Continuation betting has been one of the most popular and misunderstood concepts in Texas Hold’em over the past few years. Today we’re going to look at continuation betting, specifically when you are the preflop raiser and find yourself in position (last to act after the flop).
The most common occurrence of this is when you have opened the action on the button or in the cutoff and one or both of the blinds defend. The four situations we’re going to look at are when we flop a big made hand, when we flop a weak made hand, when we flop a draw, and of course when we flop absolutely nothing.
#1 Flopping a Strong Made Hand – Top Pair with good kicker or better (2 pair, trips, sets)
Hooray. This is the most fun situation you’ll run into when playing and is also the most straight forward situation. When you flop a strong made hand, you’re looking to build a pot and begin getting value for your hand. Simply put, you should be betting here most of the time unless you decide to slow play and trap. In a world of disbelief (where no one ever believes you have a hand), most of the time just betting out your strong hands is the right play. Also, if you are continuation betting a lot when you don’t have a hand (some of the other situations we are going to look at), people that are paying attention are immediately going to think something is fishy when you all of a sudden don’t bet a flop that you normally would.
#2 Flopping a Weak Made Hand – A weak made hand would be bottom or middle pair on most boards. Sometimes a weak made hand will include top pair on a board containing lots of draws.
Sometimes it’s smart to check back hands like this. Here are the main situations/ reasons that you might look to do this instead of betting:
- b) Having some stronger hands in our flop check range will give us some pairs to call our opponents on the turn. This prevents us from having to fold the turn every time we check the flop. Balancing our range here makes us tougher to play against and takes away the automatic probe bet by the other player every time we check.
- a) We do not open ourselves up to being check raised with our weak hand. This is a form of pot control and it protects us from getting blown off of our hands at times by wreckless players. If you’re up against a player that check raises a lot or based on your hand you would start crying uncontrollably if you were check raised, this is a good play.
- c) By showing “weakness” on the flop we can often induce our opponents to bluff into us on the turn and/or river. We can often call these bluffs down with our flopped pairs. This goes hand in hand with the point mentioned above. It allows us to “bluff catch” (catch bluffs) from our opponents. Some people can’t help themselves but bet when you check and this is definitely something we want to occasionally take advantage of.
#3 Flopping Draws
Draws are great opportunities for us to continuation bet for several reasons.
- a) You have immediate fold equity when betting the flop – your opponent might just give up right there vs your bet and you win the hand.
- b) If you opponent calls your semi-bluff, you have the chance to complete your draw on the turn & river. Because most opponents who check/call your flop bet will also check again to you on the turn – you have the options of seeing both the turn and river cards after betting the flop. This control of the hand in combination with the equity your flush/straight draw provides – and the chance to make a pair with your draw – makes semi-bluffing a very effective flop play.
#4 Flopping Complete Air
Boooo. This is the least enjoyable situation but unfortunately the situation you will find yourself in quite often. In this situation, you need to take a few things into account. The first is your opponent. If you have a tougher opponent or a sticky opponent that does not like to fold, you might be better off checking and giving up here. If you have a weaker opponent that just plays their hand, you might still take a stab here as they will be folding often. You also will want to take a look at the texture of the board. If the board is very draw heavy that could have hit your opponents range, you should lean towards just giving up. If it’s a fairly dry board that will miss your opponents range a lot, you should lean more towards taking a stab at the pot
Another consideration is this: delayed-bluffing can be more profitable versus immediate bluffing. Yes, our only chance to win this hand is to have our opponent fold to our bet – but who says that bet needs to be on the flop? Looking to delayed turn bet boards where both the flop and turn get checked through can be a nice addition to your win-rate – most opponents don’t bother balancing their turn checking range with enough good hands (they are usually eager to start betting their value hands themselves after you check back the flop.)
(Note: If you want to learn more about our postflop game plan, check out the Postflop Engine! This mini-postflop training course was developed by top pros Doug Polk and Ryan Fee and is now on sale for just $7! Click the image below to learn more.)
I’m Matt “Checkmate” Colletta. I’ve been playing poker professionally since about 2004.
As one of the poker pros on UpswingPoker.com, my goal here is to help transform at least one hobbyist poker player into a self made millionaire.