A poker continuation bet is basically what it sounds like, a subsequent bet made by a player who bet or raised in the previous round of betting.  Continuation betting, or c-bet as it is also known, is used to represent and reinforce a strong pre-flop hand.  There is some argument that continuation betting has seen its hey-day.  Gone are the times when following up a pre-flop bet with a second barrell were enough to convince our opponents that our hole cards were actually worth something.  But can continuation betting still form an integral part of a poker players betting strategy?

The reality is that continuation betting is now so common in NLHE (particularly in tournaments) that it simply no longer garners the respect of players as a stand alone strategy.  Frequently we will have our continuation bet called, even by players who have air, simply so they can see whether we have the hand (or balls) to follow up with a third bet on the turn.  When applied at inopportune times, continuation betting can quickly turn us from the hunter into the hunted.  In todays more aggressive poker industry, we can expect to be played back at at the first sign of weakness, and find ourselves making tough decisions far too often.

So when and how can we use a poker continuation bet to get results? 

We should always consider a number of factors before following up a pre-flop raise with a c-bet.  For example, always consider the texture of the flop (are there draws), the number of players in the pot, the playing styles of those opponents and whether a continuation bet is going to have the desired outcome (either to juice the pot, or take it down). 

As with any good poker strategy, mixing up our game can enable us to use the continuation bet to almost have the reverse effect of what it is intended.  It pays to employ continuation bets not only when our good starting hand misses the board to get others to fold, but also when we do in fact have good holdings and are looking to juice the pot.  Frequently the villain will call our continuation bet on the flop just to see if we’re serious.  To add another dimension to our play, consider the occasional check behind (for example, if we hit top pair) after the flop.  This not only helps to confuse our opposition, it can assist us in controlling the pot size if we have average holdings (say top pair weak kicker, or middle pair)…but be wary of a draw heavy board.

There’s another reason to occasionally check behind even with a decent hand, in that it disguises our hand whilst allowing us to play small-ball poker.  Let’s say we hold KJ on a K 10 5 rainbow board.  Checking behind makes it far more likely our opponent will call our bet on the turn, and if a scare card such as the ace drops on the turn or river, we can simply check again. 

Showing our opponents we are capable of continuation betting or checking behind with both good and bad hands also means we can take either action without showing that we are weak.  This more comprehensive approach allows us to still take full advantage of the poker continuation bet even though it has arguably lost it’s power as a stand alone play.

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