Continuation Betting

Sometimes it pays off to be the aggressor in a poker game. While some players may play aggressively all the time, sometimes the use of some measured force in your playstyle can help you get out of some tricky situations or turn an average situation into something great.

Continuation betting is when the pre-flop aggressor continues his aggression by being the first to make a bet on the flop, and it’s a common idea that most no-limit hold’em players are aware of. However, most people continuation bet badly because they do not understand the advanced ideas that determine when it is a good play. The keys to continuation betting are making future streets easier to play and knowing what a balanced betting range looks like so that you can make adjustments as you need to against different types of opponents.

Continuation Betting - Scenario

Suppose we open raise to $7 in middle position before the flop in a $1/2 game with $200 stacks, a completely unknown player calls us on the button, and everyone else folds. The flop come, and it’s the King of diamonds, the Ten of clubs and the Two of diamonds. Assuming no rake for the sake of discussion, the pot is $17 and you have $193 left behind. We want to decide on a continuation bet size that will make the rest of the hand easy. If we bet $16 on the flop and get called, the turn pot will be $49 with $177 left behind. If we then make a $45 bet and get called, the river pot will be $139 with $132 left behind, and this is perfect for a near-pot sized bet. These bet sizes will make all of our decisions easy since we won’t have to ever deal with multiple raises on the same street.

With the bet sizing decided, we can get a general idea of how often we should be bluffing on the flop. If we make a $16 continuation bet into a $17 pot, our opponent will be facing a $16 bet with a $33 pot in front of him. He would need us to be bluffing about 16/(16+33) = 32.7 percent of the time to make a call if we were going all-in. Since we’re not, and many of our semi-bluffs have good chances to win even if we have the worst hand on the flop, a balanced continuation betting range will be bluffing a bit more than this. Our range will be balanced when we have between 40 and 45 percent bluffs, most likely.

At this point, we look at our pre-flop raising range and decide which hands we should value bet on this flop. Since the flop was KT2 with two diamonds and one club, we can probably value bet AA, KK, TT, 22, AK, KQ and KJ without even thinking twice. We’re going to assume KT is not in our range pre-flop for this example since we raised in middle position. Those hands make up a total of 51 starting hand combinations on this flop, and we can probably make it 52 since we would be betting QJ of diamonds for value.

To be balanced, we’ll need to include enough bluffs in our range so that we would be bluffing about 40 or 45 percent of the time. We should start with our strongest draws for flushes, add in open-ended straight draws and finish up with backdoor flush draws or gutshot straight draws with an over card. To balance our checking range, we should also check some of our strongest hands occasionally to trap. From this point, we can adjust from this balanced range based on the play of our opponent.

To learn even more betting strategies for Texas Hold’em, take a look at another of our in-depth articles!