Many players new to poker learn that if they raise preflop and continuation bet the flop, they can often times win the pot right there.
This is a very straightforward and simplistic approach to how to play the game.
The problem is that when players do this as they are still learning the game, they may get lucky and have it work more often in the short run than is actually sustainable in the long run. They may develop bad habits and not know what they are doing wrong.
Instead of indiscriminately continuation betting every hand it is better to chose wisely what hands to bet the flop with.
The crux of the issue is when you bet a hand that you should have checked, get called, and are now on the turn without a plan.
Let’s take an example. Let’s say I raise [KT] from middle position and the button calls. The flop is [JT6]. This is a good flop for our hand. On average we will have the best hand here.
Let’s estimate the button’s preflop calling range–all the possible hands they can have:
Now let’s calculate our equity vs their range:
58.57% is a pretty good amount of equity
The problem lies when we bet the flop and don’t improve on the turn. Let’s say we bet this flop and then the turn is a . We are now in a dubious situation.
If the button calls with these hands:
We no longer have the best hand on average, but are still beating many hands they could have.
What do we do?
I wish I had an answer, but there is no good option.
Say we check and face a bet. What’s our equity against a hand like top pair?
We are in big trouble.
If they have a hand such as [K9s] however…
…they are drawing very slim.
There is no obvious answer as to what to do. They may have a very strong hand and we’re in big trouble, or may have a very weak hand and we’re way ahead. It is incredibly difficult to predict what our opponent will do, which makes our decision very ambiguous.
If we bet we risk being called only by better hands and good draws. On the river if we bet again we would simply be betting as only a better hand will call. If we check we risk being bluffed.
As we can see that while betting the flop might be okay in a vacuum, once called everything because hazy, difficult, and seemingly unprofitable. When compared to simply checking the flop it becomes clear that that line is the most profitable.
In short, you have to know what hands to bet and what hands to check. Having a carefully considered game plan that protects you leads to the easiest decisions and the most money won.
Learn more about c-betting on the flop with my article Print Money with Your Flop C-Bets In and Out of Position.