The poker strategy is quite complex, and it can take a long time and a lot of effort to master the game. However, there are some plays that you’ll learn and start using almost as soon as you learn poker rules. A continuation bet is one such play.
The reason why the continuation bet is so effective is that your opponent will miss the flop most of the time, so they won’t be able to continue based on their hand strength alone.
What this means, in a nutshell, is that you’ll have to deal with flop c-bets all the time. So, developing a solid fundamental strategy for playing versus continuation bets both when in position and out of position is essential.
The good news is that developing a good Texas Holdem strategy for playing vs. c-bets on the flop isn’t all that complex. Once you understand a few vital things that you need to be thinking about in these spots, you’ll realize that continuation bets aren’t all that scary at all.
Facing Continuation Bet Out of Position
When it comes to dealing with continuation bets, you’ll have to deal with them much more frequently out of position. In many heads-up pots where there is a c-bet, you’ll be in the big blind, defending against a late position raiser.
Being OOP is never a good thing in poker, but in a scenario where you’re also facing a c-bet, you’re not just out of position but are also lacking initiative. Thus, the opponent has a tremendous strategic advantage, which is why the c-bet is such a powerful tool, to begin with.
Facing a Cbet in the Big Blind
As I’ve explained, playing from the big blind is the best and most common example of facing a continuation bet OOP. When you’re seated in the big blind and the button opens, you’re supposed to defend with a wide range of poker hands.
They’re opening with quite a few holdings, and because you’re getting a discount, you simply have to call wide and see many flops.
This is the range advice from Poker Snowie, and as you can see, you need to get involved with many hands even against a 3x button open.
Of course, the range of hands you’ll want to defend against a UTG raiser will be smaller, but the principle remains the same. You’ll get to the flop, you’ll check to the raiser, and they’ll fire a continuation bet.
How do you proceed from there?
Like with most things in poker, the answer isn’t super simple. It will depend on your reads on the opponent, the c-bet sizing, flop texture, and more. However, you have to start somewhere, and what better place than checking out Poker Snowie GTO ranges?
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The above picture describes what hands you should be continuing with vs. c-bet of 50% of the pot on the flop of 5c 7c Jd. As you can see, Poker Snowie suggests you should be calling with more than half of the hands you reached the flop with, and yes – that’s a lot.
Although you can’t see the full list of hands in this picture, it means you’re supposed to hang in there with any reasonable holding, i.e., any pair + backdoor draw combo, most of your flush draws, open-ended straight draws, etc.
If your hand has any kind of potential on the flop, you should be sticking around.
Yes, you are out of position, and things aren’t going to get any easier for you if your hand doesn’t improve, but you can’t afford to be over-folding in these scenarios. If you do, a competent player will notice it and take advantage of it by relentlessly c-betting pretty much 100% against you.
What about hands you should be raising?
Poker Snowie isn’t crazy about raising a flop c-bet, so it suggests doing it with only a small fraction of your range.
These are all the hands you should consider raising some of the time on the 5c 7c Jd flop vs. a cbet.
As you can see, only one holding on the list is actually a made hand, i.e., the bottom set. The rest of them are either top flush draws or strong combo draws that you might want to play aggressively on occasion.
You don’t really need to have too big of a raising range in these spots. Otherwise, your calling range will become too weak.
Of course, you could include some more value hands in it, like two pair or a top pair + flush draw or something along those lines, but it might not be the optimal way of playing these hands.
Remember, your opponent will often be firing with air so they can’t take much pressure. Raising with strong hands will achieve very little as it will give them an easy way out early in the hand. By just calling, you’ll give them more rope to continue bluffing on the turn, which is usually a more +EV way to play vs. continuation bet.
Of course, this is just one example out of thousands of possible scenarios, but the main message is clear. When you’re facing a continuation bet in OOP, you’ll want to defend with a wide range of hands and hang around with anything remotely reasonable.
This will prevent your opponents from running over you and make it much more difficult for them to auto-bet against you on every flop, knowing you’ll only stick around with the strongest part of your defending range.
Playing vs. Cbets in Position
Although a scenario where you’re playing against a c-bet OOP is much more common, you’ll still find yourself in many hands where you’re IP to the original raiser.
This usually happens when you find a calling hand in a late poker position like CO or BTN and decide to take the flop instead of 3-betting.
In this example, you’re on the button and facing a UTG raise. As you can see, Poker Snowie doesn’t suggest that many hands you should call with in the first place, but there are a few that have a decent enough potential to be played as a call in position.
IP scenarios are usually much easier as you’ll have the advantage of position, so your opponent will have to make a decision based solely on the board texture and the kind of calling range they believe you have.
On the other hand, you’ll also have the benefit of seeing their bet sizing and making your decision knowing full well that you’ll have the final say on the turn as well.
Since your pre-flop calling range vs. a UTG opener is reasonably strong, there won’t be many flops where you’ll just go away.
Snowie suggests continuing with almost 80% of the hands, mostly calling but also raising with more than 13% of the entire range on this particular board.
