Too many players will raise preflop, only to bet when they connect and fold when they give up. If this sounds like you, just know that you’re leaving a lot of money on the table by not continuation betting.
What is Continuation Betting?
A continuation bet is a bet that is continuing the aggression from preflop. This bet is usually made on the flop, but can sometimes be delayed to the turn.
For example, say you raised from under the gun with AK. The button calls and you go to the flop. If you bet the flop, regardless of what it is, that’s known as a continuation bet, or c-bet. You’re continuing your preflop aggression on the flop.
Why Continuation Bet?
The primary reason why you should make a continuation bet is to take advantage of the fact that players miss the flop 2 out of 3 times or 66%. That means in a heads up situation that your opponent won’t have a hand the majority of the time. That gives you an opportunity to bet and induce a fold, picking up a relatively easy pot.
In short — continuation betting is a profitable play. Think of c-betting kind of like stealing the blinds. It’s picking up small pots here and there, leveraging your preflop aggression and image.
Ok, so what about you? Don’t you miss the flop 2 out of 3 times, too?
Absolutely. However, since you raised preflop your hand range is much stronger. For example, on a K-8-4 rainbow flop, you can represent hands like AK, KQ, KJ, 88s and 44s, and it would make sense. But for all your opponents know, you have AJ and totally missed the flop. And if they missed the flop, too, it’s difficult for them to continue with some sort of (backdoor) equity aka draws or outs.
So… continuation betting is bluffing?
Yeah, in many cases. After all, you don’t have a hand either. However, sometimes c-betting is for value, albeit thin value. In other words, if you c-bet with AK on a low card (2-5-8) rainbow flop, it’s unlikely that hit either of your ranges. However, AK is still likely to be the best unmade hand, so you can actually bet here for value.
Keep in mind that this all depends on ranges, position, history and more. Continuation betting, like poker, isn’t that black and white.
How to Determine When to Make a C-Bet
Knowing when to make a continuation bet is the hardest part. Like stealing the blinds, you don’t want to do it at every opportunity, because at some point, your opponents will catch on and render the play useless. So I recommend keeping the following in mind.
You want to have an idea of who your opponent is. For example, do you think it would make sense to continuation bet into a loose player?
Absolutely not. Loose players don’t fold. Why would you bluff a loose player?
On the other hand, it would make sense to c-bet into a tight player. They’ll fold without a hand, and call when they have a hand they like (and that probably beats yours).
Some flops are better than others for continuation betting. Ultimately, it comes down to perceived hand ranges and how those ranges hit the flop.
For example, if you raise from early position preflop, your range will consist of pairs and broadway cards. Your range hits a K-Q-5 two-tone flop.
However, if your opponent calls preflop from the bubble, they can have a much wider hand range that also includes suited connectors and small pairs. Small pairs won’t like a K-Q-5 flop, nor will suited connectors like J8, 98, 87 and so on. Other connectors, like JT, J9, etc are all hands that we can get value from if our opponent is stupid enough to call.
So continuation betting makes sense here.
However, it might not make sense on a Q-J-9 flop. This hits your range, but it hits your opponents range harder. They either have a hand, strong draw or both. It’s much better to check/call or check/fold, because if you c-bet here you’ll probably be (check) raised.
Your Table Image
Your image will play a role similar to that of your opponents. In other words, if your opponent being loose or tight affects whether you c-bet or not, don’t you think it makes sense to consider your image before c-betting?
If you’re perceived as a loose and/or aggressive player, your c-bets will likely be less effective than if you are perceived as tight.
Table Dynamics / History
Table dynamics will play a role, too.
For example, a c-bet could be more effective on the bubble when the player you’re c-betting against has a lot to lose (a lot of equity in the tournament). Or if you have history with the other player as always showing up with a better hand, your c-bets might be more effective.
However, if you’re constantly playing back at someone (perceived as loose/aggressive) and you c-bet, they probably won’t fold.
Stack sizes play a role, too, because they determine how much fold equity you have. You don’t want to c-bet into someone that can re-shove back over you (with fold equity). It’s much better to c-bet into someone that can’t re-shove over you (logically), and can or should fold.
Always Have a Plan
Ultimately, you should always have a plan when you make a continuation bet. They won’t always work out, even if you keep the above in mind. So you’ll want to have an idea of what you’re doing to do (bet, check/call, check/fold, fold, etc) on the turn or river in case you’re called. That way you don’t panic and make a bad play.