Poker Deep Dives: All About Continuation Betting

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Continuation Betting Poker

One of the less obvious poker plays, especially for new players, is the continuation bet.  It may be something they’re doing naturally without knowing it’s a “continuation bet,” but that just means they could be misusing their bet or even not really understanding what they are doing at all.

In fact, I’d wager that a lot of even mid-tier players don’t really know what a continuation bet is or why they’re important to the game.

Believe me, they’re important to the game.

In fact, both understanding and properly employing a continuation bet is one of those things that differentiates experienced players from those not quite ready for the big leagues.  That means if you’re not sure what a continuation bet is or how to use one, then read on.  I will talk about the definition of a continuation bet, why it is important, and how to properly employ it at the table.

Also, if you’ve never knowingly placed continuation bet, you will see why they’re so important to your game.  Even if you have used one on purpose, knowing more about them and what they signal to the table will refine your poker game and take you to the next level.

What Is a Continuation Bet?

Good question.

A continuation bet can only happen if a few conditions were already set.  First, during preflop betting, you will have had to come out as the raiser (and potentially the reraiser.)  This means that before the first three cards are dealt, you have shown a position of strength.

If you didn’t come out as the preflop raiser, you can still do everything you normally would in a continuation bet, it just wouldn’t be a continuation bet.  You would therefore be betting for different reasons.

Once you have come out of preflop betting in a position of strength, next you have to miss on the flop.  It’s not really important to narrowly define “missing” on the flop, but in general, it’s safe to assume that post flop you are not as confident as before you saw the three cards.

A quick few examples:

  1. You had a pocket pair and were not dealt a third card
  2. You had two suited cards and were dealt one or fewer cards in that suit
  3. You had two cards in order and were dealt one or fewer cards to help build a straight
  4. You had two cards in order, but now have to deal to an inside straight

As you can see, missing on the flop can take on different levels of severity.  In some cases (as in #1) your hand may still be completely viable, especially if you didn’t flop any cars higher than your pair.

On the other hand, #2 and #3 are usually pretty nightmarish and will likely result in you not having a winning hand should the game continue.  In this case, rather than muck your hand, you decide to bluff the other side by continuing the aggressive betting you showed preflop.

This is why it’s called a continuation bet.

The idea is that you are going to use the table’s memory of what happened in the game before to help aid your bluff.

When to Continuation Bet

There are two factors that determine if it’s the right time to continuation bet: your hand and the pulse of the table.

If you missed preflop, but your hand isn’t absolutely dead, then continuation betting is probably not a bad idea.  At the very least, you will show confidence in the cards you have and, hopefully, knock out anyone who is unsure of what they’re bringing to the table.

However, the good news is that should you have a decent hand, you might be able to get the cards you need.  In this case, a continuation bet will get the weaker hands to fold and build up some chips you may still have a chance of grabbing.

You should also consider a continuation bet if your opponents are playing with a tight betting bankroll, are on the short stack or generally don’t seem like the type to push you after your aggressive preflop betting.  If you think that your opponent is the type to fold in the face of strong cards (or if their preflop betting indicated a weak hand), go ahead and consider that continuation bet.

When Not to Continuation Bet

There are two factors that determine when it’s best to let discretion be the better part of valor and either check or fold: the board and your opponents.

First, let’s look at the board.  Keep in mind that a continuation bet is a bluff.  You cannot reveal to your opponents that the flop did you no favors and you are now sitting there with a potential stinker.

One of the best ways your opponents will catch on to the fact you are bluffing is if the flop was all over the place.  If you bet aggressively and then the flop is a 2, a 6 and 10 all of different suits, no one is going to believe you got the goods.  Your opponents will not believe you kept the cards (like a 3/4 or 7/8) so that you’re now dealing to an inside straight.  It’s also not likely you’re looking for a flush draw.

Therefore, if your opponents can’t logically look at the flop and think your hand got better, your bluff is going to fail.

Also, if you have a particularly aggressive opponent, beware continuation betting because they’re probably going to call your bluff.  At that point, you very well may be without the chips you just tossed in the pot.

Even worse, if they were to win, your aggressive opponent will have just shown the table that you’re a bluffer, which will embolden everyone else to start calling you.

Therefore, if you think that your opponent can’t be bluffed you either need to not continuation bet or go big and see if you can get some folds.  However, as noted before, only go big if the board could logically support a powerful hand.

What Others Might Think If You Continuation Bet

More than likely, a continuation bet will work as a bluff if you pay attention to board state, at least in the beginning.  It’s not unusual to think that a player with a strong hand is going to keep betting to get more chips.

Therefore, a continuation bet will work as a bluff and should earn you some chips.

However, your opponents know that you can’t always hit on the flop and that more often than not, you end up missing it.  Therefore, if you continuation bet every time, eventually they’re going to call you and you’re going to lose with your crap hand.

When that happens, the jig is up and you will have exposed that you are a bluffer.  This will mean more people call your bluff more often and that’s the opposite of what you want.

Therefore, be smart when you make a continuation bet.  Try to do it against less aggressive players or those who are showing less confidence in their hands.

What to Do If You Think Others Are Continuation Betting

The advice of what to do when opponents continuation bet is pretty much the opposite of when you do it.  You want to expose your opponents’ bluffing and get others to call their continuation bets.

Therefore, if you think that your opponent is continuation betting, wait for a reasonable bet and call it.  By “reasonable,” don’t call your opponent going all in or betting a significant fraction of your stack unless you can upgrade “thinking” your opponent is bluffing to “knowing” your opponent is bluffing.

On the other hand, if they toss in a modest bet or one you can absorb without too much worry, call the bet.  It may turn out that the continuation bet was real, but that’s okay, too.  You either gain more information into the pattern of your opponent’s betting or you get their chips.

It’s a win-win, though one of those two wins is definitely better.

Conclusion

Really, this article on continuation betting really could just be an article on bluffing.  However, enough betters in Texas Holdem have tried continuation betting (whether knowingly or unknowingly) that it was given its own name.  Consequently, there is also a great deal of strategy around how to properly implement one and make money.

As always, the key is to remember that you end the preflop betting in a position of strength and now you are going to use that to your advantage, even if your cards would dictate otherwise.  As you decide how to continuation bet, keep in mind just how good or bad your cards are, what cards were revealed in the flop and the temperament of your opponents.

If the flop is in your favor and your opponents are liable to fold, you are in a good place to take down a pot with this effective bluff.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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