Continuation Betting In Cash Games

A continuation bet is when you bet on the flop after raising preflop. So for example, in a $1/$2 game, you raise to $6 preflop from the cuttoff, everyone folds apart from the big blind and you see a flop. The big blind then checks and you make a continuation bet of $9 into a $13 pot.

The purpose of the continuation bet

Whenever you make a bet in poker there are 3 primary reasons for it:

  • To take down the dead money that is already in the pot.
  • As a bluff.
  • As a value bet.

When you continuation bet you can bet betting for any of the 3 above reasons. Bluffing is easy to explain, lets say you raise 45 suited preflop from the button and the big blind calls. The flop comes down A29 rainbow. In this spot you have almost the nut low hand. Your opponent checks to you and you continuation bet as a bluff. You are hoping your opponent makes a mistake by folding a better hand.

For value is easy to explain also, you raise AK preflop from the button and the same flop (A 2 9) comes down, in this spot you have top pair top kicker. You figure your opponent will call your continuation bet with all aces, all 9′s and perhaps some middling pairs or king high. When you bet in this spot you you want your opponent to call with a weaker hand and to gain value from him.

The final reason for betting is to take down the dead money. Lets say you have TJ suited this time and raise preflop. The flop comes down A89 and you have an open ended straight draw. You figure your opponent has hands that are better than yours that you would like to fold, lets say your opponent has KQ, right now this hand is ahead of you so ideally you want to bet to take down the money in the pot. Likewise, your opponent could have a hand like QT that decides to call a flop continuation bet, 9T or even something like pocket 7s or pocket tens. In this spot your opponent may call your continuation bet on the flop correctly whilst being ahead, but you can then make a bet on the turn to take down the pot vs that portion of your opponents range. In essenese you are putting pressure on the weaker portion of your opponents range, ideally you want them to fold and to win the dead money on the flop or the turn, but should they call, you still have equity and could make your draw by hitting the winning hand.

Another example of taking down the dead money is when you have a made hand but you are vulnerable. So lets say for example you raise 56 suited preflop. The flop comes down J52. In this spot you will want to continuation bet to take down the dead money, in all likelihood you have the best hand, but say your opponent has a hand as weak as 89 or or KT your opponent has approximately 24% equity in the pot with two overcards to your hand. In this spot you want to take down the dead money and fold out your opponents hands that cant call a bet.

When to continuation bet

In general the less likely your opponent is to hit a board, the more likely you want  to continuation bet the board with your whole range. So for example, you raise preflop and are called by one opponent. The following boards are generally good to continuation bet.

  • 1 high two low uncoordinated boards. For example A92, A53, K84, J63, Q52.
  • Two high no flush draw. AK3, AQ5, QJ2.
  • Paired flops with 1 high card. 22k, 55A, 77Q.
  • Paired flops with middling cards. 228, 557 (Better to double barrel).
  • Semi coordinated boards vs tight players. 562 no fd, 893 no fd.
  • Monotone flops. AJ3 one suit.

Also, if you are using a HUD whilst you play you may want to pay attention to your opponents fold to continuation bet statistic. It should be self explanatory, the more your opponent folds to continuation bet’s the tighter they are and the more profitable your bets will be in a vacuum.

When not to continuation bet

Boards that are bad to continuation bet tend to be the most coordinated boards that hit your opponents range. So for example:

  • Two/three broadway + Flush draw. Likely to get atleast cbet and turn bet called fairly wide.
  • Super coordinated flops 89T flush draw. QTJ flush draw.

The more coordinated the board is the more likely your opponent has a flush draw, a straight draw, pair + straight draw, pair + flush draw, two pair etc.

Middling cards tend to be in preflop calling ranges mostly. So for example the worst type of flops as the preflop raiser are 789, 67T, 9TJ, 89J, Q78 type flops with a flush draw.

Finally, the number of players in a pot plays a big part in whether you should continuation bet or not. This should be self explanatory, if you see the flop with 5 other players, someone is much more likely to have made a big hand compared to if you saw the flop with one player.

Continuation bet sizing

Continuation bet sizing should be varied on the following two criteria.

  • Stack sizes
  • Board texture

In general, the lower the effective stack size the less you need to continuation bet. Part of the reason we continuation bet a big size is to build a pot when we have a strong hand, if your stack is small, you no longer have to build a pot and a small continuation bet should suffice and allow you to get the money in. Likewise, if your opponent has a short stack a small bet should be enough to put your opponent to a decision for his whole stack.

Secondly the board texture should play a big part in your continuation bet sizing. The less coordinated the board the less you should have to bet for your opponent to throw away his hand. For example, on A92 your opponent is going to throw away 56 suited whether you bet half pot or full pot. Likewise if you bet full pot your opponent is going to call A5 just as often as when you bet half pot. In these situations i generally like to tailor my continuation bet to be smaller when my opponents continuing range is set in stone. This also balances quite well because i will be continuation betting this board with almost 100% of my range.

On the flip side you have coordinated boards like 89J flush draw. In these spots i tend to bet bigger. The reason for this is because generally my range is skewed to value. These are often the boards that i am giving up on often when i have nothing. So when i do continuation bet,  i want to get the maximum value from my opponents weaker hands that will be calling. So for example i raise pocket jacks preflop and the flop comes down 89J flush draw. I just generally bomb this flop because my opponent will hit it fairly frequently and will not be folding. I want to get maximum value from Tx (straight draws), flush draws, 9x, 8x, pair + draws etc. None of them are folding whether i bet 1/3rd pot or 5/6 pot. So i generally try to bet larger in these situations.

Again though, dont think that this is exploitable. I am not betting this large because i have a set, i am betting this large with all of my hands on this board texture. I would bet the same with AT, JJ, QQ, 88, a flush draw, even AQ if i decide to bet it.

How often should you continuation bet

After having some discussion with various other winning regulars we have agreed that a 70% continuation bet statistic must be close to optimal. I have seen players with a much lower continuation bet statistic also be profitable and players with up to an 80% continuation bet statistic be profitable.

In general though you don’t want to go much higher than 70%. C-betting too much in general is just as much of a leak as not c-betting enough. If you c-bet too much your opponents will be able to exploit you by floating or re-raising your continuation bet.

In today’s games most people use a HUD and will have access to your continuation bet statistic. So be aware of that.

I have found a happy middle ground and generally c-bet in the 70% range, however don’t get hung up on the percentage, its more about the situation and your opponents tendencies. You can have days where you will play opponents and get flops where it feels like you should be c-betting 100% and other days you face opponents who don’t fold much and get super coordinated flops all day long. So generally use the 70% number as a guideline and not a rule.