This text is based on episode 4 of the Level-Up Podcast, hosted by poker pro and coach Gary “GazzyB” Blackwood and Upswing VP Mike Brady. You can watch or listen to the entire episode via the links above or read on if you prefer a written version.
Mike: What’s up poker players, welcome back to the show that helps you level-up your skills.
I’m Mike Brady and as usual I’m joined by the pride of Scotland, poker pro Gary Blackwood.
Gary: What’s up guys, my name is Gary, and today we’re gonna help you get better at c-betting in position in heads-up, single-raised pots. In other words, when you raise preflop, the big blind calls and they check to you on the flop.
Mike: A quick note for some of the more experienced listeners, we plan to build up to more advanced topics in future episodes. But it’s critical we get to the fundamental topics first.
Anyway, we’re about to reveal how you should approach c-betting as the in position player on several different types of flops. We’ll start with the flops on which you should c-bet most often and work our way down to the flops that warrant a low c-bet frequency. Along the way we’ll talk about what c-bet size to use, as well as how your position and your opponent’s tendencies should impact your c-bet strategy.
For all of these examples, imagine that you raised preflop and only the player in the big blind called. 100 big blind stacks.
Flops You Should C-Bet Every Single Time (Or Close To It)
Gary: The first type of board that we can talk about are paired boards, mainly the high paired boards. Flops like A-A-3, K-K-Q, J-J-8, T-T-2.
These high paired flops are so unbelievably good for the preflop raiser that you should c-bet virtually always, regardless of your position.
You can keep your strategy nice and simple and bet these boards very often for a small size. Some players use 25% pot, I use 33% pot. It largely comes down to personal preference here — as long as you’re betting small and always, you’ll be good to go.
There is another type of board that is very good for us as the preflop raiser: double broadway boards like K-Q-4, A-J-6, Q-T-2.
There are a couple of good ways to play these types of boards, and again it’s all down to personal preference.
- You can choose to use a smaller bet size and bet them virtually always, or;
- You can use a bigger bet size, say 75% pot, and bet them very frequently, but not quite always.
There are advantages to both options. Option one keeps your strategy simple — allowing you to bet always — and players tend to make more mistakes vs a bet instead of a check.
On the flip side, if you use the larger bet size, you get to put your opponent in uncomfortable spots because of your nut advantage (i.e. you have more nutted hands than your opponent and you kinda wanna shove that down your opponent’s throat on the flop and build the pot for future streets).
So, these double broadway boards are really good for you, but there are a couple of different ways to play ’em!
Flops You Should C-Bet Frequently (But Certainly Not Every Time)
A lot of people think that you should bet small with your entire range on all single broadway flops like K-7-2 or Q-6-5. That’s only true for some single broadway flops, though.
K-7-2 is a flop on which you can simplify your strategy and c-bet every time, but you should actually do a decent amount of checking back on flops like Q-6-5 or K-5-3.
The reason for this is that K-7-2 is so disconnected that you are less likely to be met with resistance in the form of a call or a raise.
But boards like Q-6-5 or J-4-2 are quite a bit more connected, and as a result there are more hands (both made hands and draws) that the big blind can continue with. Therefore you should c-bet around 70% of the time on average — that’s not a massive difference, but it is significant compared to c-betting 100% of the time.
Another really important factor is the low card effect of the two non-broadway cards. The big blind will defend a bunch of low suited hands like 53s, 74s, and 43s that you probably don’t have in your range as the preflop raiser. So, they have way more hands that connect with that part of the board, and for that reason we can’t just c-bet everything.
One last type of board I want to talk about are the A-high boards. Again, it’s a complete myth that you should just bet your entire range on a board like A-8-5 or A-6-2. These boards are really good for you as the preflop raiser, but you should still like to play some check backs on these boards — more than you might think. You should be c-betting around 70% of the time on average.
It’s crucial to find some checks instead of just betting everything always!
Flops to C-Bet Around Half of the Time
As we look at medium frequency boards, you should understand that these boards are still better for you than the preflop caller, but not anywhere near as much as K-K-2 or A-8-3.
