What is C-Betting? (And Why You Should Do It)

First of all, let’s define what a continuation bet (C-bet) actually is: an opening bet on the flop after having raised pre-flop. The ‘continuation’ in the name refers to the continued aggression being displayed at every available opportunity.

Whether or not to make a post-flop continuation bet after you have been the pre-flop aggressor is one of the first multi-layered decisions poker players are faced with. Several factors should come into play when deciding whether to make a C-bet:

  • the board texture

  • your position

  • how many players are in the hand

  • whether or not you hit the flop

  • your opponents' tendencies

Ironically, perhaps the least important of these factors is whether or not you hit the flop. A good C-bet can win you a hand when you miss the board because you are capitalizing on the perception of strength created with your pre-flop raise. A C-bet is generally intended to take down the pot right then, although a secondary consideration is to build up a pot when you have a really strong hand.

A good C-bet strategy is really predicated for a heads-up confrontation. If there are three players in the pot, position becomes very important when deciding whether to C-bet. If there are more than three players in the pot, your C-bet frequency should be very low, and should be based solely on whether or not you connected with the flop.


Poker chips and cards on a poker table.

Continuation betting is an example of how effective aggression can be at the poker table. (Creative Commons)


Good Board, Bad Board

Dry boards – those without obvious draws – are ideal for making C-bets in Texas Hold'em. Any rainbow board (i.e. three different suits represented) with no ace and only one Broadway card means any opponent playing a speculative hand (such as any two suited cards, or something like an 8-9 or J-T) likely missed the flop and will need to hit runner-runner cards – two perfect cards in a row – to make a strong hand. They will likely bail at the first sign of pressure.

The same goes for rainbow boards with an ace. Since you raised pre-flop, your opponents will be more inclined to believe you have an ace if you follow up with a strong C-bet. Again, a C-bet here should eliminate players with speculative hands, and it may also chase away timid players with middle pair or pocket pairs.

Note that if your C- bet is called, it may be wise to slow down on the turn. Opponents with strong, disguised hands (sets, two pair), are likely to slow-play a dry flop, hoping to encourage you to make another stab at the pot on the turn. Also be wary of check-raises, as they are generally an indicator of a strong hand.

Conversely, wet flops (dangerous boards with lots of potential draws or strong hands) are not ideal for C-betting, especially if you missed. Boards with flush draws and straight draws, or two Broadway cards, should be treated with caution when you fail to connect. A player with a flush or straight draw, or who has hit top pair, is most likely not going away.

If you flop a set or two pair, making a C-bet is standard, especially if you are in position. You want to extract maximum value from your strong hand, and you don't want to make it cheap for a player to suck out on you. Many players will tell you a C- bet should also be automatic if you flop a flush or an open-ended straight draw, but this play is really dependent on position. If you are first to act, it may be wiser to check and see if you can get a turn card for free, especially if there are more than two players in the pot. You don't want to put chips into a pot when playing a speculative hand if you can avoid it, and you also open yourself up to a raise.

If you have position, and your opponents have shown the tendency to fold to C-bets, then betting may enable you to take the pot down right there. If not, it will likely allow you to see the turn and river cards without any more bets, especially if your opponents are passive. Again, this is where you want to be wary of check-raises.


Continuation Bet Sizing

The size of a C-bet is also an important consideration. In general, the size of a continuation bet should be between half and full pot. Various factors will decide where on the spectrum your bet should fall.

If you have connected with the flop on a coordinated board, bet closer to full pot for two reasons:

  1. a coordinated board increases the likelihood you will get callers, and you want callers because of your pot equity.

  2. you want the people who are playing draws to pay through the nose to hit them. Don't make it cheap or easy to chase a straight or flush, and keep the pressure up on the turn.

If you hit the flop on a dry board, you likely want to bet closer to half the pot. Most players will likely fold, but if you get a caller, it could be an indication they have connected in a big way. An overpair or top pair with top kicker could get you in serious trouble in these situations.

If you miss the flop on a coordinated board, it's probably not a good idea to C-bet, even if you have position. However, if you miss the flop on a dry board, C-betting is a good play.


Continuation Betting Based On Your Opponent's Tendencies

As always, it is important to get a feel for how your opponents play.

Passive players (those whose primary move is a check-call) are generally not going to fold, so if you miss the flop, a C-bet will not serve its intended purpose in getting them to fold. Therefore, you may want to see as many cards as possible for free, hope that you eventually hit something, and then bet. Remember, if a passive player comes out firing, it is generally an indication they have hit something. Conversely, if you have hit the flop, C-betting should help build the pot, as the player has shown they are unlikely to fold.

Aggressive players require a different strategy. One of the best ways to counter aggression is with aggression. If an aggressive player takes away your C-bet by leading out after the flop, don't be afraid to raise. Again, the strength of your hand is often not important, as you are betting against your opponent's tendencies (aggressive players have a much greater bluff frequency).

If you are first to act against an aggressive player and hit the flop, check-raising to take advantage of their proclivity to bet is also a good play.

Developing a good C-betting strategy is critical. But like everything in poker, you can't become predictable. Following the strategies outlined above should improve your win-rate and add yet another arrow to your quiver.

Improve your game further by checking out even more poker strategies and guides or bring it back to basics with the poker rules for other poker variants.

Dry Flop

Wet flop

In Position

Bet half the pot and be wary of check-raiser; slow down on turn if you get called

Bet half pot if you miss and be wary of check-raise; bet pot if you connect

Out of position

Bet half the pot; slow down on turn if you get called

Check if you miss; fold to a bet

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