to make it a continuation bet as big because a small bet will have the same effect - the other player has to decide already if he wants to play this hand to the felt.
 
ChuckTs

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@joe:

Well...FP pretty much summed it up; don't think I could answer it better than him. One thing I'd like to add though, is what our read of him is, and how he percieves us. Against a player who's really aggressive post-flop, I might lean towards checking this flop since they'll play back at us most of the time. Against someone who's like 50/1/0 and calls a lot preflop but folds a lot postflop, obviously I'll be more inclined to let a c-bet out.

As FP said, we have to think ahead though. If our c-bet gets called by someone who rarely calls postflop, we shut right down. If we get called by someone who always sees the turn but folds after a 2nd bullet, we can maybe stick him in, etc etc.

@FP:

My only guess is because of stack size? We're generally sitting deeper in rings, and people will be more likely to peel a flop off, so we should bet more to find out where we're at. I could be completely wrong...


EDIT: ^^^^What they said :)
 
joosebuck

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Probably because tournaments tend to be low-M situations, whereas in cash games there's usually a lot of money behind.

In tournaments players can't draw profitably because they don't have any implied odds, so it's more a question of who has the best made hand on the flop. If your opponent doesn't have a strong made hand, he'll have to fold to even a small continuation bet. The point of a large continuation bet is to make drawing unprofitable.

For example, if effective stacks are only 10 big blinds, there's a raise and a call, by making a small continuation bet it's clear that if the other player calls you'll be playing for stacks, and there's no need to make it a continuation bet as big because a small bet will have the same effect - the other player has to decide already if he wants to play this hand to the felt.


^^ this
 
J

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FP, obviously I don't mind you answering, actually you made me realize that I wrote it a form that made it look like the question was only for Chuck. That wasn't my intention, it was for him and the whole forum. I'll be more careful on that next time.

As Chuck said I think you answered it pretty good, it makes sense since you can achieve both the c-bet and pot size control. It also makes a good way of varying the amount of c-bet which is important, as already mentioned by Chuck in original article. This has always been a tough subject for me early in tourneys when stacks are not big, one that has caused me alot of trouble. The benefit though has been that I have increased my attention to how table plays after the flop. Here's where PT would do its job, another reason for me to get it. But from simply observing carefully, there have been times, with the right player, where I just check and not c-bet, let him make the first move then raise. This has worked good for me in most cases when you get those players that tend to play back at you.

So yes, our read of him is also the key, but its those times when the player is like borderline, and you can't tell if he's calling with something or he's calling because he understands you're c-betting and he's trying to hang on to the pot. That's where pot size plays a huge role in his further decisions in this hand. But you're right, the only way is c-betting a smaller amount that doesn't make us pot committed, so we can walk away from this hand if forced.

As for the question why c-bets should be bigger in cash games, the only thing I can think of is that 1/2 size pot bet could smell weak and be more often raised (even with air), where instead a pot size bet indicates strength. I'm probably wrong, I know. I'm waiting for the answer though.
 
F Paulsson

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Bombjack and NL were both right on the money with their answers. Cash games usually play a lot deeper than tournaments, so the implied odds are much bigger for your opponent who ponders whether or not to call a continuation bet. Folding to a half-pot continuation bet in position with a flushdraw is borderline criminal in a cash game, whereas it's often necessary in a tournament because the implied odds simply aren't there.

Implied odds also work the other way around: In no-limit, cash games as well as tournaments, the objective is to take the other guy's stack while protecting our own. In a deep game, it's unlikely that the pot will ever get reach the size of our stacks if we only bet half the pot on the flop. In a tournament, that's often enough for all of it to go in on later streets, since the stacks are so short (or as Bombjack put it, low M).

Good answers - good discussion.
 
H

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Short Stack

Bombjack and NL were both right on the money with their answers. Cash games usually play a lot deeper than tournaments, so the implied odds are much bigger for your opponent who ponders whether or not to call a continuation bet. Folding to a half-pot continuation bet in position with a flushdraw is borderline criminal in a cash game, whereas it's often necessary in a tournament because the implied odds simply aren't there.

Implied odds also work the other way around: In no-limit, cash games as well as tournaments, the objective is to take the other guy's stack while protecting our own. In a deep game, it's unlikely that the pot will ever get reach the size of our stacks if we only bet half the pot on the flop. In a tournament, that's often enough for all of it to go in on later streets, since the stacks are so short (or as Bombjack put it, low M).

Good answers - good discussion.

Does this mean that you would suggest playing a short stack in a cash game to limit opponents implied odds with a drawing hand?

That's my philosophy if I'm playing slightly above my bankroll. I want to play from the lead in a big game and limit the amount I can lose from an opponent making a poor call with a weak draw getting there.
 
aliengenius

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Does this mean that you would suggest playing a short stack in a cash game to limit opponents implied odds with a drawing hand?

That's my philosophy if I'm playing slightly above my bankroll. I want to play from the lead in a big game and limit the amount I can lose from an opponent making a poor call with a weak draw getting there.

You have to play a lot tighter when doing this, as YOU no longer have implied odds to call w something like a low pair hoping for set value.

I believe Barry Greenstein is a proponent of short stack cash play (?)
 
F Paulsson

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Does this mean that you would suggest playing a short stack in a cash game to limit opponents implied odds with a drawing hand?
I wouldn't go so far as to say that I "suggest" it, but I'll definitely agree that it kills your opponents' implied odds. There are other considerations in NL than just avoiding offering the other players implied odds; like being able to get implied odds. While true that a shortstack doesn't give them, the shortstack doesn't get them either.

I don't know about Barry Greenstein, but Ed Miller has written extensively and many times about the upsides to playing shortstacked because of how profitable it can be if done correctly.
 
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