Get the most from a continuation bet in poker

Sep 29, 2009 5:09 PM
by George “The Engineer” Epstein |

You’re in a lively low-limit hold’em game. After about an hour of play, you are a little ahead when you look down at K-Q off-suit from a middle position.

The under-the-gun (UTG) player, two seats before you, has limped in and called the big blind bet. You decide to raise to try to force out any players behind you holding A-rag.

Then, if an ace and a match to one of your hole cards were to fall on the flop, you would be more likely to be in the lead.

You know that low-limit players are wont to stay in with any ace; if an opponent has the honored ace in the hole, it’s about 50/50 that he has a rag with it. Raising pre-flop is the only weapon you have to remove them from the playing field.

As a result of your raise, staying to see the flop are just you, the original bettor in early position, and the big blind. The raise also had the benefit of earning last betting position for you – a definite advantage over your remaining two opponents.

The dealer lays down the flop – three cards that don’t help you at all, and may not have helped your opponents as well.

Respecting, or perhaps even fearing you for your pre-flop raise, both opponents check to you. Sure, you could also check and see the turn card for free; but a wiser decision would be to make the bet at this point.

That’s what is often called a "continuation bet." Having raised pre-flop, now you bet on the flop, continuing to display strength and confidence in your hand. There are several possible benefits to be gained from this strategy:

• The flop didn’t help your hand; but, with only one or two opponents staying to see the flop, it is quite likely that the flop did not help anyone. In this case, both opponents may fold, leaving the pot to you. After all, they have no idea what you were raising with, but assume it was a strong hand. This is especially important if you have created an image of being a tight player. When they fold to your continuation bet on the flop, that’s a great way to steal the pot on the flop. It’s not a huge pot but it will pay for several blind bets.

• Even if an opponent calls your continuation bet, you have gained valuable information; i.e., he has a strong hand and may actually have you beaten at this point.

• If one or more opponents call you, it is likely to earn you a free bet on the turn when the bets are double – allowing you to see the river for free if you want. (An opponent will bet into you or check-raise only if he has a very strong hand – or is very deceptive.)

• Your continuation bet also serves to protect your hand; you avoid the possibility of having to call a larger bet on the turn.

Yes, a continuation bet can be a powerful ally.

If you have a question that you would like answered, please write to me care of this paper, or contact me at [email protected].

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.