Continuation Betting

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Poker Strategy With Rep Porter: Using Your Chips As Weapons

Porter Talks About Continuation Betting

by Rep Porter
Today I want to write about the continuation bet, or c-bet as it is commonly referred to. A c-bet is defined as:

Any bet made on the flop by the last preflop aggressor.

Let’s look at what is likely the most common post-flop dynamic for tournament poker; one player raises and the big blind defends. When you are the big blind and you check to the raiser, they often bet. When they bet, what do you need to continue in the pot, either by calling or raising? A loose list might be any pair, any 8-card straight draw, and any flush draw. I call this list loose because any pair will include things like pocket threes on a K-Q-10 flop, or second pair on a A-J-3 all spades board. Some of these hands you will be folding also, but by starting from a place that we know is very liberal, we can create a boundary.

The next important piece of information is what range you are defending the big blind with. Let’s start with a 20 percent range. That will include all the pairs, all the suited aces, most of the ten-card combinations of ten or higher, a lot of the suited connectors, and a couple suited one-gappers.

Now we have to do a little math, but the result is worth the effort. When math shows you that a strategy is profitable, it makes it easier to continue with your strategy even when it gets that “this isn’t working” feel. Poker can be a streaky game. In the long-run, you need to stick with your strategies that are profitable even when they are failing in the short-run.

Now back to the 20 percent range. Since we are going to count any pair, we need to solve the question of what percentage of these hands are pairs to start with. These hands will automatically meet our criteria. This is actually not a hard step. We just need to count all the hands up and see how many are pairs. We know that there are 13 pairs, and that there are six possible ways to make each pair, so there are 78 pairs. Then we count the number of other hands, 16 for each hand that is both suited and unsuited, and four for the ones that are only suited. My 20 percent range is 266 hands, so I divide 78 by 266 and get that 29.3 percent of the range is a pair to start with. Let’s call it 30 percent for simplicity.

Now we need to look at how often the other 70 percent of the hands either makes a pair or a draw that qualifies. The hand that will connect with the board the most often is a suited connector. It makes the most straights and straight draws, and can make flushes and flush draws. Sparing the math demonstration, we know that you flop a pair or better roughly 32.5 percent of the time. When you add flushes or flush draws to the pairs, you connect about 42.5 percent of the time. And finally when you add in straights and the eight-card straight draws, you hit the flop just more than 50 percent of the time. Using the hands that connect at the highest rate makes our estimate even more conservative.

So putting these numbers together, you add the 30 percent that are pairs to 50 percent (the rate you flop a qualifying hand) of the remaining 70 percent of the hands. That tells you that 65 percent of the time you will have connected to the board in some manner. The most conservative estimates leave the big blind missing the flop about 35 percent of the time.

So at the boundary, the c-bet will work just more than 1 in 3 times. This means if you make a c-bet of half the pot, giving yourself 2 to 1 pot odds, the bet is profitable all by itself. This doesn’t include all of the extra benefits; you get to stay in the pot longer with some hands giving yourself opportunities to improve on later streets, and your opponents won’t be able to tell when you have your stronger value hands, meaning you will get called more often.

For a couple actual examples, let’s use a 20 percent and a 30 percent calling range for our opponent, along with a dry flop like K-9-2 rainbow, and a draw heavy board like the 9-8-7 with two hearts. As a point of interest, the 30 percent range is 20 percent pairs to start with. We will also use any pair and any 8+ card draw as our standard for connecting.

On the K-9-2 rainbow board, the 20 percent range connects just under 52 percent of the time, and the 30 percent range connects just under 41 percent of the time.

On the 9-8-7 two hearts board, the 20 percent range connects just under 57 percent of the time, with the 30 percent connecting at the same rate.

These real board examples show that your opponents will be missing the flop at a rate of well over 40 percent, making the cs-bet a very profitable idea regardless of your hand strength. ?

Rep Porter is a two-time WSOP bracelet winner and is the lead instructor at ThePokerAcademy.com, whose mission is to help poker players achieve better results through better decisions and that is done by teaching poker in a way that makes learning easy and enjoyable with high quality courses taught by professional players.

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