We will now move from pre-flop to post-flop , to enter the world of the increasingly common continuation bets. In the past, a continuation bet (C-bet) could be defined something like this:
a continued show of strength by a player who raised pre-flop, a sign that the flop has proved beneficial to that same player.
Nowadays, such a definition proves to be a bit primitive, and above all too obvious as regards the motivations of those who make a C-bet. We know that players actually C-bet on the flop on a number of occasions, even when their hand hasn’t improved on the flop, and their opponents are aware of this. Therefore, since our enemy generally knows that we don’t necessarily have to have a strong hand to C-bet in most situations, this picture (for which we are telling who knows what story of strength our opponent will be pushed to). believe) no longer holds. Let’s define a C-bet in a more modern and precise way:
a bet placed on the flop by the attacker pre-flop.
Having established this, when does it make sense to make a C-bet?
To master such a common situation, we don’t have to ask ourselves whether to C-bet with a certain hand in a certain situation, but rather ask ourselves which hands to C-bet with in that same situation. In other words, planning how to play our range on the flop strategically prepares us for any C-bet opportunity and not just the one that emerged today due to our specific hole cards.
The simplest and often most effective strategy on the flop after a pre-flop raise is to C-bet regardless of the strength of our hand and effectively bet with any hand within our pre-flop opening range. This mode is known as non-selective C-bet or, using a more popular expression, range-bet. But before proceeding and betting indiscriminately, there is a set of very strict guidelines that explain when such a casual C-betting strategy is acceptable. If these guidelines are not adhered to, the approach will result in many bets with an expected value far less than what would be checked. We can make non-selective C-bets (bet with any hand we have) when the following conditions apply.
If we intend to play with medium pairs, low pairs, useless cards and everything in between, it is prudent to use bets that do not cost us too much the times we come across a better hand. When we make a non-selective C-bet, very often we bet for low value hands or maybe it’s just to prevent the opponent from seeing free cards. Either way, much of our range will lose expected value by placing large bets and non-selective strategy will soon become a bad idea.
When we place non-selective bets, we consider 33-40% of the pot.
From the above, it follows that when the conditions for non-selective C-bets are not met, we should have a selective C-bet strategy in which only certain parts of our range will be eligible. We could also refer to an even more selective strategy, such as a polarized strategy, where the hands we usually bet with are strong or semi-bluff hands. In the presence of risky tables, multi-player pots or when we are not in position, we will have to divide our range into four groups. As we will see now, two of these groups will lead to a bet and the other two to check. Let’s find out together.
Let’s consider the button versus big blind situation we encountered earlier, but this time we’re making the flop a lot more risky and less favorable to the button range. We will be dealing with a disturbing J97 of two suits; consequently a flush draw is possible on the flop. This flop allows the big blind to recover significantly because the strong hands of our pre-flop raise like [QQ + AK] are no longer invincible; the nut hands for this composition, such as [108 of the same suit, 99, 77, J9, J7, 97], are instead shared by both players. This is what we mean when we say that the pre-flop caller range has recovered. It’s time to split our range into a more cautious and selective strategy than the range-bet we used earlier.
Betting group 1 – Strong hands
With hands clearly advantaged when they are seen, it is usually worth betting. In this case we speak of “value-bet” and raising the pot with hands like this is the normal practice of any winning game. On the two-suited J97 flop, we will bet most of the time, barring some weird and fantastic interpretations, with hands like: [108, JJ, 99, 77, J9, J7, 97, QQ-AA, QJ-AJ]. These hands increase their expected value by putting more money in the pot and it is almost never reasonable to slowplay when in position.
Check Group 1 – Mediocre Hands
The next group of hands in the selective approach is our medium strength made hands. These hands are strong enough to win at showdown a good number of times without having to improve, but if we start to inflate the pot and consequently narrow the range of the enemy, we will find that they are no longer particularly good. We are left with the choice between winning a small pot quite often and losing a big one very often. I would have no doubts what to do. Checking with these hands serves to keep the size of the pot in check, even giving the opponent the chance to bluff for a few chips on the turn or river. After all, with a two-suited J97 flop, a mixed-suited hand like Q9 is great for catching a bluff.
Betting group 2 – Bluff
In a sensible selective C-bet strategy, and as long as our opponent isn’t used to calling often, the following holds in poker theory:
when there is a value-bet, there must be a bluff.
Since we are increasing the pot with all the nut hands in betting group 1, we also want to put pressure on some hands that are too weak to check with the idea of clashing at showdown (check group 1). However, we don’t want these bluffs to be just any junk. Since we cannot profitably bet with any two cards given the composition of the flop, we will choose our bluffs so that we can improve them. We would love to have the chance to get bailed out of the deck those times our opponent isn’t kind enough to fold our C-bet on the flop. With J97 of two suits on the board, we’ll be bluffing by pretending to have flush draws, one-sided straights and overcards with backdoor flush draws. Note that stake groups 1 and 2 are balanced. Sometimes we will value-bet and sometimes bluff. Our opponent does not know when we adopt one or the other strategy and this is what makes it impossible to use our approach to harm us.
Check Group 2 – Garbage
As we have noted, it is not permissible to bluff with every hand in our range. Doing so would mean acting insane and offering the opponent a long-term adjustment of the very high expected value in case he decides to come and see us more lightly. As a result, hopeless hands, which have very little chance of improving, do not gain expected value by bluffing unless it is evident that the enemy is playing too tight. With J97 of two suits on the table, we should give up altogether with hands like 44, A3 of different suit and 45 of the same suit. Note that the times we check with these horrible hands are balanced out by the times we are in check group 1. Our medium strength hands will lead to a bet on the turn by our enemy after the flop check; in these cases we will pass our junk cards smoothly. Check groups 1 and 2 balance each other like our betting ranges.
When we make a selective C-bet, our purpose is clear. Either we are trying to increase the pot value or we are trying to put pressure on a hand that could improve. In both cases, we do not place bets with fragile hands of medium strength and therefore a large bet will maximize the expected value.
With a selective C-bet strategy, we will use bets between 66% and 100% of the pot.
In this article we do nothing but recommend an approach to the C-bet topic that makes sense from a theoretical point of view. However, we should always feel free to deviate from such an approach whenever the enemy shows weaknesses that can be exploited. If the opponent calls too many C-bets, no range-bets should be made even in the presence of totally harmless flops. If the enemy folds very tightly, then it makes sense to bluff more hands with a selective approach and elevate some trash to bluff. Theory is a great ally, but the ability to leave it behind when the situation demands it is perhaps even more valuable.