The continuation bet (aka c-bet) represents one of the most fundamental concepts in poker. In community card games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha, most flops include the opportunity for a player to make a c-bet.
By definition, a c-bet happens when a player raises preflop, then continues with another bet on the flop. A player that raises first in preflop (RFI), or makes the last raise preflop and gets called, usually has an opportunity to c-bet when the flop hits the board.
Let’s take a look at the c-bet poker concept, one of the most crucial fundamental moves to master in the game.
What is a Poker C-Bet?
The preflop aggressor doesn’t always get the chance to c-bet. The majority of the time, however, the player that makes the final bet/raise preflop also finds themselves with the opportunity to make the first bet on the flop.
Let’s look at an example of a c-bet from this Upswing Poker article on how to play against aggressive c-bettors:
The stakes: $200/$400 with a $400 BB ante.
- Daniel Negreanu – $110k
- Kim Hultman – $79k
- Doyle Brunson – $110k
Daniel Negreanu is in the hijack and raises to $1,600 with 6♦ 4♦. Phil Ivey folds from the cutoff (after having posted $1,000 in dead money). Kim Hultman calls on the button with Q♣ J♠. Doyle Brunson calls in the big blind with 9♥ 8♠.
The pot is $6,400 and the flop comes out T♠ 9♠ 6♠.
Brunson checks and Negreanu bets $1,500. Both Hultman and Brunson call.
In this hand from High Stakes Poker, Daniel Negreanu opens to $1,600 from the hijack, and gets called by Kim Hultman on the button and Doyle Brunson in the big blind. The flop comes, Brunson checks, and Negreanu bets.
Negreanu’s flop bet qualifies as a continuation bet, as he made the first preflop raise, and continued with another bet when checked to after the flop.
Had Brunson led out with a bet on the flop, Negreanu wouldn’t have a c-bet opportunity in this hand. Leading out (aka donk betting) happens when a player that called a preflop raise makes the first bet on the flop.
Donk betting doesn’t happen often in modern Texas Hold’em, however. If you’re the preflop aggressor, the action will check to you on the flop more often than not.
Let’s take a look at another example of a c-bet, this time taking a theoretical look at the same hand if the preflop action went a bit differently:
Daniel Negreanu is in the hijack and raises to $1,600 with 6♦ 4♦. Kim Hultman three-bets to $5,000 on the button with Q♣ J♠. Doyle Brunson folds in the big blind and Negreanu calls the $5,000 bet.
The pot is $11,000 and the flop comes out T♠ 9♠ 6♠.
Negreanu checks, Hultman bets $3,500, and Negreanu folds.
In this case, Hultman was the last preflop aggressor. Even though Negreanu raised first in, Hultman made the last preflop raise. By just calling the three-bet, Negreanu is no longer the preflop aggressor.
As the preflop aggressor, Hultman now gets the opportunity to c-bet. In this theoretical example, Hultman’s $3,500 c-bet prompts a fold from Negreanu, and Hultman takes the pot.
Basic C-Bet Strategy
In-Position vs. Out-of-Position
In general, you can c-bet much more frequently when you’re playing a pot in position (IP), and you should proceed with caution when c-betting while playing out-of-position (OOP).
For example, one of the most common c-betting opportunities you’ll encounter happens when you’ve open raised preflop from the button, and the big blind calls. You’ll play the rest of the hand with a positional advantage when you’re the button preflop raiser, and can therefore c-bet aggressively in many situations.
Let’s say you open raise from the button preflop, the big blind calls, and the flop comes T♠ 5♥ 3♦.
As the in-position preflop raiser, you can c-bet with most of the hands in your button preflop opening range. The big blind has a very wide preflop calling range against the button, and as the button you can take advantage of that by c-betting wide, from in-position, and forcing the big blind to fold the weak hands in their range.
That same T♠ 5♥ 3♦ flop requires a very different strategy when contemplating a c-bet from out-of-position. For example, let’s say you open raise from the cutoff, and the button calls.
On any ten-high or lower flop in a CO vs. BTN single-raised pot scenario, you should mostly check the flop. The button’s calling range against the cutoff is quite narrow and can include many middling-to-low pocket pairs that fare well on ten-high and lower flops.
The button’s preflop calling range connects very well with a flop like T♠ 5♥ 3♦, and also gets to play in-position against a preflop open from any other position.
Whether it’s a CO vs. BTN configuration, or any setup where you’ve opened preflop and gotten a call from a player that has position on you, it’s best to be very selective with your c-bets in general.
Range vs. Range
Whenever you arrive at the flop in a single-raised pot, think about how the board connects with your range, and how it connects with your opponents’ range. For instance, if you open from early position, and the flop comes Q♦ J♠ T♣, that flop absolutely smashes your range as the early-position preflop raiser.
Your EP opening range will include pocket pairs such as aces and kings, giving you a strong overpair on the flop. The EP range also includes queens, jacks, and tens, (all of which give you a set on the flop), and ace-king (giving you the nut straight).
If you open from EP and get a caller from any position, those positions will often three-bet ace-king, pocket aces, kings, and queens, and perhaps pocket jacks depending on the position and the player. When you open from early position and get called, your opponent won’t have as many very strong hands in their range as you do on a flop like Q♦ J♠ T♣.
Therefore, on flops like Q♦ J♠ T♣, you can c-bet often, as you have a range advantage and nut advantage.
On a flop like 9♠ 8♥ 7♦, however, the preflop caller takes over the range advantage. While both the EP opener and the preflop caller can have sets, straight, and draws on this flop, the preflop caller’s narrow calling range makes it much more likely that they’ve connected well with this flop.
When a flop like 9♠ 8♥ 7♦ hits the board, you should check often as the preflop raiser, especially when playing out-of-position.
Mutliway C-Betting Strategy
Multiway pots change the c-betting dynamic significantly. You’ll frequently run into pots with three or more players when playing live poker, which generally presents many more multiway spots than a typical online poker game.
In general, you’ll want to c-bet with strong value hands, high-equity draws, and hands that can gain equity on the turn when playing multiway.
For example, let’s say you open from early position, and gets calls from the button and the big blind. The flop comes A♦ J♠ 5♠.
The big blind will often check to you, giving you a c-bet opportunity. You can c-bet this flop with strong Ax hands (like AK, AQ), spade flush draws, and perhaps hands like K♦Q♦/K♦T♦ if those hands are in your opening range. Very strong value hands, like two pair and sets, should almost always be c-bets.
If you opened from EP and got a call from only the big blind, you could bet a flop like A♦ J♠ 5♠ very wide. Hands like KK, QQ, and low pocket pairs could be good c-bet candidates on a double broadway board that favors your range.
Multiway, however, you should generally stick with strong value hands and high-equity bluffs as your c-bets.
For more on continuation betting strategy, check out some of Upswing Poker’s library of articles on c-betting: