Thoughts on Continuation Betting
Continuation Betting by AVP Resident Pro Benton Blakeman
After a 40 hour week of grinding cash games in Vegas, I really started thinking more and more about continuation betting, or c-betting. C-betting is the act of betting the flop after we have been the preflop raiser. I began reading an article that I wrote and realized that it was helpful to me in clearing up when I should be c-betting and when I shouldn't. I thought it might be helpful to share it here with the PokerAtlas community.
I have noticed that some people in the casinos c-bet nearly 100% of the time after raising preflop, while others c-bet only when they flop a top pair type hand or a draw. I think the happy medium lies somewhere in the middle, right around 70% of the time.
When deciding to c-bet there are a few things to consider: how many opponents are in the hand, what is the texture of the board like, and if I get called what will I do on the turn. Lets look at each of these in more detail.
1) How many opponents are in the hand- As a general rule of thumb, I steer away from c-betting when I miss if there are 4 or more players who see the flop. In general, if we haven't flopped a decent hand with decent equity there is a high likelihood someone else has flopped a hand that they can continue with. The exception where I would c-bet with 4 or more players in the hand is when we flop a flush draw, an open end straight draw, or a gutshot straight draw to the nuts where we also have an overcard or two. With 3 players to the flop, I will often c-bet on good board, and plan on check folding bad boards. We'll get to board textures next. If I am against a lone opponent, I will c-bet at a much higher frequency in general, as our opponent will miss the board a large enough percent of the time to make this c-bet profitable for us.
2) Board textures- Good boards to bet tend to include flops with one high card and two non coordinated low cards, like A-7-4 rainbow or Q-5-3. Flops with paired boards are also good c-betting boards like J-4-4 or K-7-7, but not Q-Q-6 because most players who call raises like to call with broadway cards so there is a much higher likelihood that they have flopped trip Queens than trip 4's on the J-4-4 board. It is also good to c-bet flops that contain cards all of the same suit against one player, as it is hard for them to continue if they don't hold a card of that suit. An example of such board would be 9-5-4 all spades. Bad boards to c-bet normally contain several face cards, or suited connecting middling cards. Examples of these flops would be K-Q-4 and J-8-7 with two hearts when we hold a hand like A-3 of clubs that we raised with. The problem with c-betting these boards is that players will often have some type of draw that they will call with, and since we are likely going to stop betting they will often win the pot by betting the turn when we check.
3) If I get called, what's my plan for the turn?- When we decide to c-bet, we should already be thinking ahead to what will we do on the turn if our opponent calls the flop. If the answer is that there aren't many cards at all that we will fire a second bet on, then I'd err towards not c-betting the flop. Lets say we raised with A-7 of clubs and the flop comes K-J-6 with no clubs. I'd tend to check this flop because the only card that I would consider betting on the turn is an Ace. This doesn't leave us with much equity going forward, so I'd lean towards checking the flop. If the flop checks through then I would consider betting most turns. This is called a "delayed c-bet." When we bet the turn we are credibly representing a hand like A-J, Q-J, or J-T. An example of when I would c-bet is with a hand like J-T on a board like 8-7-3. The reason I would c-bet here is because I can fire a turn bet on any 9, T, J, Q, K, or Ace, because the 9 gives us the nuts, a Ten and Jack give us top pair, and a Q,K, or Ace are likely scare cards for our opponent who will think that we c-bet a hand like A-K or A-Q and that we hit the turn.
I hope this helps you in deciding when to c-bet, and on what boards to continue betting on when the turn comes.
Good luck at the tables, and have fun c-betting!
This is excellent Benton. Why are you not writing for every poker site and magazine? You simplify this very well. I thought I understood c-betting, but now realized I have been doing it wrong. Can't wait to give it another shot. Do you write here often?
Good stuff Benton! Very helpful.
I think this is one of the biggest problems that intermediate players have. The beginning players only raise and c-bet when they have hands. But the intermediate players realize that they need to be more aggressive, but don't know how to optimize their level of aggressions....so they over commit themselves by c-betting when they should just give up, and get themselves stuck in big pot situations without good hands. It's important to know when to fire and when to surrender.
@BigDog223 I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I have been writing for AllVegasPoker (owned by the same parent company as PokerAtlas) for nearly three years now. I have been writing at least two strategy articles per month there but as of a month ago we decided to move those articles here. So you can expect a new strategy article here on PokerAtlas every other week from me. I hope you enjoy them.
I'm new to this site but I must compliment you on your advice. I find them easy to read and insightful.
I will be a regular from now on.
Benton, I have to disagree with you. I am in the camp that C-Bets nearly 100% of the time for three reasons:
1. If you don't CBet every time you are giving away information about your hand when you do CBet. Smart players will pick up on this then raise your cbets and render them ineffective. This is similar to the strategy of raising the same amount pre-flop regardless of the strength of your hands.
2. If you establish a pattern a cbetting every time players will start to realize they are not just calling one pre flop bet they are facing a preflop bet and a Cbet. This causes players to tighten their pre flop calling range which means that you can make the best hand with a wider range.
3. When you raise pre-flop and get multiple callers your opponents will read your CBet as a big hand. For example, doesn't almost every player raise pre-flop then bet the flop with AA? Because you are representing a big hand they will frequently fold hands that might be much better than yours.
@BillCar I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading.
