Continuation Betting

Guide To Winning Poker (27)

  • Continuation betting is an extremely popular practice
  • It is totally stupid though to just bet out of habit
  • We want to avoid ever playing without thinking like this, and punish them for doing it

Continuation Betting Is A Very Popular Topic In Poker

Continuation betting, or c-betting for short, is such a popular topic, especially among new to intermediate players, that I want to devote an entire lesson just devoted to this. Now I am going to assume that you’ve read my lessons up to this point, particularly the ones introducing you to the use of poker stats, as well as the introductory sections to aggression and position. All of these elements will come into play in this discussion, and being familiar with that material will make this discussion easier to grasp, but if you haven’t really fully grasped the material I’ve presented on these topics thus far, don’t worry, as I’ll be looking to make things pretty clear for you anyway.

There’s so much material written about this topic that is so bad that it’s almost unspeakable. In my opinion anyway, it’s also one of many topics that pretty much goes unexamined. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. In my view, the unexamined poker game is not worth playing. So nothing escapes my eye, and the topic of continuation definitely deserves more exposure than just people telling other people to use it a lot.

Why Are These Called Continuation Bets Anyway?

You might be wondering why this bet is called a continuation bet in the first place. What in fact is continuing here? Well in fact there’s a presumption in poker that whoever has the lead and is thus the aggressor is presumed to have the better hand, and others are supposed to defer to the lead in most cases. So it’s the aggression by one player that’s continued. Why people feel they should or need to continue, and why others feel the need to let them, simply by means of convention, is really a bit of a mystery.

So if you raised pre-flop, and I called your raise, then I am supposed to defer to you since you showed more strength. This is presumed since I closed the action and did not act aggressively against you by re-raising. So my hand can’t be that good and it is presumed that it is not. If I did re-raise, and you just called rather than re-raised my re-raise, then I’d have the lead and would be expected to lead the flop.

In spite of practically every online player in the world buying into the logic of all of this, including those considered to be world class players, I cannot tell you how stupid this all is. Actually I can tell you, it’s pure stupidity, and this business of the aggressor being in the lead is only the start of it.

Why People Are So Confused About The Elements of C-Betting

Let’s start by considering how this goes against one of the most fundamental principles of poker, that it takes a stronger hand to call a bet than it does to make a bet. There’s no question about this, and it’s actually one of the few so called poker truths that I have no problem with whatsoever. If you remember back to our discussion about correct calling ranges, I worked out for you the exact amount that this ideal range is, and it’s 2/3 of the betting range. So if you bet out with a certain range, my range has to be stronger than the range that you’re betting in order to have my call be profitable.

Now here’s where people get confused. There’s another old adage that it’s better to raise than call, which by the way is more nonsense. The decision to call or raise isn’t even necessarily based upon hand strength, and in fact hands that raise here may even be weaker than those who call, if we’re looking to get our opponents to fold. With the best hands it often will be preferable to call and make sure they stay in the hand, especially if we may expect them to continuation bet, and especially if they are going to be following through with their continuation, preferably right to showdown.

So Hands Not In The Lead Are Really The Stronger Ones

Since they are willing to continue without really much regard to what kind of hand they have, and we have a good one, that’s simply a beautiful thing for us, and we don’t want to scare them off of this ill conceived plan of theirs. Of course, depending on how aggressive or loose an opponent is, we may indeed choose to raise and take the lead so to speak from them, but the whole point though is that this is going to depend on several things and our hand strength is merely one of them, and certainly not the decisive one.

So what I want you to get from all of this is that simply because you took the lead, meaning a bet or raise, and I just called, this doesn’t mean that you can presume to have the best hand. In fact, unless I am a real donkey, I’m going to have the better hand since I need more to call. So the presumption of the player taking the lead having the better hand is a false one, patently false in fact. Sure, this will be the case sometimes, but more often than not, the caller will be ahead.

