Continuation Bet in Poker

A continuation bet is a bet after the flop made by the same player who had the last aggressive action pre-flop.

C-betting is a phrase you've probably heard a lot if you've browsed a Texas Holdem forum or played at the casino. So we're going to go into what it means and some general rules you should follow when c-betting.

What Is a Continuation Bet in Poker

A continuation bet is a bet after the flop made by the same player who had the last aggressive action pre-flop, as long as there is no other action before this player makes their bet.

C-Bet Examples

In this example, I've been dealt AK on the button in a $1/$2 cash game. I raise to $6 and the big blind calls. The flop comes out A83, my opponent checks and I bet $4. That $4 bet is a continuation bet as I was the last aggressor preflop. Let's say instead of AK I had QJ and I made that same $4 bet, this is still a continuation bet as it doesn't matter if you're value betting or bluffing. No matter what you have, if you bet after being the last aggressor preflop it's a c-bet!

A great example of not only a flop c-bet but a turn and river c-bet is this hand played between Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey. Tom effectively utilized c-bets on all 3 streets to win a monster pot, though Phil certainly made him sweat!

Famous c-bet between Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey

When To C-Bet

Now we know what it is, when should we be c-betting? Generally the best spots to c-bet are:

Heads up pots

When we are facing just one opponent there's only one range of hands we need to worry about and our c-bet is likely to work more often; c-bet frequency tends to decrease the more players are in a hand.

When we have a lot of equity

Simply put, if we have a strong hand we should often be betting it! Some players make the mistake of checking a lot of their strong hands but by c-betting we allow ourselves to build the pot when we have way the best of it and can end up winning a big pot by the river.

Similarly, if we have a hand that has a lot of equity but not much showdown value like a strong flush draw or a straight draw we should often be betting those too. Not only does it give us two ways to win the pot (our opponent folds or we make our hand) but it builds a bigger pot in the event that we do make our hand by the river.

With a range advantage

When a flop is particularly good for our range or particularly bad for our opponent it's a good spot to throw out a c-bet, almost regardless of what our hand is. An example of this is if we raise the button, the big blind calls and we see a flop of AK2. When we raise preflop we're going to have AA, KK, almost every Ax hand, and the majority of Kx hands.

However, the big blind is going to be 3betting AA, KK, and a lot of their best Ax and Kx hands preflop and is therefore not going to have them in his range when they just call. This means our opponent has fewer hands that connect well with this board and is going to have a hard time defending with enough of his range against a c-bet, allowing us to bet almost any two cards profitably.

When Not To C-Bet

I can tell you're already itching to get out there and start c-betting like a maniac but hold your horses, there are some spots where a c-bet might be a bad idea - or at least shouldn't be used as often.

Against Too Many Callers

It's simple math really - the more players there are in a hand, the more likely your c-bet bluff will be called or your thin value bet will be called by a better hand.

When there are multiple players in a pot post-flop your c-bets should be a lot more equity-driven, meaning betting our strongest made hands and our bluffs with the most outs. This means that when we do get called by 1 or more people on the flop we either have a hand that is likely to win by the river or a hand that has a good chance of catching up. 

Out of Position (OOP)

When it comes to poker, position is power. This is the reason the button opening range is the widest of all preflop ranges, the fact that you're last to act on every postflop street is worth a huge amount of EV because you get to see what everyone else does before you.

Now, this doesn't mean you should never be c-betting OOP, it just means you should give thought to exactly how you want to proceed as suddenly our plan for c-betting in position runs into some problems. If we decide to c-bet all our strong value hands and a mix of some bluffs, it means that when we check/call our range is going to be face-up as a middling to low showdown value hand and a competent player is going to be able to exploit us. This means we want to be check/calling some of our strong hands, lowering the overall amount that we bet - when we do this we need to reduce the number of bluffs we c-bet as otherwise, our range becomes too bluff-heavy.

There are some spots where we hold a massive range advantage - for example we 3bet the small blinds (SB) against a button open and the flop is AK5 - and we can c-bet this with nearly 100% of our range just as we would if we were in position as our range is so well protected by strong hands.

Against Calling Stations

This is usually the first bit of poker advice players get once they have the preflop stuff down and there's a good reason for it - it holds true across all games in all places. If you see someone calling down bets with nothing, just hoping someone is bluffing, why would you oblige them and give away some of your hard earned money?

Against these players, we want to be value betting all of our top pair hands and most of our second pair hands for at least two streets depending on just how station-y our opponent is. We can bet some of our highest equity bluffs against calling stations, banking on the fact that if we make our hand we'll get paid off in a bigger pot however if we end up missing our draw we probably accept the loss and give up the river.

Flop Textures and Cbetting

The texture of a flop is the type of cards that appear on the flop. And flop texture is very important when considering a continuation bet in Texas Holdem Poker.

