NL Hold’em Basic Strategy – The Continuation Bet
Poker strategy continually evolves and things that used to be considered intermediate or even advanced NL Hold’em strategy concepts are now considered basic things that every player should know. One of these skills is the continuation bet.
Once considered an intermediate move by poker players, the continuation bet has become so commonplace that most are including it as part of basic strategy. Today, we will take a look at the continuation bet and how you will use it in NL Texas Hold’em.
What is the Continuation Bet
A continuation bet is a fairly simple concept. It is simply a continuation of betting by a pre-flop raiser. For example, let’s say that you look down to pocket jacks in middle position raise pre-flop. The flop falls Kd-4c-6s. Players ahead of you decide to check to you.
In the past, some people recommend slowing down as someone with a hand like A-K or K-Q may have hit an overpair. However, know how tough it is to hit a pair in this game, a better play is to try and bet and take down the pot.
This is where the continuation bet comes into play. If action is checked to you, you simply make a bet into the pot with the intent of taking the pot down right there. In many pots, a continuation bet will end the hand and you will drag the pot. For other pots, it will help you better define where you’re at in the hand.
Continuation Betting to Determine Hand Strength
Looking at the same scenario, let’s assume that you put in a continuation bet and someone in late position made the call. Their call should definitely put you on notice and the process of evaluating their hand strength should begin.
What did they have pre-flop? Clearly, they didn’t have a hand strong enough to three-bet you with, so why did they call your continuation bet. Next, is this a player that has shown the ability to try and take the pot away on later streets.
When you don’t have information on player tendencies, a call of a continuation bet either means they have hit the board or are drawing. If the board has straight or flush possibilities, then you will want to size your bet on later streets where it isn’t profitable for them to call.
When straights or flushes are not there, then you need to decide whether they have hit an underpair or are slow playing a bigger hand. If a player with K-Q called in the above scenario, they may call as they are worried about you having A-K, Kings or Aces. If anything, it will help you narrow down their range for future streets.
Continuation Betting as a Bluff
Let’s say you decided to raise in late position with a hand like K-Q and the flop falls A-4-8. You do not have a piece of the board, but you have position on the other players. In this spot, you can continuation bet as a bluff with the intention of winning the pot right there.
Again, this is a spot where you are going to want to pay close attention if someone calls your continuation bet. If you’re regularly making continuation bets, a player with a hand like A-J may check to you and let you bet for them. This play works better against tighter players who may have come in with a smaller pair or a weaker holding like K-Q or K-J.
Continuation Betting for Value
There are times where your continuation bet will be a value bet, especially against looser players. Let’s say you raised from the button with pocket tens and a loose player in the big blind called you. The flop falls A-6-10, giving you a set.
In this spot, you might be tempted to slow play, but you may be better served to make a continuation bet. If it is likely they will call the flop bet, or their range of hand is such that they may have caught a piece of it, continuation bet to build a pot.
Work on Your Continuation Betting
Continuation betting is so common nowadays that in some poker games, failing to continuation bet is viewed as a sign of weakness. As such, you should begin working on your continuation betting skills in order to keep your opponents guessing.
We aren’t saying that you should continuation bet every single time you raise pre-flop, but you should do it enough to keep them guessing as to whether you actually have a hand or if you’re trying to buy the pot on the flop.