Theory Fundamentals: Continuation Betting

8 months ago - written by Sean Belton
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In this article, we’re going to take a look at continuation betting, or “c-betting” as it’s more frequently referred to. We’ll discuss what it is, why we do it, and how best to go about it. 

 

What is c-betting?

Continuation betting (c-betting) describes betting the flop as the pre-flop aggressor. As we discussed in the previous “theory fundamentals” article, there are typically two reasons to bet: for value, or as a bluff. This is no different when c-betting.

Some people use “c-bet” to describe the times the pre-flop aggressor is bluffing on the flop, but this is the incorrect use of the term. The only distinction between a c-bet and any other bet, is that a c-bet must be from the player with the pre-flop initiative. This player is therefore representing a stronger hand than those who made a passive action pre-flop.

 

Why should you c-bet?

A lot of weaker and less-experienced players will call pre-flop to see if they hit, then fold if they don’t connect. Considering that the odds of flopping at least a pair from two non-pair hole cards is 32.1% (roughly a third of the time) this makes c-betting versus these types of players hugely profitable.

That sounds great, right? So why not c-bet literally every flop and win two-thirds of the time?

C-betting 100% as a default strategy?

What if we could raise every hand and c-bet every flop, because we somehow knew our opponent was going to fold if they missed? This would work just fine as a strategy versus a complete buffoon, but the reality is that most people would quickly realise what we were up to. They could then adjust their strategy, and check-raise 100% as their default play. Then we would be on the back foot and would be the one folding two-thirds of the time, having now lost an additional bet.

Once we realised they were check-raising us 100% of the time, we could 3-bet them 100% of the time, and so on and so forth down this ridiculous rabbit hole until every flop became a 5-bet free-for-all. To avoid this sort of expensive silliness, the better poker players spend time developing a well-balanced c-bet strategy. Once you have a solid baseline strategy in place, then you can make deviations if you think that will yield more positive results.

 

How often should I c-bet?

The beauty of the c-bet is that, even when your opponent knows exactly what we’re doing, it’s hard for them to defend versus a well-balanced strategy (which only further reiterates the importance of having the pre-flop initiative.)

The tricky bit is that our c-bet strategy is going to have to change slightly based on a variety of factors, including the texture of the flop, how well our overall range connects with the flop and whether or not we are in position.

In general, the more of a range advantage we have versus our opponent, the more frequently we should c-bet. Also, we should look to c-bet more frequently when in position, as we don’t need to protect our check range as vigilantly as we do when playing out of position.

 

How do I size my continuation bets?

As a default strategy, we should c-bet bigger with a polarised range (a polarised range contains our strongest hands with some bluffs to balance, and no medium-strength hands.) This will ensure we extract more value with our good hands and will maximise our fold equity when bluffing.

Conversely, we should c-bet smaller with a condensed range (a condensed range contains mostly medium to low-strength hands.) Betting smaller allows us to continue with more bluffs and thin value bets, as well as widening our opponent’s range. If we were to use a bigger c-bet size with our medium-strength hands, then we would drastically reduce the number of worse hands our opponent can call with.

In general, we should c-bet bigger on dynamic boards, as we want to get as much value as we can with our good hands while our opponent’s range still contains lots of draws. On dry boards, however, it’s not so important for us to protect our good hands, so it makes more sense to c-bet using a smaller size. This will also make our bluffs cheaper, as our opponent is likely to fold their bad hands regardless of how much we bet.

Consider these factors next time you’re loading up a c-bet!

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