A/K high boards - e.g. A73

These boards are great for us as the preflop raiser, I would be c-betting these boards very often with most of my range for a small sizing on both rainbow and two-tone boards.

1 big 2 small boards - e.g. J62

Similarly to the A/K high boards I would be c-betting these boards very often, perhaps not as often but still around 75-80% of the time.

2 big 1 small boards - e.g. QT3

These boards tend to see more calls due to the connectedness of the top cards, there are a lot more possibilities for straight draws that will continue so I would only c-bet good made hands and equity driven bluffs.

3 low boards - e.g. 542

My c-bet strategy on these boards depends on the position of the caller. People closing the action in the big blind tend to have more low cards in their range so I would c-bet less against them but people calling from most other positions will have mainly high cards so I would expect a c-bet to get through often on boards like these.

2/3 middle card boards - e.g. 983 / 789

Middling cards interact very well with a lot of preflop calling ranges and make either very strong hands or strong draws when the board has two or three of them. I wouldn't cbet these boards without a strong hand or a strong draw.

3 broadway boards - e.g. AKT

These boards similarly hit a lot of calling ranges but they don't make quite as many very strong hands as they would 3bet hands like AA/KK/AK etc. preflop. I would bet a bit wider on these compared to the last scenario but I wouldn't blast off with low equity hands.

Paired boards - e.g. KK3

The frequency here depends on who has more trips in their range. The higher the card is the better it is for the preflop raiser and I would c-bet very often but if a lower card is paired then the caller can have more trips in their range so I would lower my c-bet frequency.

Monotone boards - e.g. Q86

The preflop caller should theoretically have more suited hands in their range as they're calling a preflop bet and more often their range has a higher percentage of flushes. Therefore I rarely bet on monotone boards but when I do it's with very strong hands or draws for a big sizing.

flop texture when using a continuation bet
Flop texture is crucial when using a continuation bet.

Continuation Bet Strategy

The important aspects of any c-betting strategy.

Continuation Bet Size

There are two things to consider before choosing a sizing for your c-bet - which player has more very strong or 'nut' hands and is the board dynamic or static? If you are the player with the 'nut' advantage then most likely you'll want to choose a bigger sizing for your c-bet. This is because you want to build big pots with those 'nut' hands and potentially stack your opponent. If your opponent has that advantage then we need size down our c-bets as we need to respect the amount of very strong hands our opponent has in their range.

There are some instances where we may have a nut advantage but still choose to use a smaller sizing, this is when we have to look to see if the board is dynamic or static. Static boards are usually A/K high or paired boards where the strong hands like top pair+ or trips are very likely to stay the best hand by the river and big preflop pairs (TT+) won't be a 3 street value hand unless they've made a set. 

Bigger with nut advantage but temper it with static/dynamic boards. It's why we downbet A/K high boards and increase sizings on lower/wet boards.

Continuation Bet Frequency

The frequency we want to bet depends a lot on the board texture and our hand category so let's simplify things. The dryer a board is, the more we're able to c-bet as the preflop aggressor as we tend to hold the range advantage in these scenarios.

The more dynamic a board becomes, the less we want to bet as our opponent is more likely to have caught up. Generally, the more equity a hand has, either as a bluff or a value bet, the more we want to bet as we want to build the pot with our value hands and strong draws. Hands with little to no equity are generally only bet in spots where we have a significant range advantage as we expect to get more folds. 

Delayed C-Bet

A delayed c-bet is where instead of checking the flop like the last aggressor, we check the flop and bet the turn. For example, we raise KT on the button and the big blind calls. The flop is AT6, the big blind checks and we check. The turn is the 2, our opponent checks and we bet. This is a delayed c-bet as we delayed our bet from the flop to the turn.

Delayed c-betting can be useful to get more information from our opponent by seeing what they do on the turn. If they check turn and we have a middling value hand, as in the example above, then we can start betting for value. Sometimes we have a hand we've given up with on the flop and a card comes on the turn that's good for our range and now we can start bluffing, giving us an opportunity to pick up the pot.

Playing Against a C-Bet

The key actions you can take, and when to take them, when facing a continuation bet.

When To Call a Continuation Bet

The hands that we're generally going to want to call against c-bets are hands that have a decent amount of equity, either as showdown value or a draw. These include:

  • Most top pairs
  • Middle pairs
  • Most bottom pairs
  • Most underpairs
  • A high with backdoor straight/flush draw (as long as the board isn't too dynamic - e.g. would rather call A5 on K76 than on T98)
  • Occasionally our strong value hands (2 pair+)

These hands all have a reasonable chance of being the best hand at showdown but most aren't strong enough to start building a massive pot with, so we just call to keep the pot a manageable size and try to get to showdown cheaply. However we don't just want to call hands with showdown value otherwise our range becomes too weak when draws come in, some draws you can include in your calling range are:

  • Open ended straight draws
  • Flush draws
  • Gutshots with over cards (e.g. KQ on T95)
  • Gutshots to the nuts (as long as the bet isn't too big)

Calling these hands sometimes instead of always raising them allows our range to be protected when the draws come in. 

