Thinking about Continuation Betting
Grinderschool Free Poker Strategy Articles
Author: Rob O'Connor
One of the first things a poker player learns is that if you show aggression pre-flop by raising, you should usually continue this aggression on the flop because the likelihood is that your opponents will have missed the board and simply give up if you bet. Of course as poker theory has evolved and online poker sites have allowed even recreational players the chance to get lots of practice for a low price, the general standard of poker has gone up significantly and blindly continuation betting into every pot no longer works as an effective strategy, meaning you need to think a little bit deeper.
Maintaining a Solid Continuation Betting Strategy
If you're playing a 100 big blind deep cash game and you make a raise to 3x the big blind pre-flop and only the big blind calls, there will be 6.5 big blinds in the pot on the flop. If you miss but decide to make a continuation bet of 4 big blinds you're risking 4 to win 6.5 and your bet has to work 4/(4+6.5) = 38% of the time to show an immediate profit.
If you are using Holdem Manager or Poker Tracker, you can track how often your opponents are folding to continuation bets and adjust your strategy accordingly. Even if you are a live player you can make a rough mental note of their tendencies. If you find that your opponents are folding to continuation bets much more often than this, then you can exploit them by continuation betting almost every single time you raise pre-flop. If they are folding less frequently you can begin to check back on more flops, with the intention of calling down with some hands that have showdown value if your opponent has the tendency to bluff, or to make a delayed continuation bet on the turn if your opponent checks to you again.
Remember that even if the continuation bet on the flop may not be directly profitable in terms of how often your opponents are folding, it can still be a good play when you factor in that you still probably have some chance at having the best hand at showdown, and you can set yourself up for a potentially profitable double barreling spot on the turn.
Defending Against Continuation Bets
Something that few players realize is just how frequently they should be playing back at continuation bets on the flop. You need to continue about 60% of the time to ensure that your opponent can't exploit you by profitably c-betting any two cards. If you run the hand combinations for any given situation, you'll see that your continuing range needs to include hands like gut-shot straight draws, back-door flush draws and even just two overcards.
If you're continuing with 60% of your hands, you should split your range into about 40% calls and 20% raises in order to remain balanced in terms of game theory. Again, raising 20% of continuation bets will feel extremely aggressive and will get you in some tough spots until you feel comfortable with it, but it is necessary in order for you to become a player with a solid and balanced flop strategy.
Be sure to pay attention to what type of opponent you are dealing with however. If you are against a very tight player who will only raise pre-flop with very strong hands, and only bet the flop with good made hands, you obviously need to change your strategy accordingly.