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SPS PODCAST

Continuation Betting Fundamentals

BY

Sky Matsuhashi

on May 4, 2023

I'm going to cover the fundamental things you need to consider before making your next value or bluff continuation bet.

Listen to the podcast as you follow along below:

Continuation Betting Fundamentals

What is the Continuation Bet?

The Continuation Bet, or the Cbet, is a bet on the flop made by the preflop aggressor in the hand.

Basically: You raised, somebody called, and now you can continue the aggression on the next street.

There are 3 key reasons for continuation betting:

  1. You displayed strength by raising preflop, your opponent is weak because they just called, and now you’re putting pressure on your opponent and utilizing fold equity to win the pot right now.
  2. Most hands and ranges of hands aren’t improved much on the flop. Most ranges “hit” flops about 35% of the time.  By “hit” I mean that they flop top pair+ or an open-ended straight draw+.  Key: If they “hit” 35%, they miss 65%! So your opponents are more likely to fold on the flop.
  3. If you flop a hand worthy of going for value, and the stacks are deep, you’ve got to get more money in now so you can pile more money in later to eventually get all the money in and stack your opponent.

 

Value versus Bluff Cbets

The most important question to ask yourself before you click that button is: Why am I cbetting?  The answer should be for value or as a bluff.

Value Cbets: you must be able to name some hands from their range that you beat and that they’ll call you with.  If there’s nothing they’ll call you with, then you may be better off checking instead.

Bluff Cbets: you must be able to name hands in their range that beat you, but can be folded.  If they ain't folding, you ain't bluffing.  

Most of the time, when we discuss cbetting, we’re talking about it in terms of bluffing or semi-bluffing.  Most ranges hit only 35% of the time, so if you’re cbetting 70% or more, then more than half of your cbets are bluffs.

For a great tournament-related discussion of semi-bluffing, PokerNerve.com put out a super detailed article with plenty of hand examples.

This same idea of most flops not helping most ranges is why your opponents nowadays don’t fold so easily to cbets.  You’re cbet bluffing because THEY likely didn’t improve, and they’re calling because YOU likely didn’t improve.  It can be a game of chicken.  But, if you’re using a HUD and they aren’t, then you’ve brought a tank and they’ve brought a Volvo to this duel.

 

Important HUD Statistics for Continuation Betting

These stats will help you figure out how your opponent is likely to react before you make the cbet.

  1. Fold to Cbet – the higher the better when you’re considering a bluff cbet. Anything over 65% means they’re pretty flop honest vs cbets and you can push them off more easily.
  2. Raise Cbet – Some players like to raise cbets as bluffs especially when IP. Anything over 10% is likely a bluffer, and over 20% is surely a bluffer.  You only flop strong hands worthy of raising maybe 10%.
  3. Check-Raise – Same as raise cbet, over 10% is a bluffer. If you’ve played 1,000 hands and you’ve never seen this player check-raise until now, fold the hand unless you’re near the nuts.

Make sure you're also aware of your own Cbet stat.  What does your current stat at this table say about you?  If it’s at 35% over 100 hands, then you are pretty straight-forward and flop honest.  If it’s at 55%, then you’re mixing in some bluffs and semi-bluffs with your value hands, and if it’s at 75% or greater, then you’re full of it and your perceptive opponents will notice this.

 

Continuation Bet Sizing

The main thing with your cbet sizing is to tailor it to your opponent to get the reaction you want from them.

When bluffing, go as small as you think will still get them to fold. If they're super honest, like Fold to Cbet = 80%, you can often get away with 1/4 pot to 1/2 pot cbets. However, you might have to go to 2/3 or 3/4 pot versus players who like to stick around.

I'll often think to myself, “What would I bet with a strong hand for value?” That “value” size can be a good size to go with.

Before choosing your flop bluff sizing, think about the size of the pot on the turn in case they call. If you think it's going to require a double-barrel to get them to fold, go smaller on the flop, say 30-50% pot. Then on the turn, you can go 50-66% pot and it's going to be less costly than going 60% pot on both streets. Plus, that increase in bet sizing could look really scary to players who notice. Going from 30% pot on the flop to 60% pot on the turn looks like you mean business and it could earn you more folds.

For value cbet sizing, make it as big as you think they can call and give you value. People often see 1/2 pot bets or smaller as weakness, so those quickly get called. But, if you're opponent hates folding or the board is wet or they could have a made but weaker hand than yours, go bigger for more value. 2/3 pot is a great place to start, then size it up or down based on what you think they can give you value.

One thing I teach all my students is to “get value while the getting's good”. If you think they can give you value, don't slow play and check. Bet to start building the pot now, so it's bigger on the turn and river to maximize your value.

 

Opponents and Positions

HU pots are much easier to gain value from, as well as easier to bluff at; you only have one opponent and one range to be concerned with.

