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Back To Basics: Continuation Betting

by Greg Raymer |  Published: Oct 20, 2021

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Greg Raymer Please let me encourage you to reach out to me with article ideas and questions for future columns. You can tweet to me at @FossilMan, or send me a message at info@fossilmanpoker.com.

Continuation betting (or c-betting) refers to betting on one street after having been the last aggressor on the previous street. Most of the time, c-betting refers to betting on the flop after having been the last person to raise preflop. For this article, I will focus on the latter.

Whether you get one caller, two, or many, it can be hard to know when you should or should not c-bet on the flop. As I discuss in more detail in chapter 17 of my book, FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, this is a complicated issue. However, here is a simple method you can use as your basic strategy for this situation.

I have divided c-betting into three scenarios: when you get one caller, when you get three or more callers, or when you get exactly two callers.

If I have a single opponent, I ALWAYS c-bet. Whether the flop hit me or not, whether the flop looks like it would be favorable to me (the raiser) or my opponent (the caller), and no matter what the stack sizes, I always c-bet into one opponent. There are exceptions, but we don’t have time for that in a short article like this one. The same is true for the other scenarios below. But for now, let’s go with that hard rule.

Against three or more opponents, I NEVER c-bet. And if you are playing against somebody else who is a competent player, you should expect them to do the same. While some players will c-bet 100% of the time, against any number of opponents, a good player knows that against three or more callers there is just too great a chance that at least one of them hit the flop.

This means that you really don’t want to bet unless you have also hit the flop, and hit it well enough that it is correct to bet. So, when I say I never c-bet against three or more opponents, I don’t mean to say I never bet. I just consider it a value bet, not a c-bet.

Just as you don’t expect another competent player to automatically c-bet when against three or more opponents, you won’t either. Essentially, with this many callers, I am almost as likely to bet if I am one of the callers, or if I am the preflop raiser. The fact that I was the preflop raiser only slightly increases the chances I will bet.

The trickiest situation is when you get exactly two callers. It is fairly close to 50:50 whether or not one of them hit the flop. Thus, when you missed the flop, you hate to check, because about half of the time they will both have missed as well, and a c-bet might have won you the pot. But if you c-bet every time, you will be betting into the superior hand too often.

We also want to balance our action here, and not go with one absolute (always c-betting) or the other (never c-betting). You could try to randomize your actions, but humans are very bad at this, and you will probably fall into a pattern. Instead, we’re going to use the flop to randomize the decision for us, in a sense.

Imagine you are watching a game from the rail, somebody raises preflop, gets two callers, and the dealer puts out a flop. When you see that flop, you probably think the flop is either good for the raiser, or good for the callers. For example, almost any flop with an ace in it probably looks better for the raiser, rather than the callers. Contrarily, a flop of all middle cards, like 7-8-9, looks more likely to be beneficial to the callers.

My guideline is to c-bet EVERY time the flop looks good for the raiser, and to NEVER c-bet when the flop looks good for the callers.

It is important to note that I am not talking about whether the flop actually hit my hand. If I raised with 5-5, and the flop is 9-5-4, I’m going to check. This flop is all middle cards, and it looks more likely to have helped my opponents (the callers) than to have helped me, even though it is actually one of the best flops I could hope for.

Similarly, I’m going to bet the flop of A-J‑9 with my pocket fives, even though this is a horrible flop for my hand. The A-J‑9 flop looks, to my opponents, like one that has often hit me. Therefore, they are unlikely to continue unless this flop connects well with their hand.

And even if they hit this flop, unless they have an ace or better, there is still some chance they will fold. For example, if you called a preflop raise holding 9Spade Suit 8Spade Suit, would you want to call a c-bet on the A-J-9 flop?

Essentially, we are going to divide all flops into these two categories. The flops that look better for the raising hand, and the flops that look better for the two calling hands. You want to almost always c-bet the former, and almost always check the latter. And remember, do NOT take into account whether you actually like the flop, given your current hand. That is not relevant to this specific strategy.

I hope this simplified c-betting strategy helps your game. Once you have it mastered, then start looking into the more complex deviation strategies that will take your game even higher!

Have fun, and play smart! ♠

Greg Raymer is the 2004 World Series of Poker main event champion, winner of numerous major titles, and has more than $7 million in earnings. He recently authored FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. He is sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake, and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg please tweet @FossilMan or visit his website.