AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 31.05.2021 · last updated 31.05.2021

Continuation betting – following up a pre-flop raise by being the first to bet the Flop – is great in theory but by no means easy to execute successfully in practice. In an ideal world we would be the aggressor pre-flop (not necessarily with a good starting hand) and whoever calls would then obligingly fold to our C-Bet, believing we’re too strong for them. In the real world, however, not only can we meet with resistance and find ourselves in awkward – and untenable – situations, but it can be tricky to cut a path through the proverbial jungle even when the tactic does have good chances of success. A key consideration is, not surprisingly, our position in relation to the opposition.

When we miss the Flop

As much as C-Betting is aimed at throwing in that second bet on the Flop, doing so is much easier when we actually have a hand. We’re only human, and committing more chips having missed the Flop is naturally going to require considerably more resolve for the vast majority of players. However, with a hand like AJ, for example, we’re not going to connect with the Flop a good two thirds of the time, so we need to have an idea how we can continue.

A key factor is (relative) position. We also need to tie this in with the number of players who came with us to the Flop. Generally, it follows that when we have the advantage of position our C-Bet will prompt more folds among whoever remains in the pot than when we’re out of position. Players will simply be much less inclined to continue with anything but strong hands when they’re out of position in this scenario, given that we have already assumed the initiative pre-flop and then announced that we’re confident enough to continue the aggression. On the other hand, when the positional situation is reversed, and our opponents are in position, we can expect some kind of resistance. For example, they have the option to adopt a more potentially successful floating strategy. They’re also in the driving seat in terms of pot control; they can throw a spanner in the works with a sizeable raise, which would put us in a very difficult position when the Flop missed us completely and the Turn and River offer little or no help of our hand improving.

Our cards DO matter

It stands to reason that being on some kind of C-Betting autopilot is not the right way to go about things. It’s not enough to just be aware of the concept, raise pre-flop regardless and then bet again on the Flop. We’re often told by experts that we shouldn’t get too bogged down with our actual hand, and while that’s good advice in that it can mean we fail to properly consider key factors, our cards are, of course, very often going to be crucial in determining how we play. As well as positional considerations, our opponents’ range and to what extent the Flop impacts on it, stack sizes and so on, it’s often necessary to go back to basics and place serious emphasis on our hand.

Given the frequency with which the flop won’t connect, this can happen in numerous ways. For instance, if we have AK and the Flop comes Q82 our overcards afford us considerably more equity than would have been the case had we tried to turn on the aggression pre-flop with 54. Similarly, any kind of draw gives us more to go with than nothing at all. The more equity we have, the more often we can execute a successful C-Bet because the prospects of improving on future streets bring with them even better equity. Conversely, the weaker our hand, the less incentive we have because, should the opposition call our C-Bet, even if we improve on future streets our hand is unlikely to help us get over the line in front.

Good luck at the tables!

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