But multiway pots are a different story.  It’s tougher to bluff multiway because so many wide ranges seeing the flop have a good chance of connecting.  Getting all these players off the pot with a cbet is pretty tough.

Another thing that makes cbets difficult is being OOP.  Give yourself a better chance at successful cbet bluffing by making them more IP as opposed to OOP.  People love to float the cbet then take it away from you when you check the turn.  If you only want to fire one barrel, and you think it’ll take more than one to get your opponent off their hand, don’t fire that first one.

 

Board Textures

Texture matters.  Think about their calling range and how well it hits the board.

A calling range comprised of small-medium pairs, lots of suited connectors and some broadways doesn’t hit an A43r flop so well, nor does it hit a K92 flop so well.  But, this kind of middle card and pocket pair heavy range hits the 578 or JT8 flops very well.  If the board smacks their range, you should be much less likely to bluff cbet.

Scroll below for more on cbet bluffing using flop and board textures.

 

Continuation Betting Checklists

For Value Cbetting:

  • Get value while the getting's good!
  • You must be able to name the weaker hands they can call you with.
  • If they’ll fold everything you beat and only call with better, don’t make the value cbet.
  • You must look at their HUD stats first to help give an indication of their likely response.
  • You want to size it to 2/3 or 3/4 pot, and adjust it up or down depending on how likely your opponent is to call.
  • Be much more careful when cbetting into a multiway pot.
  • Consider the board texture and how their range interacts with it.

 

For Bluff Cbetting:

  • If you can list better hands they’ll fold, then make the bluff cbet.
  • If they ain't folding, you ain't bluffing.
  • When the flop board texture smacks their range, don’t bluff.
  • If you’re OOP, be less inclined to bluff cbet.
  • And if it’s a multiway pot, be less inclined as well.

 

Challenge!

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:

Focus on cbetting this week. With every cbetting opportunity, be deliberate. Know whether it's a bluff cbet or a value cbet. Purposefully choose your cbet sizing to get the reaction you want. Look at their cbet-related stats to gauge how they'll likely react. Be sure to get value while the getting's good, and of course, if they ain't folding, you ain't bluffing. Get 'em, tiger! 

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

 

Out of Position Continuation Betting

This video is taken directly from the Profitable Cbets Course within the www.ThePokerForge.com. Take notes and take action!

Download and listen to this video in podcast format.

 

Bluff Continuation Betting and Analyzing Flop Textures

I'm going to help you analyze flop textures to figure out which are the best for cbet bluffing. As we all know, most of our cbets are bluffs. So, the strategies you're going to learn below will help you win more pots without showdown.

Listen to podcast #442 as you follow along below:

 

 

When are Continuation Bet Bluffs Most Successful?

They Fear What You May Have

  • Indications: Stats and tendencies – They fold a lot to cbets or fold in general. Their stats will tell you what type of player they are.  NIT’s and TAG’s fold a lot, FISH and LAG’s not so much.
  • Indication: The board texture hits your opening range. When you open, you have lots of Aces, Kings and Queens and big pocket pairs in your range.  If the board comes all big cards, this likely hit you squarely, so if they’ve got nothing, they’re folding.

 

They Are Out Of Position

  • Indications: Look for players who fold a lot when out of position (OOP). Make sure your popup has their Fold to Cbet and Fold to Bet stats broken down by IP and OOP.  You want to bluff players who fold a lot when OOP.

The Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4 has all your IP and OOP statistical needs covered.

 

They Have Nothing on This Board 

  • Indications: The wider their preflop calling ranges are, the less likely they hit the board with any real strength. But you’ve got to watch out because wide calling ranges are indicative of stickiness, so these players won’t readily fold with any pair as long as they think you may have not hit the flop.
  • Indications: Their preflop calling range doesn’t interact well with the board. Understanding range and board interaction is critical in deciding whether or not to cbet bluff.  Beyond your opponent’s approach to post-flop play and their stats, this is super important.

 

Flop Texture Matters

The first thing you do before you cbet is consider how the cards on the board hit their preflop calling range.

Coordinated boards (or wet boards) are bad to cbet bluff.  Why is this?

Think about why our opponent called preflop.  They clearly DID NOT want to 3bet for value or as a bluff.  They called because they want to see the flop, right?  Are they calling with 92o?  J4o?  AA?  Probably not.  They’re calling with the same types of hands you call with; suited connectors, suited Aces and Kings, broadways and small-medium pocket pairs.

Since this is what they’re calling, our bluff cbets will have a better chance of working on board textures that do not hit these types of hands.

 

Example: 5.7% calling range on two different boards

This small range consists of small-medium pocket pairs and suited connectors (maybe a tight SB caller's range who 3bets better hands):

Which board is better to cbet bluff on?  An A92r board, or a 678ss (two tone) board?