We’re now talking about boards like 9-8-4 flush draw, 8-6-3, 7-6-2 and so on. The reason for a lower frequency c-bet, averaging around 55-60% of the time now, is a combination of two factors we’ve already spoken about:
- The board is quite connected, so you’re more likely to be met with resistance in the form of straight draws and flush draws.
- There are more strong hands that your opponent can have that aren’t in your preflop raising range, so the board is not as good for us as the previously mentioned ones.
You should no longer use a smaller bet size on these types of boards. Instead you should bet 50% pot or even bigger.
Your position has some impact on the optimal size. For example, when you’re c-betting a flop and your position is the button, a roughly 75% pot-sized c-bet is best. But if you’re c-betting that same flop from one of the earlier positions, the solver prefers closer to a 50% pot-sized bet size. This is because of how your preflop range interacts with the flop.
The key takeaway here is that it’s really important to not use a 33% pot-sized bet on flops like from the button vs the big blind, for example. It’s much better to bet bigger and less often.
Flops to Rarely C-Bet
Hopefully you are now seeing a trend. If K-Q-2 is really good for you as the preflop raiser, and 8-5-3 is average, then the boards that are really not good for us should be obvious…
The really low and connected flops that give your opponent some very strong hands that aren’t in your preflop raising range. We’re gonna break it down even further here because it’s really important we understand this.
Let’s use a board like 7-5-3 as an example, and let’s consider a very obvious strong hand: 64s.
If you raised preflop from under the gun, you will never have the nut straight on this example flop. (Granted, you will have it on the button.) But the big blind can absolutely have this hand and other hands that smack this flop such as 75s (top two pair) or 96s (double gutshot straight draw with an overcard).
Even if you had raised preflop from the button (and thus those strong hands are in your range), this flop is still not good for you overall and you shouldn’t be c-betting very often.
But it’s so much worse if you raised from an earlier position. So much so that if you raised preflop from middle position, the big blind calls, and the flop falls 7-5-3, you should virtually never c-bet.
Just to give you guys some more examples, on a board like 5-4-3 under the gun vs big blind, your default c-betting frequency should actually be 0%. A board like 6-4-3 cutoff vs big blind is a board to c-bet around 20% of the time.
I just wanted to clarify that so you know exactly what we mean by “rarely c-bet” – it’s really important we understand that it’s because betting frequently on these boards is a huge (and common) leak.
A Quick Word on Tournaments
Mike: All of the general concepts talked about in this episode apply to tournaments as well. However, all of the specific examples and frequencies Gary brought up assume you’re playing a 100bb cash game with no ante.
This is because the preflop ranges are different in tournaments due to the ante, which allows you to raise with a looser range and the big blind to defend a looser range. That changes everything a little bit.
In general, the boards we’ve listed that as high frequency c-bet boards are also high frequency c-bet boards in tournaments. The boards we listed as low frequency c-bet boards also warrant a relatively low c-bet frequency in tournaments. But just keep in mind that the very specific stuff — exact percentages and such — was for cash games.
Want to Really Take Your C-Bet Strategy to a High Level?
We’ve given you a solid overview of how to approach c-betting throughout this episode…
…but if you really want to print money with your c-bet strategy, you’ve gotta join the Upswing Lab and check out the many lessons that cover this topic extensively.
Gary has a lesson in the Lab called “You’ve Check-Raised the Flop, Now What?” and the first few videos in that lesson get into the nitty gritty of c-betting frequencies on a huge variety of flops.
Gary: And with those videos you get some downloadable spread sheets to study mass data, noting optimal trends on different types of boards. Then I really break down which specific hands to c-bet and which specific hands prefer to check back.
Mike: There’s loads of other valuable lessons and respources in the lab as well, plus you get acces sto our members only community where you can ask questions, get answers, and improve your skills with the Lab coaches and fellow members.
As a listener (or reader) of this podcast you can get $50 off when you sign up for the Upswing Lab with the coupon code LEVELUP. Click the banner below to learn more and sign up.
If you want to check out more episodes of Upswing Poker Level-Up, scroll down on this page to find them.