Continuation betting for no limit holdemArticle By: RuffPoker.com
In poker a common situation that hurts many players is a lack of knowledge of continuation betting. It happens all the time, you are dealt a medium pocket pair giving you a good opening hand. However you are vulnerable to higher pocket pairs or overcards on the flop. First and foremost you need to act fast and raise the blinds. But then you get two or three callers. Then you totally miss the flop and are first to act. Your next move is crucial for your long term success at the poker tables. You must make the right continuation bet having shown strength pre flop, you must make a concerted effort to win the pot before any more trouble strikes.
Let’s take an example, you are playing at a $2/$4 no limit table and in middle position get dealt pocket 9's. All in front of you fold so you make a strong raise 7x the blinds. Two callers behind you make the pot $90. The flop comes Ad/8s/5s.
At this stage you have assessed your opponents as decent players that play a tight game, but they are not strong enough to know your moves or put the pressure on unless they have a good hand. As such looking at the flop you have to make a solid continuation bet. You could have the best hand so far with your pocket 9's. But the A on the board and the two spades are scary. What is more, your tight playing opponents called a big bet pre flop, so you could be up against an opponents pocket overpair. You are also now acting under the gun and anybody with A/x will probably call. However, the probability is that your opponents don’t have such pocket cards and you are holding the best hand post flop. Therefore you don’t want people to hit that flush or two pair on the turn or river for free.
This scenario manifests itself all the time in poker and dictates that a continuation bet is made post-flop bet. It is a bet that continues your pre-flop aggression and amounts to a bet of around half the size of the pot. What it intends to do is reduce the number of opponents in a hand by forcing those to fold who would otherwise check in the hope of seeing the turn for free. Such a bet costs you little, allows you to gauge your opponent’s cards and avoid trouble later in the hand. Most importantly it eliminates players with bottom pair or miracle draws. For example the pot stands at $90. If you bet half the pot ($45) you make the pot odds attractive enough that you need only win one in three of these hands to be in profit.
Continuation betting is necessary when you cannot be certain that your hand is ahead. You should never check in this situation because the turn or river could easily see you beat, so giving your opponents free cards is a recipe for disaster. Of course, if an opponent raises your continuation bet, you should assess their style and the situation in the hand, then almost certainly fold. Only in very rare circumstances (opponent on tilt/extremely loose) should you play on with a marginal hand if your continuation bet gets raised.
Continuation betting is best acted on post flop. It is rarely a good idea to progress with a continuation bet on the turn or river, simply because your opponents have already called your sizeable bets pre and post flop so they are unlikely to back down now. Also as a turn card has been shown you now probably sit with an even more tenuous hand and community cards that almost certainly make it worthwhile for opponents to see the river.
Another situation where it is sensible to make a continuation bet is from early position when you are looking at a draw. To maximise the pot you obviously want to hit one of your ‘outs’ but even if you don’t the continuation bet may force others to fold, which means you’ve taken down a pot with nothing. That is successful continuation betting at its finest. You haven’t so much bluffed, rather you have asked your opponents difficult questions, when sat with ‘outs’ to make a great hand. It has an element of risk, so you must bet accordingly but by optimizing pots your potential gains are greater. Again, with a marginal hand this is almost always post or pre flop, rarely is it after the turn or river.
In conjunction with a solid value betting strategy, continuation betting will help you take down pots before they become trouble, and improve your table image to become a profitable player.