When and why to make a continuation bet

online-pokerThis article will look at the topic of continuation betting. I once attended a poker seminar in Atlantic City where the presenters spent a very short amount of time on the topic.  The advice given was this: “Continuation bets work, just do it.”  Then the hands went up from the audience, but what if … ?  “Continuation bets work, just do it.”  Then another question followed by the same response “Continuation bets work, just do it.”

A continuation bet is a bet made on the flop (or on the turn in the case of a delayed continuation bet) by the person who made the raise before the flop.  It is continuing the aggression that was shown before the flop.

So it is obvious that the lesson I related above stuck with me to this day.  I have to say that the true answer is not far from that.  In fact, I have come to believe that if you are on the flop and you were the aggressor before the flop and you are not sure if betting or checking is the right response, err on the side of betting.

I’m sure by now that most of you know the math of continuation betting and why it is so profitable.  If you bet half pot for a continuation bet, it only needs to succeed 50% of the time to break even.  Most of the time you don’t have to bet any more than half the pot.  Further, you should know that your opponent will miss the flop more than 60% of the time when you are in a heads up pot.

Since the default strategy is to make a continuation bet in most situations, what you really need to study are those times where it is best to not to make a continuation bet.  Examples of spots to check are flops where you are either way ahead or way behind, dry flops where you have show down value against an aggressive opponent, and flops that totally miss your perceived range but nails your opponents range.

Way Ahead or Way Behind Boards – a good example of this is A 9 4 rainbow board when you have KK.  If he has an Ace, 99, or 44 you have only two outs.  If he has a 9 or 4 at most you are giving 5 outs and if he has another pair, you are giving him 2 outs.  Against certain opponents it makes perfect sense to check here instead of making a continuation bet.

When you have a marginal strength hand – On a dry flop such Q 9 4 rainbow board above and you have a hand such as 77, you may want to check instead of c-betting to try to get to showdown cheaply.  Granted this line is unbalanced, but against many opponents you do not need to worry about balance.

When the board misses your range, but nails your opponents range – a board with 3 middle and low cards is the type that will tend to hit a loose callers range, but miss a range of the a raiser.

When you dominate the board – a final spot to consider checking instead of betting is when you completely dominate the board such that statistically there is little left for your opponent to hit.  An example may be raising AK before the flop and the flop comes A A K.  Unless there is a flush draw, there is nothing for your opponent to have hit on this board, you have the board monopolized.  I’m not a fan of slow playing big hands, but this one spot where you must slow play.

Multi-way pots – In a pot with 4 or more players, I usually do not continuation bet as a bluff.  In a pot with 3 players and at least one player checks to me, I will still make a continuation bet.  In this case you have position on one player and are out of position to one player or you may have position on both.  If you are out of position to both players, I prefer to check instead of making a continuation bet as a bluff.

So in conclusion, you should make your continuation bet often.  It works.  You will pick up the pot quite often.  When you are unsure whether you should bet or you should check, err on the side of aggression and make the continuation bet, you will correct in betting more often than you are wrong.  In case you missed the message of this article, let me repeat: “Continuation bets work, just do it!”

Joseph Pregler plays regularly in live tournaments on the East Coast and enjoys sharing his wisdom and experience to novice and intermediate players.  You can follow him at www.facebook.com/jjpregler 

Register at PokerForums.org and keep the conversation going!

Relevant news