Explanation of Continuation Bet
The player taking the last aggressive action is often referred to as the PFR (preflop raiser) or PFA (preflop aggressor). Regardless of position, if the PFR continues his aggression with a bet on the flop, this is referred to as a “continuation bet” or “c-bet” for short. Note that if his opponent leads a certain flop while out-of-position (known as a “donk bet”), then it is impossible for the PFR to fire a continuation bet.
If the PFR maintains his aggression after c-betting the flop by also firing the turn, this is referred to as a “turn continuation bet”. If he also fires the river, this is referred to as a “river continuation bet”. Note that if the PFR’s opponent raises on any street, then c-betting the next street becomes impossible for the PFR.
The term continuation bet is also used in a broader sense to describe any scenario where a player continues his aggression after being the last aggressor on the previous street. For example, if we check/raise the flop as the preflop cold-caller, we might refer to a followup bet on the turn as a continuation bet, despite the fact that we were not the PFR.
The term delayed c-bet is used to describe a bet made by the PFR on the turn after electing not to c-bet the flop. For example, we open-raise preflop from the BTN and get called by the BB. The flop goes check/check and we fire the turn after our opponent checks to us again. I.e. we don’t c-bet immediately on the flop but instead delay our c-betting action until the turn.
Example of Continuation Bet used in a sentence -> (Hold’em) We 3bet preflop then fired a continuation bet on the flop.
How to Use Continuation Bet as Part of Your Poker Strategy
In all variants of poker the decision regarding whether to fire a continuation bet on any given street is somewhat nuanced. As an example, let’s consider some of the criteria for deciding whether to fire a continuation bet on the flop in No Limit Hold’em.
1. Strength of Holding – It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that we are more likely to c-bet strong hands on average and less likely to c-bet weak hands.
2. Vulnerability of Holding – Made hands which are highly susceptible to being outdrawn can be referred to as vulnerable. Vulnerable holdings should typically be prioritized into the c-betting range even if they are on the weaker side.
Non-vulnerable holdings can often be checked since they are not concerned about giving villain a free card. Of course, we want to weigh up this principle alongside the hand’s overall strength. In many cases, very strong hands should be c-bet on the flop even if they are unlikely to be outdrawn.
We can take away from this that some weaker holdings might be prioritized into the betting range because they are vulnerable while some slightly stronger holdings might be played as checks because they are non-vulnerable.
3. Backdoor Potential – Air hands (and draws) which have the ability to make a strong 5-card holding by the river should frequently be used as c-bets. Air hands which don’t improve well should often be played as checks along with a selection of weaker draws. In advanced theory books this concept is typically referred to as “retention of equity” where hands with good equity-retention (improvement potential) are prioritized into the betting range.
4. IP/OOP – IP (in position) continuation bets are inherently more profitable than OOP (out-of-position) continuation bets, simply because position confers such a huge advantage in the vast majority of poker formats. An IP player can often get away with c-betting very aggressively, while an OOP player needs to leave some relatively strong hands in reserve to help him defend his checking range.
5. Villain’s Tendencies – Much of the above information can be discarded when we have a specific read on our opponent. Ideally we’d know if he was folding too much or too little when facing a continuation bet. For example, imagine an opponent who folds 70% of the time vs continuation bets on the flop. We would definitely fire a continuation bet with all of our garbage hands as an exploit, despite the fact that we normally check such holdings as part of our default strategy.
6. Stack Depth – Correct c-betting strategy is closely related to the size of the effective stacks. Shallow stacks require us to take an equity-driven approach (where the best c-betting hands are those with the highest equity). Deeper stacks warrant a potential-driven approach (where the best c-betting hands are those with the best equity-retention). Deeper stacks also allow us to bluff more aggressively, since our opponent has to be concerned regarding the possibility of us making very large bets on the later streets (including overbets). This is a concept referred to as leverage.