The continuation bet, or c-bet, in Poker is a useful tool for taking control of hands and winning uncontested pots. It refers to a situation where you were the aggressor on previous streets (normally pre-flop), and continue betting later on regardless of whether you have a strong hand.
Example of the continuation bet
Suppose one player had J-K on the button, two players call before and he raises. The flop is A-4-4 and both the opponents check, he bets about half the pot and they both fold.
This would be an example of a successful c-bet, the aggressive player on the button took initiative pre-flop by raising and, when checked to, used the fact that he had signalled a strong hand to bet again and win the pot. He could feel relatively confident that neither of his opponents had an ace and so was able to ‘steal’ the pot with a well-timed bet.
When to use a c-bet
Continuation betting can be a very useful tool, but it must be used appropriately. Bet too much and your opponents will take advantage and perhaps try to bluff you back. Some of the most important factors when deciding whether to c-bet are as follows:
Your hand: Sometimes a c-bet is an overly risky proposition or doesn’t accomplish much. Suppose you had A-10 on a board of 10-J-Q; if you bet your opponents would likely fold worse hands and call with better hands. It may be a better option to simply check and hope your hand wins at showdown.
Another example would be if you had 2-3 on a board of J-10-A. If you are playing a hand with multiple opponents it would often be a good decision to check and give up in this situation, even with the betting lead, because it is very likely that one or more opponents have a strong hand.
The board: Boards with many possible draws are dangerous to c-bet unless you have a draw or some kind of strong hand. For example a board of 8-9-10 with a flush draw would be very dangerous to bet, as there are many hands your opponents can call with; leaving you with a difficult decision on the turn.
Position: It is always an advantage to be playing in a strong position (acting as late as possible after the flop). Playing in the button or cut off seat you will be much more inclined to c-bet. In later position you will have more information about your opponents, for example knowing whether they checked or bet. This information is an advantage to player in position, allowing them to bluff more effectively and fold when they are unlikely to win.
Judgement: As you play Poker you will begin to understand the situations where c-betting is likely to be successful. Some boards are very inviting to c-bet, others more dangerous. By watching your opponents you can gauge whether they are aggressive, passive, tight or loose; the best opponents to c-bet against are tight, passive opponents who rarely bluff or raise.
Continuation betting, and when to use it, is one of the fundamental principles in Poker. By taking the betting lead pre flop and maintaining it on the flop you will win a lot of pots which other players might simply give up on. Learning how and when to c-bet will make your play both more profitable and more efficient.