Continuation betting, or c-betting, is a foundational poker play that you’ll see again and again. Before we get into how to effectively c-bet and how to play against them, let’s start by defining the term.
A continuation bet is when a player bets the flop after a pre-flop raise. It seeks to take advantage of the initiative won through that early aggression.
Basically, when we raise pre-flop, then we send a message to the table: “I have a good hand.” Because our range is generally stronger than our opponents’ in this situation, c-bets try to pressure the weaker range into folding, especially when they miss the flop.
How to C-Bet
Just as with everything else in poker, balance and context is everything. We don’t want to c-bet every flop just because we have the initiative, but we do want to look for spots where c-betting is profitable.
The first thing to consider is how well our hand hit the flop. Of course, if we have a strong made hand, then we’ll want to bet for value more often than not.
Then there’s psychological player profiling. If we’re up against a nit, for example, then we can bluff more often to exploit their over-tendency to fold.
The fact is, though, that most hands miss the flop. So, if we c-bet too often, then our opponents can pick up on the fact that we’re always firing, even if we have garbage. They can then float us and put us into sticky situations.
At the same time, we want to look for boards to c-bet where our range dominates. For instance, on a dry board with lots of face cards, then the pre-flop raisers range is stronger because it contains more face cards and because the caller’s range contains drawing hands like suited connectors.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to continuation bet against multiple callers. Since the c-bet’s goal is to force folds, this becomes much less likely when we’re not heads up.
Playing Against C-Bets
Since we’re not always going to be the pre-flop aggressor, we also need to know how to play against c-bets. We can’t just fold to every c-bet without giving up a good chunk of equity. At the same time, we don’t want to call all the time and pay off stronger hands.
The most important thing is trying to decipher our opponent’s c-betting strategy so that we can use it against them. If we figure out that they only c-bet when the flop hits their hand, then we can simply fold to their c-bets and move on. On the other hand, if they c-bet 100% of the time, then we can call more often with our bluff catchers.