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Continuation-Betting — Part I

by Michael Piper |  Published: Mar 01, 2011


As we all know, you should raise more hands in pot-limit Omaha before the flop than you call, most of them in position. Consequently, your most common situation is seeing the flop as the preflop raiser in a heads-up or three-way pot, in position. When checked to, do you automatically continuation-bet (c-bet), for the full pot, or only when you hit? Few people utilise a balanced c-betting strategy — take into account your opponents’ tendencies, remaining stack sizes, previous history, and possible board run-outs, and your c-bets will show a much higher success rate.
Against weak opposition, you can reasonably elect to c-bet every flop blind, expecting to win often enough to show healthy profits. Sometimes they call, you hit an unlikely backdoor draw and get paid off; alternatively, the turn is an overcard, you bet again, and he folds. In pot-limit Omaha, you hit roughly one-third of flops well enough to continue, so weak, straightforward players fold about two-thirds of the time.
Unfortunately, few people play that weakly, so you need to refine your strategy for most opponents. Lots of pot-limit Omaha players are call-stations, and against these guys, c-betting at a high frequency is burning money. They rarely fold draws or pairs, so you should only bet hands that have equity when called, unless it’s difficult for them to have something.
Tough opponents don’t need a hand to make a play, and disguise the strength (or weakness) of their hand. Think carefully before deciding to bet — how often does he raise you, and on what types of boards? If he calls, does he usually fold to a turn bet? Is your hand strong enough to fire multiple barrels?
Against these guys, you might c-bet relentlessly, with the plan of calling down or raising, or very rarely, to avoid facing tough decisions later in the hand and minimise your potential losses. A single c-bet doesn’t work often enough, and he might not let you see the turn or river, so plan ahead.
Against solid opponents, if you c-bet too often, they will start playing back at you, preventing you from being able to hit your back-door draws. Sometimes you might decide a c-bet is profitable, but to prevent your opponents becoming too aggressive, you check.
For the sake of being difficult to read, some people only ever bet full pot, but this is fairly unsophisticated. Against unobservant opponents, you can correlate your bet size with the strength of your hand — full pot with the nuts or big draws, and around half-pot when you miss. Good players will pick up on this fairly quickly, though. The answer is to vary your c-bet sizing according to the texture of the board and remaining stack sizes.
On dry boards, make your sizing smaller, around half pot — with few draws available, you don’t need to charge your opponent that much to draw out on you. On draw-heavy boards, however, there are a large range of hands that can catch up, so bet much bigger. Lockdown boards are good to c-bet smaller as well — if you had an ace, betting large on an A-A-A board would seem silly. Conversely, you would bet bigger with A-K-Q-J on an A-A-2 rainbow board — get as much money into the pot when your opponent is unlikely to have you beat, but can have lots of worse aces to pay you off with.
Remember to correlate frequency with sizing. With complete air, a full-pot c-bet needs to work at least half the time to show a profit, so you should bet less often, giving your bets more power. If choosing between checking and betting half pot, it only needs to work a third of the time, so you can afford to bet more often. In part two, I’ll examine other reasons to decide between checking and betting, as well as a useful strategy for how to play as the preflop raiser out of position. ♠

Michael Piper has been playing pot-limit omaha online for a living for more than five years. He posts online under the screenname wazz.