The Continuation Bet
The continuation bet is a standard move in live and online poker. If you are a beginning player or already experienced, this article covers the fundamentals of continuation betting.
As this is one of the most frequent types of bet in poker, it is important to understand well how it works. It is a technique that you will learn quickly, but it takes time to really master it, as applied experience is crucial. The continuation bet is commonly called the c-bet in poker lingo.
What is the c-bet?
When you make a pre flop raise, and then you are the first to bet at the flop, this is a c-bet. As simple as that. The definition of a c-bet is simple, not the proper utilization of it.
The logic if the c-bet is that you claimed to have a strong hand pre flop, but other players responded by saying that they too had a strong hand as they called your bet. You took the initiative and you are supposed to keep it. This is why you are expected to make another bet at the flop, otherwise you are telegraphing that your hand is weak.
This is the fundamental principle of the c-bet in its simplest form. In modern poker, the c-bet has become a completely standard move. The thing is that you may or may not have a strong hand at the flop, no one knows. The question is how much respect do you receive when you bet. Are you transparent like a rock and everyone folds? Are you a maniac who will c-bet every hand?
The c-bet is mostly a way to project your image to the other players at the table. The outcome of each single hand is very unpredictable, but by developing a correct c-bet strategy, you can optimize your profits over the long-term.
The key is to understand the psychological impact that the c-bet may have on other players. If you have a good hand pre-flop, it is more profitable to continue to build the pot even if you did not hit the flop. A raise pre-flop followed by another big bet on the flop will send a clear signal to the other players. You will usually only get called or raised if one of your opponents has a very strong hand.
The c-betting strategy
Poker is psychological warfare especially in no-limit, and there is not better example than the c-bet.
Once you bet at the flop, and assuming that you make a standard bet size around 70-80% of the pot, you are in a situation that David Sklansky coined "the threat of future betting". What this means is that if your opponent calls the flop bet, he risks that you make similar 70% pot-sized bets at both the turn and river, by which time he will need to use a large part of his stack just to call you.
So even though he may not know for sure that you have a strong hand, he knows that it may cost him a lot to find out. As most of the time people do not have a monster, he may opt to fold, especially if you have created the image of a strong aggressive player who means it. This is the power of aggression and this is why the c-bet is such an effective move.
Of course you should not always c-bet. For example if the board is single suited, a straight or paired, then you are not expected to always c-bet. But you must c-bet a large portion of the time when you miss the flop, with hands such as AK when no ace flops. The art is to c-bet the correct percentage of the time.
If you c-bet too much, you appear to be a bluffer. If you rarely c-bet, your opponents know that you are a cautious type player who only c-bets with a favorable flop. Online software such as poker trackers let you analyze your c-betting frequency, and you can also find out the c-bet frequency of your most feared opponents. Usually it is thought that a good frequency is around 75%.
C-betting for profitIn c-betting like in most things poker, you do not want to be predictable or transparent. So if you only c-bet when you miss and omit to c-bet when you hit, trying to slow play, here again this is a pattern that you do not want your opponents to find out.
Ideally and this is what the great players do, you should mix it. C-bet most of the time whether you hit or miss. Do not c-bet on occasion depending on the board, your position and the other players in the hand.
And of course this strategy works better if you have a correct pre flop hand range selection. You should be tight enough pre flop that even if you miss the flop, your hand is strong enough to support a c-bet bluff. AQs for example will do the job, but not KJo.
Good luck at the tables... and do not forget to , but not all the time.