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Continuation Bet

Should you always continuation bet in no-limit hold’em?

The continuation bet has become common poker terminology of late and it is always assumed that if you raise pre-flop then you should always c-bet the flop and especially in heads up situations. However many Texas Holdem poker players take this game strategy in poker or another concept to an extreme and there are many factors behind why you should make a c-bet or not. The first one is your opponent’s level of sophistication. If you raise pre-flop and you always make a continuation bet then your more astute opponents are going to catch on to this. You would in effect be c-betting with 100% of your range which is very exploitable against good players.

So by not always c-betting then you create the illusion that you are only betting with good hands for value. Another factor which complicates matters is the board texture. Let us say that you raised from the button and the big blind called you. While the big blind is expecting you not to have a powerhouse they are also half expecting you to have decent cards as well. So when the flop comes 7c-6c-5s and they check and you have a hand like A-2 then you may not want to automatically c-bet here.

That flop hits callers rather than pre-flop raisers. If both blinds called then I think we have a clear check here if both players checked this flop. However let us look at another example and you raise from the cut-off with the 10c-8c and the big blind calls you. The flop comes A-K-5 rainbow and the big blind checks. Your hand has very little equity going to showdown but no-limit hands often do not reach the showdown. The ace and the king has hit the perceived range of a pre-flop raiser and so a bet would often take this pot down.

The texture of the flop tells a consistent story along with your c-bet and any hand like J-10 or 6-6 is going to find it very difficult to continue despite often being the best hand. However the dynamic alters considerably when your opponent expects you to c-bet and starts playing back at you. If you believe this to be the case then you need to take your play to the next level. Poker is all about strategy and counter strategy and then even taking it to the next level and countering your opponents counter strategy. In this aspect it is not too far removed from the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

This is why in higher stakes games, players do not always blindly c-bet the flop and psychological games ensue. If you raise pre-flop and your opponent is planning to check-raise the flop of A-K-4 with their gutshot draw of J-10s and you check it back then they may start to see that check as strange. If you have a hand like 5-4s that couldn’t continue against a check-raise then you may find that you take this pot down on the turn.

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