When To Reraise a Continuation Bet

The hands we're generally going to want to raise are going to be our strongest value hands:

  • Our best top pair hands (this is only done when ranges are wider e.g. pots between the button and the blinds).
  • 2 pair
  • A set
  • Straights
  • Flushes etc.

This is because we want to build as big of a pot as possible with these strong hands in order to extract maximum value from our opponent. Some people make the mistake of slow playing too often, losing them money in the long run. Similarly to calling, we can't just raise only our strong value hands or people will know to fold when we show aggression. Some bluffs we can use are:

  • Combo straight and flush draws
  • Bottom/underpairs that have a straight/flush draw
  • Flush draws
  • Straight draws

You can see that we tend to use bluffs that have a high amount of equity, this is so we have a backup way to win the pot if we don't get folds immediately on the flop. It also has the added benefit of building a pot for if we hit our draw, allowing us to win an even bigger pot than if we just called.

When To Fold Against a Continuation Bet

Deciding what hands to fold is usually the easiest decision of the 3, hands that have very little equity and are unlikely to improve are hands we should be folding.

For example, if we call J7 in the big blind against a button raise and the flop comes A54 - our hand has no showdown value, no draw, and any pair we make wouldn't be top pair and can face tricky decisions on turns. If my opponent c-bet in this spot I would fold instantly.

These aren't hard and fast rules. In order to remain balanced sometimes you need to raise hands, you would usually call and call hands you would usually raise.

Top 6 Continuation Bet Tips

Try to apply the below tips when you are thinking of using a c-bet strategy.

C-Bet More On Dry Flops 

Boards that have fewer available draws are going to be a lot harder for your opponent to call on - such as AJ6 - and therefore your c-bets will work more often.

Keep The Aggression Up

Being aggressive is a key part of every winning player's strategy. Aggression puts your opponents to tough decisions, causing them to make mistakes against you. Raising preflop and c-betting flops allows you to deny your opponents their equity, something that limping a lot preflop and checking a lot of flops won't do.

Downsize Your C-Bet On Very Dry Flops 

Very dry/static boards are great candidates to bet with a wide range for a small size as your opponent is going to have a hard time defending and your bets will often work, even for a small size. 

C-Bet Consistently To Be Hard To Read 

Being able to c-bet a range of value hands and bluffs for a consistent sizing makes you harder to read as your opponent isn't going to know which times you're bluffing and which times you're value betting. This is why it's important that once you've decided on a bet size for a specific board texture you use it for both bluffs and value bets.

Have Some Equity When C-Bet Bluffing

It's better to have some equity when bluffing as a back up in case you get called, only go for complete air bluffs in spots where you have a dominating range advantage. Having equity also allows us to barrel turns with more confidence as we have 

Identify The Tight-Passive Players

Tight-passive players are likely to overfold the flop to your c-bet, making them prime candidates to fire into. Against these players, you'll face fewer raises meaning you get to realize more of your equity. Even if they do call you'll know that they will have a strong range than most people, allowing you to play turns and rivers cautiously if you were bluffing and very aggressively if you have the nuts.

Continuation Bet Tips
Some Great C-Bet Poker Tips!

C-betting - FAQ

Answers to common questions poker players have about continuation bets.

How often should you C-bet?

A good overall c-bet percentage against a single player should probably be around 60% though if you are playing in games where your opponents are too tight or too loose don't be afraid to c-bet more or less.

Is it safe to continuation bet out of position?

Yes! Just because you're OOP doesn't mean you should never c-bet! However you do need to be aware of the fact that some opponents will call more often as they have position so be vigilant.

How large should a continuation bet be?

A good continuation bet could be between ⅕ and ⅔ the size of the pot depending on ranges and board texture.

Is downsizing continuation bets a good strategy?

It is depending on what the board is, the better and more static a board is for your range the more you are able to downsize your cbet and not lose EV.

What does "fold to cbet" mean in poker?

Folding to a cbet is folding to a bet after your opponent has taken aggressive actions on all previous streets, e.g. they raise preflop, bet the flop and you fold.

What is the optimal cbet percentage?

There is no hard and fast answer to this question unfortunately as it's dependent on the type of players you're playing against. Until you get some reads sticking around the 60% mark overall should be fine.

What is the difference between continuation bets and donk bets?

A donk bet is a bet that is made 'out of flow' i.e. when the player didn't have the last aggressive action preflop. A c-bet can only be made by the player who had the last aggressive action preflop.

Now you should be armed with a solid strategy and ready to c-bet your way to poker profit! You should now also be able to identify and play against a player who uses continuation bets a lot, too Look out for our future articles where we dive deeper into some of the more complex strategies we've mentioned today. Good luck at the tables!