As a poker player, you’ll have to deal with continuation bets (c-bets) all the time. Whether playing out of position when defending your big blind or in position after flatting a raise, you’ll face a continuation bet on many different flops. In the past, we’ve given you some top betting tips. Just as important is knowing how to properly play and defend against c-bets.
Even if you know that most players will fire away at a flop with air if they have the initiative, finding effective strategies to counter this isn’t easy. Many inexperienced players err on the side of caution and give up on way too many pots to frequent c-bettors, hoping to catch them with their hand in a cookie jar every once in a while.
The right approach is actually on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. Knowing what you know about a c-bet, you should be looking for spots to call, especially if you want to build an effective BB strategy instead of searching for reasons to fold.
While this is a really big and comprehensive topic, there are some quick tips you can easily apply to your game to see immediate results. These tips may not instantaneously make you a master in this spot, but will definitely help you make a life bit tougher on your opponents at the tables.
1. Check-call with a wide range of hands from the BB
Let’s face it: the most common situation in which you will be facing a c-bet instead of being the aggressor yourself is when you flat from the big blind, so it is vital to avoid common mistakes in that spot.
The first piece of advice in that scenario is to call the flop with a wide range of hands. While this article is too short to go into too much detail, you’ll pretty much want to continue with any equity in hand – all pairs, any kind of a backdoor draw, all reasonable draws, etc.
Since you are usually getting the right odds to defend with a variety of hands before the flop, you can’t afford just to check-fold whenever you miss, or you will be massively overfolding. If you do that, any observant opponent will pick up on this and will c-bet against you relentlessly.
Of course, there are certain flops that you won’t be able to do much on and will be forced to fold facing a c-bet, but generally having a high SPR poker number lets you play a lot of hands.
That being said, it is worth noticing that you want to play a great majority of your flop range in check-call fashion for a couple of reasons. First of all, you don’t really need to bloat the pot out of position with any hand that’s not an absolute premium one. As the pot gets bigger, it gets harder to play, especially against a competent opponent who will take every opportunity to put maximum pressure on you.
Secondly, with your big hands, you don’t really achieve much by raising. Given the fact that your opponents are usually firing off with pure air, you check-raising their continuation bet gives them an easy way out. By check-calling with most of your holdings, you keep them guessing and give them plenty of room to make more mistakes later in the hand.
2. Think in terms of hand ranges and board textures
You should ideally be thinking in terms of ranges and board textures and how these two elements work together both IP (in position) and OOP (out of position). Every time you’re facing a continuation bet, you need to figure out how likely your opponent is to have an actual made hand.
This knowledge is something that you’ll get from both training and experience, but you should start applying this basic idea as early as today. It’s a simple fact that certain board textures are more likely to fit a certain player’s range. For example, a raiser will more often connect with an ace-high flop and high cards while middling and connected flops are more likely to benefit the caller.
This is a very broad explanation, of course, but you should think about it when faced with a continuation bet. How likely is the player betting to have connected with the flop? If the board favors your range, what are your options?
Be sure to put in the study time away from the poker tables to understand these ranges better, and you will surely improve your play in all kinds of situations.
3. Adjust your ranges based on the opponents’ tendencies
While having default ranges you want to play vs. a c-bet is a good starting point, you also need to be mindful of players’ specific tendencies. Not everyone has a balanced continuation betting range, and having access to this information can be very helpful.
Against weak players, you can afford to call with more hands on the flop as they’ll often give you an opportunity to win a hand at a later stage if they were just continuation betting with air and don’t improve.
This is even more true when you are in position. When you’re in position, you have a lot of control in the hand, which is more important than the pre-flop initiative. As long as you’re facing a normal-sized c-bet, you’ll be able to continue with almost all hands containing two overcards and hands that have a solid backdoor potential (in addition to all hands you’ll continue with, such as direct draws, pairs, etc.). Remember, when playing against recreational players, you will often have a chance to pick up the pot when they check on the turn, so give yourself a chance to win!
On the other hand, players who don’t often c-bet as frequently are usually the ones who mostly do it with some sort of a made hand or decent draw. When playing these types of opponents, try to remove some of your weakest hands from the range as they likely won’t be as profitable.
You can still have a fairly high calling percentage vs. a c-bet, but getting rid of the weakest part of your range will usually be a more +EV approach.