26 Mar, 2011
How many times have you raised with
KK pre-flop, got a caller, seen the flop come something like
238, made a decent sized value bet, and your opponent folds?
This may not happen often in live games. But when playing online you will see this type of thing happen a lot. People will call your raise with a wide range of hands hoping to hit the flop, but then give up on the pot pretty easily when they miss.
In NL Hold'em, two unpaired hole cards only flop a pair or better roughly 33% of the time. Therefore, the vast majority of the time your opponent will miss the flop and likely fold if you make a bet.
Additionally, when you raise pre-flop, the hands that your opponents usually put you on are pretty strong. All the big pairs (
JJ+), and a lot of the big broadway cards (
KQ). Therefore, they will usually wait to see whether you make a bet on the flop to try and narrow your range down further – often times putting you on the big pair when you raise pre-flop and bet the flop, since obviously that is exactly how you would play those hands.
What this means is that almost always after raising pre-flop and getting a caller, it is correct to the bet the flop, both when you hit and when you miss.
This action is called a "continuation bet", because you are continuing your aggressive action from the previous street.
When should you make a continuation bet?
The reasons why you want to make a continuation bet when you miss are:
- You raised pre-flop and therefore represent a strong hand. The flop comes and you keep betting, indicating that you like your hand and you are not scared by the board. This action in itself looks very strong as it is exactly how you would want to play your big hands. Therefore, you are likely to get respect from most opponents for having a strong hand even though you don't.
- You raised pre-flop and your opponent just called. This most likely indicates that they do not have a huge hand themselves, as they will usually re-raise with their huge hands to get more money into the pot and prevent other players from getting pot odds to call (and outdraw them). Two unpaired hole cards miss the flop 66% of the time, so your opponent will frequently not have any type of hand on the flop (and what they do have will not be great because they only called), so they will therefore have to fold to your bet.
- If you are playing the types of strategy I suggest in my videos, if you raise pre-flop it will usually be with high or middling-high cards. Therefore, when you don't flop a pair you will likely still have two overcards to the board. If your flop bet gets called, you will usually have 6 outs to improve to an overpair on the turn or river. This typically gives you between
20-25%equity in the hand and can be considered a semi-bluff, whereby you are bluffing on the flop but can still improve on the turn if called.
How much should you continuation bet?
When bluffing, you want to bet enough that your bluff stands a good chance of working, but no more.
For example, betting the minimum amount on the flop will give your opponent really good odds to call with almost anything, and may also encourage them to raise as a bluff (they will be wondering why you would bet so small if you had a real hand).
By contrast, betting full pot will discourage them from bluff-raising, but if they did flop a piece of the board, they are unlikely to fold to one bet even if it is full pot. Therefore you don't need to bet full pot on the flop because they will fold all hands which have missed to any reasonably sized bet, but they won't fold a pair to one bet on the flop.
From experience, the size you want to try and bet is typically around 1/2 to 3/4 of the pot.
When you bet this size you need them to fold between 33-45% of the time, depending on your exact sizing. As I mentioned earlier, two unpaired hole cards miss 66% of the time, so you can clearly see that you should be getting them to fold often enough to show a profit on your bluff when you bet this size, and this is especially true if you have outs to improve on the turn.
When should you not continuation bet?
When you get multiple callers pre-flop, there is more chance that someone will hit the flop purely because there are more people seeing it. What this means is if you get 2 or 3 callers you frequently don't want to continuation bet when you miss — you should only bet in this situation when you hit the board or have a good draw.
In heads-up pots it may not be correct to continuation bet 100% if your opponent is tight, and therefore is only calling pre-flop with reasonable hands. In micro-stakes you will typically see people call pre-flop with all kinds of junk (which obviously means they miss more often), however there will be some tight players who only play good hands (like you do). When you are playing these players, certain boards hit their ranges really hard...
For example, very connected boards such as
JT8 with a flush draw hits a tight player's calling range hard, because they will have lots of hands like
78s etc — hands which were too good to fold pre-flop, but not good enough to re-raise.
Therefore, if I had a hand which missed this board, against a tight player I would frequently check and fold to a bet. Although against a loose player I would still continuation bet, as they will have lots of hands like
A4 or random junk which has missed.
When my continuation bet is called, I am always shutting down on the turn unless I hit an overpair or my draw.