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The Continuation Bet

Published October 31, 2008 - RSS/XML Feed RSS

By Sean Gibson


The continuation bet is one of the moves that separates the intermediate players from the beginners at a poker table. Some old school players look at it as reckless, while new players see it as blind aggression. What is really is, however, is a strong semi-bluff that has fantastic results when used properly. It stems from the statistical theory that a player only has a 33% chance to hit a flop, and the game theory that the player that raises first almost always has a better hand that the opponent that calls that bet. The continuation bet only applies if you were the last raiser preflop (and not a caller).
Remember there are a few of things to keep in mind with cbetting (continuation betting):
1.       Are you telling a believable story?
2.       How many opponents are there at the flop?
3.       Is your cbet size correct?
4.       Using the flop, is this a good situation to cbet?
For question 1 this is a general rule and one that can be played around with on later streets more than anything. If the flop comes 279 rainbow (all different suits) and you lead out with a bet, your opponent has to think either you are bluffing with two over cards (something like AQ) or you have a pocket pair above a 9, or maybe you have a hand like T9.
To answer question 2, the more players the worse the opportunity it is for us to cbet. Ideally this is a heads up move otherwise we really need position if its multi-way to pull this off effectively.
For question 3 a good sized cbet should be no smaller than 66% of the pot and many advocate 75% of the pot. This puts a big giant juicy price on seeing that turn that should scare out people that aren’t even holding a pair.
Question 4 is the most difficult to answer and hardest for players to master for this concept. It’s something that I think all players must adapt and revisit even at advanced levels. To illustrated this example, lets take a look at the replayer …
This is the absolute best example of a cbet that you could ask for. You have a very weak opponent that limps and then calls your raise showing absolutely no strength whatsoever. You have position and a big hand and the raise size was perfect. The flop comes Q34 rainbow, so the flop isn’t connected (unless he has something like 25 or 56 or A2) and this the hero’s opportunity to pounce with a continuation bet. Our opponent checks into the hero with a pot of $5.75 and our hero bets $4 (representing 70% of the pot) and our villain folds. We didn’t hit the flop but most likely had the best hand and preserved the win.
Here’s another example of cbetting when you have a small pair:
Again our hero is against a weak player who limp-calls out of position when the hero playing with a small pocket pair from the button. The flop is “semi-connected” again with Q83 with two spades and our villain checks. Cbet time – our opponent doesn’t know what we have. We could have AK, AQ, QQ, who knows! But this board probably missed his hand and our hero bets it with position and takes it down.
The Pop Quiz
Lets take a quiz and see what we think about different cbetting situations. Some of these are tweeners meaning it could go either way, but if you can understand why it could go either way you’ve really gotten a good grasp of the continuation bet concept. Really try to think about the answer before we give the recommended action!
Hand 1 – Cbet or Check?
Do you cbet this or not? Recommended Action: CHECK! This is a horrible spot to be in. You are in the middle of the action between the SB (small blind) and the button. The flop is *very* connected! A cbet here gets a call or even a raise from someone with pocket 9s or better, and definitely a call from the straight and flush draws. This is just a terrible situation for your AQ and you only hope is to see a very cheap (or free) turn card.
Hand 2 – Cbet or Check?
I’m not a fan of the 3bet size from our hero, that should have been $6, but regardless and as-played the flop comes 475 with two diamonds. Even though this flop looks very similar to the last hand, the situation is completely different – you have an opponent that has shown some strength preflop, and calls the hero’s 3bet and checks the flop. So what do you do? Recommended Action: CBET! This is definitely debatable but I always go for aggression as opposed to sitting back in these situations. Betting about $8 here tells your opponent that you most likely have a decent pocket pair (JJ or better) or are full of bull-honkey and the decision is up to him to look you up or just move on to the next hand.


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