A92r:

Only 8.82% of this tight calling range only hits TP+ and good draws on this A92r flop.  Most of this range's pocket pairs are below the 9, so they’re less likely to call.  The best draws they can have are back door straight and flush draws, making it less likely they’ll stick around to draw out.  And if we’re IP, all the more reason for them to check/fold here.

 

678ss:

The range flops tons of top pair+ hands and good draws. So…

They ain’t folding here, so we ain’t bluffing.

Bottom line: Make continuation bet bluffs on flops that don’t hit the player's range.

 

Flop Texture Spreadsheet

This table shows you how often a 5% calling range “Hits” 11 different flops.  “Hits” = TP+ and OESD+.  It also shows you how often the range flops TP+, Middle Pair+, an open-ended straight draw (OESD) or a flush draw (FD).  The reason why we want to look at these individual hand strengths is because these are the ones our opponents are more likely to stay in the pot with.  Knowing these individual ones helps to further our understanding of how well the range hits the 11 distinct boards.

This first table above contains how often a narrow 5% 2bet calling range hits the various flops.  The rest of the spreadsheet contains ranges for 13%, 22% and 33% 2bet calling ranges.  As you can see, there are 11 distinct board textures with an example of each on the spreadsheet (downloadable above!).

The goal with filling out and using this sheet is to get a good idea of how different 2bet calling ranges hit these various boards.  I completed this table using Flopzilla Pro, which is the best software available to help understand ranges and board interaction.

 

Get my Flopzilla Pro Course to learn how to use this invaluable program:

 

5% on the High & Dry Flop Texture

 A small 5% calling range Hits only 10% on A92r.

This small 5% calling range “Hits” at 10% (TP+ and OESD+).  On an Ace high board, the only things it can hit at TP+ are sets, in this instance namely 99 and 22.  It can’t flop oesd’s nor even gutshot draws. And being a rainbow board with a pocket pair filled range, it can’t flop flush draws either.  So, this is a great board to cbet bluff because they hardly ever hit anything good.

For just TP+ it’s only 10%.  And Middle Pairs flop 40% of the time.  That makes sense as it has 3 pairs below the Ace and above the 9.  It flops OESD 0% of the time and FD’s at 0% as well.  All of this tells us that cbet bluffing on High & Dry boards should be very profitable against such small ranges.

 

5% on the Low & Wet Board Texture

A small 5% calling range hits TP+ at 68.4%.

On the two-tone 754 flop, this 5% range “Hits” the board at 90% of the time.  That makes sense because it’s got many overpairs, 3 different sets it can hit as well as an OESD with 66.  This board is super dangerous to cbet bluff at against a tiny 5% range.

And if we break this down further, it hits TP+ at 68.4%; Middle Pair + at 79%; an OESD 11% of the time and a FD never.  So, this range flops mostly made hands and only one good draw, making it really tough to successfully bluff at.

I'm sure you can see the value of doing this type of Range & Flop analysis with Flopzilla Pro.

 

Flipping the Script for Value Continuation Bets

Everything until now has been about cbet bluffing.

But, what if you’ve got a value hand and you want to extract the max from your opponent?

Simple, you just flip the script on everything.

When it’s likely your opponent hit something, bet.  If they’re going to raise a lot of your cbets on this board, then bet.  If they’re going to call with all of their draws and mediocre hands, then bet.  Maybe he's an unbelieving calling station and calls 90% of flops, then bet.

But, if the board is bad for their range or if they fold a ton in general, don’t bet.  Possibly let them catch something worth staying in with on the turn.

You want to get value and that is so much easier when your opponent hit the board or they’re a station.  Use your knowledge of their calling range as well as their post-flop stats to get a good idea of whether they’ll pay you off or not.

 

Challenge!

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:

Download the Board Texture Spreadsheet (form above).  Then open up Flopzilla Pro and get to work completing the three remaining tables.  Save, print and use this spreadsheet to crush the preflop callers in every future session.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

 

Support the Show

I want to thank these super poker peeps for picking up the Online Poker Hand Reading Workbook. This is a 95-page PDF that teaches you all you need for hand reading. With loads of examples, quizzes and workbook activities (with 17-page answer key), you'll build hand reading skills quickly and efficiently.

Thanks to Alex Roberts, Piotr Turlewicz, George Kourakos, Fred Woolley, Jean-marc Moskowicz, Jean Dalarosa, Frederic Renard, Doenghoon Bae, Chris Fetner, Randy Noel, James Gravatt, James Crossen, Kevin Pryor, Ben Cawley, Joachim Svensson, Mark Wojszko, Darren Clare, Tarvo Solg, Gerald Crone, Wayne Altomare and Mutsuki Kojima.

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