Of course, the board texture will influence your decision a lot, but the fact of the matter is, this is a much different scenario to the one where you’re OOP, i.e., playing from the blinds.
Since you don’t have any money invested and no additional incentive to get involved, your pre-flop call indicates a strong range.
That means that the original raiser won’t have that much of a range advantage on many boards, and you’ll be able to continue in hand quite frequently.
You’ll still want to fold some of the weakest hands in your range, like some combos of pocket 9s and pocket Jacks, but you can afford to call the flop even with some of these hands provided they contain a diamond, giving you the backdoor flush draw.
So, facing a c-bet in position is usually a much more comfortable scenario and not nearly as dangerous as the one where you have to play from the big blind.
While your opponent may have the initiative, that’s about the only thing they have going for them. They have to play out of position, and their range advantage on most boards won’t be that significant.
Adjusting to Your Opponents
So far, we didn’t talk too much about your opponents and their particular tendencies. Poker Snowie provides suggestions that are close to the GTO poker strategy, which means they’re based on the idea that everyone is playing well-balanced ranges across the board.
However, this is hardly the case in most games.
While it is necessary to have this fundamental knowledge to build upon, when it comes to facing a c-bet, both IP and OOP, you’ll need to make a fair bit of adjustments based on your reads.
Online, this is easier to do thanks to poker software, which will provide you with all sorts of useful numbers. In a live setting, you’ll have to rely on your reads and memory to figure out what type of a player someone is and what this means for your strategy vs. cbet.
For example, against weak players, you should be defending more liberally. Even if you don’t have a strong hand, you might be able to bet the pot by ramping up the aggression yourself if they slow down on the turn.
Against these players, you can also increase your flop raising percentage as they’ll mostly only continue when they actually have a good hand.
Then, there are players with a very low c-bet percentage. I’d suggest deviating from the basic strategies against these players and folding a bit more.
You can probably afford to give up with some of your weakest made hands like weak bottom pairs without much else going on. You still don’t want to be over-folding against these players, though, as even vs. tight c-bettors reasonable hands still have more than enough equity to continue facing a continuation bet of reasonable size.
Reacting to Different Cbet Sizes
One final thing that I want to talk about in the context of playing vs. a c-bets is the matter of bet sizing.
Some players tend to go into extremes with very sizeable or tiny continuation bets, and you have to adjust your strategy to that.
Whatever their reasoning might be, you need to be prepared to respond accordingly.
When your opponents gravitate towards large continuation bet sizes, you need to tighten up your calling range, especially out of position.
You saw that Snowie suggests calling with a rather wide range vs. a cbet of half pot but what happens when that size goes up to a full pot?
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You can see that the yellow circle indicating the call is quite a bit smaller. This is simply because many of the hands that were fine to call with vs. a half-pot bet become unprofitable against a full pot bet.
And if the opponent were to bet $20 into the $13 pot, the range becomes even smaller as Snowie suggests calling with just 28% of the hands.
The main takeaway is that you don’t want to be playing a bloated pot OOP with a weak hand. So, when facing a c-bet that’s very large in relation to the pot, you should be very picky with what hands you continue with.
Against a player who habitually over-bets, you should get enough spots to continue with strong hands anyway, so there is no need to go crazy with weak holdings. However, all of this starts with proper pre-flop hand selection, so grabbing a poker cheat sheet can help you a lot in this regard.
But what about the other extreme?
When someone c-bets extremely small, you can definitely afford to call with a somewhat wider range, but the change isn’t nearly as significant as the one in the previous scenario.
For example, vs. a one-third pot continuation bet, Snowie expands the calling range by just 2.5%. Of course, if they were to bet extremely small, like $2 into $13, you can afford to continue with close to 90% of your pre-flop calling range.
So, when playing vs. cbets, whether in or out of position, always consider the sizing as well.
How big the bet is can have a rather significant influence on the range you’ll want to continue with and having one range to play vs. any sizing can be a massive leak in your game.
Conclusion: Don’t Make it Easy on Your Opponents
A continuation bet is a standard feature in almost every poker player’s arsenal. If you manage to find a game where people never c-bet and only continue with good hands, congratulations, you’ve found yourself a gold mine. Enjoy all the money you’re going to win!
Otherwise, you have to develop a solid strategy for playing vs. a continuation bet both IP and OOP.
This article provides top poker tips on how you should proceed in situations where you’re facing a continuation bet, but you need to take it as a foundation to build upon.
It would be impossible to cover all the possible scenarios you’re going to have to deal with, so take these examples and suggestions and try to apply them to different situations.
Just always keep in mind that the fact your opponent is betting on the flop after raising pre-flop doesn’t really have to mean they actually have a hand and don’t let them get away with it too often.
The more you practice, the more experience you’ll gather, and you’ll become much better at playing in all kinds of situations. If you want to progress even faster, you can always check one of the best poker training sites available today.
- Do not make a mistake of overfolding and learn to continue with a wide range on the flop
- Do not raise too often or you will make your calling range too weak
- Float more hands against weaker players with the intention to bluff later
- Fold more against players with low continuation bet frequency
- Tighten your calling range against big c-bets and always adjust based on sizing