@Krusherlaw Your points are fair enough but you should definitely have a disclaimer that it is limit dependent. The lower the limit the higher percentage i'd c bet as lower limit players tend to fold to aggression. If I'm playing in a tough 5/10 game then I would c bet a little closer to the numbers I suggested in my article. In tougher games I'm going to get floated over and over bc of my high c bet % and decent players will make my life a living hell post flop.
Hi Benton i'm also new to this site and really enjoyed the article, very insightful and extremely well written! It validated a lot of strategies i've been contemplating so i'm definitely going into the next game more confident now thanks!!
I have a question regarding your thought process on point no.2 which is the exact situation that's been bugging me for some time now. i'd be interested to know your thoughts. I hope i can articulate this ok but here goes;
If flops with paired boards are good to C-bet (completely agree with this by the way) i'm wondering why you're less inclined to c-bet a Q-Q-6 flop but happy to bet say a J-4-4 or K-7-7?
You mentioned above it's because most players who call raises like to call with broadway cards so there is a much higher likelihood that they have flopped trip Queens than trip 4's on the J-4-4 board. Though if your opponent likes calling with broadway cards he's more likely to hit his King on the K-7-7 flop? (3 kings in the deck versus 2 queens) in which case we're losing the hand most of the time anyway.
Obviously if you're holding an Ace and you c-bet a King high flop you still have outs, versus being virtually dead against trip queens - but as a long run profitable play i'm not fully getting my head around it?
I'll try an example. Let's assume he isn't holding a 7 or a 4. We know he's likely holding 2 broadway cards (I'd also say a small/mid pair is possible for this type of player). The goal of our c-bet (assuming we didn't hit) is to get him to fold. We're holding say A-10.
Flop is Q-Q-6
Scenario 1 - we c-bet. he folds
scenario 2 - we c-bet. he raises. we fold
scenario 3 - We c-bet. he flats. we surrender on the turn
Flop is K-7-7
scenario1 - we c-bet. he folds
scenario2 - we c-bet. he raises. we fold
scenario 3 - We c-bet. he flats. DO WE SURRENDER IF AN ACE DOESN'T COME? (I would say yes)
I think the outcome will be the same most of the time. The type of player that likes to call with broadway cards, for me, isn't folding his king on the turn - unless an ace comes. Even if an ace came he could be holding A-K.
For me C-betting the Q-Q-6 flop is almost a safer play in the long run because
1) there's a 25% greater chance he missed his hand (2 queens on the board vs 1 king)
2)We know what to do if he doesn't fold the Q-Q-6 flop i.e. less risk
3) if he hits his King he's not folding anyway
Hope that made sense. Would be great to hear your thoughts!
I am somewhat in agreement with GDog here. I have found c-betting to be a net negative for me (at least in a direct sense). It doesn't mean I don't do it, because I still see value in: (1) not only betting my strong hands, and; (2) theoretically I should improve my hand from time to time. But I might be at 40-50% continuation bets when I don't hold a solid one pair hand or better.
Now, I should preface this all by saying that I spend almost all of my poker time either playing in very loose home games OR seeking out very loose games in casinos. It has been my experience that when the flop comes either all rags or maybe one paint card and two rags that my flop bet (my standard here is 2/3 of the pot) is getting called close to 100% of the time by almost any pair (and sometimes worst). I mostly like games where people call with any pair, any inside straight draw, etc. But representing the over-pair I don't have just doesn't work on the flop. And then they key becomes this: DO I HAVE THE STONES TO BET THE TURN. The answer has been generally not. And, hence, I like to postulate this and see how people respond. If you are NOT willing to double barrel on the turn, then you should be continuation betting a lot less. Although I do generally fire on the turn, if the turn is a Broadway card (the most obvious time to double barrel), I am talking about more than that too. If the turn comes a harmless Duece, on a flop of K-9-5 rainbow, you need to be willing to potentially fire on that turn card. And I think there is a lot of art here. You are not always firing. If you are called by 3 players on the flop, give up. If you are called by a total calling station, give up. Fire more in position that out of it. You have to read the situation. If you feel like you have a read on your opponent, that would help too. But if you simply have a one-and-done continuation betting strategy, in today's game where floating is becoming more and more popular, I am not sure continuation betting in high proportions is the right strategy.
Benton, thanks for a great post. As I said, I believe I am losing money on C-betting, so have been thinking a lot about this subject lately. Any additional thoughts or comments on my evolving thinking here - whether agreeing or completely disagreeing - is welcome.
@allin67 if you are playing in games where people are calling your c-bets with less than one pair hands and gut shot draws I think that is an extremely profitable situation. Given your opponents range, If you have an A-x or better you have the best hand and you need to value bet every street.
@GDog87 Great points. In short, an opponent is less likely to give you credit for a Queen on Q-Q-4 and will float lighter and make your life miserable on turn and river. Conversely, an opponent is less likely to float K-7-7 bc the king his your range and it's 50% more likely that you actually have a king with only one on board rather than when there is two.
@BentonBlakeman. Some excellent advice and tips on C betting Benton. I commend you. An angle not mentioned is when our preflop raise brings two callers,and on the Q Q 6 flop,we actually have AQ in the hole. In this situation,I will always C bet around 50% of the pot. Logic,perception and common sense make me believe that the other two villians won't believe that I've hit. Just one of them calling is sufficient to lay the trap with the Vietnamese strategy. A brick on the turn,slows me down,and I'm in position,may induce an adventurous river bet from my salivating opponent. If I'm first to act on the turn,I still check,showing weakness,and try to entice his bet,enabling my check/raise to be utilised. Either way,it should be a productive hand. Good luck at the tables