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Continuation-Betting (C-Betting) in NL Hold'em

Continuation betting, also known as "c-betting", is one of the easiest ways to gain consistency as a winning poker player. Continuation bets are very commonplace in today’s games, but they used to be largely ignored by anyone without at least a bit of experience.

The first step to becoming a c-betting expert is knowing what a c-bet is, and why c-bets are valuable. The next step is identifying when to c-bet, and the final step is determining the size of your c-bets. If you can effectively follow these steps, your c-bets will find success, your win-rate will increase, and you will have more post-flop confidence.

What is a C-Bet?

A continuation bet is a leading bet made on the flop by the preflop aggressor. For example, if two players in late position called a player's raise in early position, then the preflop raiser lead out with a bet on the flop, that would be a "c-bet" because the preflop aggressor is "continuing" his betting.

C-bets can also come from middle or late position. For example, consider if a player in late position made a raise and only the big blind called the raise. On the flop, the big blind could check, then the preflop raiser would have an opportunity to c-bet into a fresh pot.

Why C-Bet?

C-bets will allow you to both win pots where you have nothing, and also build pots where you stand to win a lot. By mixing up c-bets in pots where you do and do not have legitimate hands, you become much more difficult to read.

C-bets are an absolute necessity in any winning player’s strategy, but it is even more important that you know how to execute them properly. There is no shortage of players who c-bet without any clue what they are doing.

When to C-Bet

The biggest roadblock for many poker players is determining exactly when they should be making a c-bet. Sometimes c-bets do absolutely no good when trying to push someone off a hand. Likewise, a c-bet for value will occasionally force out players through whom you should have been getting value. The obstacle in all of this is figuring out which spots are which. As is the case with most things in poker, this is all much easier said than done.

Never try to bet out the hands that you have beat, especially when you probably only have them beat by a tiny bit. This might not make any sense at the surface, so it needs to be explained a bit more in depth. When you open pre flop with a hand like AJ, get a call, and see a flop of 6-8-T, a player checking to you will often times also have missed.

This means that your potential c-bet will only fold out hands like KQ, A9, or KJ that you already are ahead of. Now, if you feel that you can comfortably force a fold from a small pocket pair, that is totally different. Many times, though, you will be given a chance to check behind with a hand like ace high. These are the times where you should try and get to showdown because placing bets will just be creating unnecessary risk.

The time to make a small c-bet is when you know that you are ahead of very few hands. For example, with a K-Q-T flop after you opened with 68 suited, you should look to c-bet if you think your opponent is likely holding a small pocket pair or something else that would be scared of this flop.

Proper c-betting flops aren’t all that hard to discern if you use a bit of logical deduction. Make some reads as to what the other players hold before the flop is even dealt. You will then be able to effectively determine when a flop does or does not hit a player. Did the flop hit them? If yes, don’t c-bet, if no, fire a bet. Often times this is all that is involved.

How Much to C-Bet

A primary factor in the effectiveness of a c-bet is the sizing. Good c-bets will accomplish their goal with the least amount at risk, while poor c-bets will put a lot of money at risk for minimal gain. Finding the medium is the key to making consistent c-bets that actually work.

Pot size should always play a role in the size of your c-bets. The next step is to determine how strong your opponent likely is and whether they are likely to fold. If you have a big pot and someone who isn’t going to fold, your c-bet would need to be monstrous, in which case it makes little to no sense to c-bet at all.

Your c-bets when you want to force a fold should be relatively small. A tad over half pot or so will generally be more than enough to get your opponent to fold. When you are looking to get some value out of a hand, your bets can be bigger than when you want a fold, but you can always mix it up. Establish consistency in bet sizing, but don’t try to follow set rules or guidelines.

Recovering After a Failed C-Bet

If you fired out a c-bet after guessing your opponent missed the flop, but your opponent calls your c-bet, you are in a bit of a tough position on the turn, especially if you are out of position. Make sure to read our article on double barreling to learn some strategies for exactly what to do in the aforementioned situation.

More NL Hold'em Strategy
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