Poker: Continuation Bets

It’s happened. You’ve raised before the flop while holding a really great pocket pair. Your opponent called you. The flop is about to hit — what do you do after that? You could make a continuation bet, but you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Let’s look at how position, the cards and other factors that can help you decide whether or not you’re going to invest any more in a hand.

How effective your continuation bet is likely to be depends on three main factors: the strength of your hand; the texture of the board that’s in front of you and your opponent and how your opponent tends to play. The best boards to place a continuation bet on are “dry” flops, those that are as uncoordinated or worthless as can be on their own. Really, the ideal board for anyone looking to place a continuation bet is one with a single high card and two low cards, covering three different suits — think of Kh7s3d, for instance. It can even be two high cards and one low card, but that’s less desirable.

With a board like the one described, most medium-strength hands will be viewed as callable by most opponents, but so will most powerhouses, which they might want to choose to slow play in an effort to extract greater value from you. You’ll want to make sure you know your opponent’s tendencies and how tight-aggressive they are when placing “c-bets.”

Considering the factors that go into a “good” board for continuation betting, the factors that create a bad board should be pretty obvious. Boards that are heavily coordinated with flush and straight draws what tend to be weighted towards middle cards. If you see a bored like 8d9dTc, then you should definitely remember that if your hand isn’t good enough to raise with, then it’s likely not good enough to continue with if there’s a strong chance for your opponent to build a winner.

Position in continuation betting means that sometimes you’re going to be more reactive than you’d like, especially if you’re playing against someone who’s aggressive. You’ll probably press passive players a bit more, and give up some of your equity to see more cards against an aggressive player. Just don’t chase a hand that’s not going to pay out if a wet board looks like it might make something truly playable for your opponent.

If you’re playing against loose-passive players (you know, the “bad” ones,) you’re going to want to play fewer continuation bets and give up when you think they might fumble their way into a winning hand. You’ll see these guys just call and even raise without much regard to the game itself and how it “should” be played. Instead, focus on opponents that you can extract the most value from with the least effort.