Continuation bets in tournament poker are valuable, but they
are only going to make a truly significant difference once play
begins getting shorter stacked. There are few similarities in
the inherent functions and benefits of c-bets when you compare
their application in tournament vs. cash game play. With all of
that said, however, they are still a skill that you’ll need to
learn how to use. And beyond this, even when the return is going
to be relatively small, there’s a return nonetheless.
Continuation bets are just another element of tournament
play, even if they aren’t going to always make the biggest
difference in the world.
The first thing that needs to be understood about
continuation bets is that they are used only when a player
hasn’t improved their hand (or otherwise would prefer to take
down the pot right away). Technically you can make a
continuation bet with a made hand as well, but they aren’t
usually referenced in this context. For the sake of this
specific article, assume that a c-bet means a bet that is
looking to take down a pot and not get a call. There are a
number of different things that we are going to analyze in this
article, with the focus being on when to c-bet and how to c-bet.
From the outset, continuation betting is a simplistic skill, but
it’s definitely much deeper than this. Continuation bets are
the type of thing that can seem so harmless yet are perfectly
capable of sucking you into a big loss.
When to Continuation Bet
The first thing that needs to be in place for a continuation
bet post-flop is a raise pre-flop. This could mean that you
opened the action with a raise or re-raised another player’s
open. Once you have taken this approach as the aggressor, you
now have the upper hand in that you can use this prior
aggressive play to get away with moves post-flop. If players
have seen you raise and re-raise, they are going to reasonably
expect that you have an above average hand. Regardless of the
flop, they are going to generally feel like they are beat and
will be careful with you in the hand. This type of information
will allow you to better control the action.
Since you have assumed the role of an aggressive player
pre-flop, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be taking
advantage of its benefits post-flop. A continuation bet should
be the next assumed step when you make an open raise. If you are
going to raise pre-flop only to shut down on flops where you
miss, you might as well not even raise pre-flop at all. You are
going to be sacrificing so much easy money just because you are
essentially playing with scared money.
With all of this said about how you should almost always be
c-betting when you raise pre-flop, there’s a notable exception
to this rule. The assumed c-bet is going to take place when you
are playing out of position and act first. If you are in position,
however, checking back on the flop could easily make much more
sense. If a player was thinking at all, they would check any
flop where they made a hand because they know that you are prone
to betting. Knowing this, you should be apprehensive of anyone
who calls a raise pre-flop and then checks the flop. There’s
certainly a good chance that they would fold to your
continuation bet anyway, but you need to measure the risk and
A check back controls the size of the pot and keeps you
at the helm. A bet will cost you money when called and cost you
a card when raised. A check will give you another card and a
chance to catch up. Plus, if you manage to get a fold after
betting in position, it usually means you were ahead the whole
time. Betting in this spot should be reserved for the times
where you think you are both behind and are likely to get a
fold. If both of these circumstances aren’t in play, c-betting
isn’t necessarily going to be the best move. Remember, position
How to Continuation Bet
How to continuation bet is what players struggle with the
most. Even if they know they are in a spot where a c-bet makes
sense, they might not know how much to bet. Without proper bet
sizing you are going to either force too few folds or cost
yourself too much money when you are called. Your continuation
bets are going to end up being called a fair amount of the time,
so you need to be cutting your losses wherever possible.
Continuation bets should be sized in a way that’s
intimidating to the other player, but cost effective for you. If
you raised to 200 pre-flop and got one call, betting 150 or 200
on the flop wouldn’t make sense. Betting 500 would be overkill,
but 300 would work just fine. At this number, you are betting a
reasonable size of the pot which would indicate that you are
strong, but you aren’t wasting chips those times where you are
Sometimes you’ll be able to spot players who give up at the
sight of any bet. Needless to say, these are the most ideal
targets of continuation bets. These players will regularly look
at the flop, see that they missed, and then muck regardless of
how much you bet. You could fire 100 chips into that same 400
chip pot referenced above and reasonably expect to fold. The
reason that these players are so easy to beat is because their
call will also be indicative of a time to shut down. The way you
should look at beating these players is that even a small bet
will work, so anything above and beyond this is a total waste no
matter how you look at it.
In the end you are going to have the bulk of players who
require you to make decent sized bets to get them off their hand
and the minority who folds to everything. Cater your strategy to
work against a player’s particular continuation betting defense
and you’ll be in great shape.
Unique Tournament Dynamics
Because pots tend to be much smaller in the earlier stages of
tournaments, you are going to receive the most benefit from
c-bets later on in an event. Pots aren’t going to be truly
worth fighting too hard for until the blinds start to really
climb. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be aiming to win
every pot that you reasonably can, but that you should not put
such a heavy emphasis on what are largely irrelevant pots.
When play is winding down, a c-bet could easily allow you to
increase your stack by a good percentage. Because of this, you
should be reducing your exposure to risk. When the blinds are
high, people tend to shove or fold. Use this to your advantage
by placing much smaller continuation bets than you would
otherwise. If you aren’t going to get a fold with a (relatively)
small bet, you probably weren’t going to with a big one either.
Be aggressive but always remain careful and time your bets as
well as possible.
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