Betting Merely Out Of Habit Is Just Plain Foolish

So what happens with the continuation bet is that a player continues his aggression, and I am supposed to check to him first, and then fold most of the time even though I and everyone else at the table knows that he’s just making this bet just because he is supposed to, because it’s the thing to do, for some reason that has never been revealed to anyone I might add.

You might think that this is a matter of position, given that most of the time the player who is continuing has position over those who are following. This isn’t the case at all, and in fact this is the one time where players disregard position, not somewhat but totally. So if I have the lead, I’m going to look to continue to be the aggressor regardless of whether or not I have position.

This Logic Has People Betting Out Of Position When They Otherwise Wouldn’t

With some players, the only time they will donk bet is when they have the lead and are looking to continuation bet. I’ve asked some very good players why they will check back every flop out of position but lead out if they have the lead, and the best they could tell me is because that’s the way it is done, and perhaps my concern with leading out in position is one worth thinking on some more. I would certainly hope so for their sake.

I will say though that the popularity of continuation bets among online players certainly makes them a lot easier to play against. In many cases, if someone tends to c-bet a lot, I will be more than happy to play this game with him and allow him to do it. So if he has position on me, and I know he will miss the flop a lot, especially on dry flops that probably miss his hand, I’d much rather have him put in a bet first and then look to take it down rather than just taking it down without his putting any further money in. If he is more aggressive, and I have something, might want to lead into him if I can expect that he will raise me right off, but then again he may not, and he’s almost guaranteed to fire out at any flop so why discourage him from betting with crap?

Many Players Also Like To Keep On Continuing

The real hope here is that our opponents won’t just take a stab at the pot by c-betting the flop, but continue to blindly fire at it with multiple barrels. However if they do like taking a stab and then backing off, we will be ready to take advantage of that as well. It’s all about paying attention to what people like to do here and then countering with the appropriate actions to exploit them.

If they are leading with a c-bet into us, then pretty much the same thing applies, and we’ll look to how much they tend to continue, how the flop may have hit their hand, what we have, and then decide what to do. We’re glad they take this mindless line though, rather than something that’s specifically designed to take advantage of however we play and will play against them. I absolutely love playing against these so called structured lines which have people playing pretty much the same way against pretty much everyone, since they are much more predictable than what actual good play would be.

The Less Thinking They Do, The Better It Is For Us

The key here is to look to see how they are exposing themselves, and the fact that they are being the aggressor on purpose without needing a hand first has us looking to see at what point they are willing to fold. If it’s now, great, and if it’s later but before showdown, that’s even better, as we’ll have them putting even more money in before they give up. If they are better players, they might see us looking to exploit them later and adjust, but they will have to adjust all the way back to not just firing off c-bets if they wish to not be exploited at all by this line, which is very unlikely since they are almost married to the tactic.

When it comes to our using c-bets, we’re just going to say no to the concept, as whether we have the lead or not shouldn’t have anything to do with our strategy. Instead, we want to do what will give us the most success against the particular player types that we’re up against in a hand. In fact, one of the things I look to avoid is having players think that I will just fire out in a particular situation, because that makes me too easy to play against, and in particular, to be put on a range of hands.

They Raise Out Of Habit Pre Flop, They Bet Out Of Habit Later, Life Is Good

Fortunately though that’s not the best play generally anyway, unless a player just check folds too much, and if so, I will hammer away at him until he mends his ways, and it’s got nothing to do with the fact that it would be considered a c-bet. You want to spot and take advantage of weakness anytime you can, although the fact that people fold quite a bit in deference to c-bets does mean that there is often some opportunity to take down pots this way. This is not always the case though which is why you need to keep your eyes on the road and not just play without regard to what people are doing.

If poker is a matter of playing your opponents, then this or any other strategy which just sets a course for you without much regard for your opponents, or even much regard for what makes sense, won’t be the best way to go. Let other players play this way, and in fact, we hope they will. We’re looking to be smarter than that though and are going to look for the best lines in each particular situation.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series