Even if you're unfamiliar with the term continuation bet, chances are you've seen one - or even made one yourself. A continuation bet (also known as a c-bet), is strategy used mainly in Texas Hold’em that refers to a bet that's made on the flop when you have previously made a raise pre-flop. Deciding to make a continuation bet is not contingent on having made a good hand on the flop. Statistically speaking, most of the time (70% of the time) your opponent won't have made good on the flop either, so the continuation bet is a pretty useful and safe poker strategy to employ.
In addition to providing you with a solid opportunity to see your hand out, continuation betting is also a great way to use your fear equity to control the action. In fact, the continuation bet is almost epic in its scope and capability. It doesn't actually matter if you make your hand on the flop; you've gone beyond simply calling the blinds - you've raised, and come flop, you're not letting down. This confidence in your hand (whether it's real or not) is enough to allow you to gain and establish control - and having control with the weakest of hands is better than having none with the nuts.
There are three possible (and totally predictable) outcomes of continuation betting:
1. Your opponents will fold;
2. Your opponents will call your raise, thereby letting you know they hit something on the flop and allowing you to act accordingly. Again, your opponent will only land something on the flop 30% of the time, so while possible, this last option is not as likely as the first.
3. Your opponent will raise your continuation bet. This is easy enough to react to if you've planned for it. You will want to let your weakest hands go, and continue with those that have caught some piece of the flop. Of course, you’ll also want to follow through with your hands that are complete monsters.
*Note: how often you get raised will depend on what type of opponent you're against. Some players will only raise your continuation bet with their absolute best hands while others are capable of throwing some semi-bluffs in there as well, so make sure you know your opponent.
So now you know what a continuation bet is, and you have a handle on the benefits of adopting this strategy, but just because you can use it doesn't mean you should. If you want your plan to pan out, there are a few factors you need to consider when placing a continuation bet. We've touched on a few already, but will expand on them here.
Continuation Bet Strategy
Location, Location, Location!
While a continuation bet is by no means the ballsiest of poker moves, it does involve taking risks (albeit calculated risks). As such, like all aggressive strategies in poker, your best chances of pulling it off come when you’re in late position. Ideally, you will want to be the very last player to act. Trying to work a continuation bet in earlier positions means you are acting blind; you have no idea how any (or most) of your opponents are going to play and, as a result, you have no idea if they have any holding.
You are a product of the company you keep, and poker is no exception. The way you play the table should reflect the people at your table. This means that unless you play a lot of home games with the exact same group of friends, you'll be changing up your game a lot. It's best to keep your c-bets directed at tight players since they are less likely to take risks.
Along this same vein, keep in mind continuation bets work best when you are only betting against 1 or 2 opponents; any more than a couple and the likelihood of someone making good on the flop increases dangerously (for you, at least).
Just in case we've made it sound like the cards themselves have no bearing on whether or not you should pursue a continuation bet, let us make it clear that they matter - and they matter immensely; just perhaps not in the way you'd think. When it comes to a continuation bet, your hole cards don't really matter. The cards that you should be thinking about are the cards on the board and the cards in your opponent's hand. This means you will want to steer clear of c-betting on coordinated flops. Here's what we mean: if the flop delivers a rainbow (e.g. A♥, 9♣, 3♦) then continuation betting will probably pan out since your opponent(s) will assume you got your ace. Conversely, if the flop is 8♥, 9♥, 10♥, your opponent(s) won't be as eager to get out of the pot since it is likely that at least one of them will want to see out a potential flush or straight.
The continuation bet only works if you haven't made a habit of crying wolf; that is, bluffing only works if no one knows you're a bluffer. Experienced players can (and do) easily c-bet well over half the time, but if this tactic is new to you, aim to try it out 30%-40% of the time. If you are really nervous about it, try your first c-bet with quality pocket cards (TT, AA) to give yourself a little peace of mind. Once you see how well it works, your confidence in the strategy will grow and you'll be able to c-bet with less solid footing.
Finally, it's important to discuss how much you should bet. Your post-flop bet (your most important bet) should average around half to two-thirds of the pot-size. This is enough to throw your weight around, but not enough to seriously dent your stack if the continuation bet doesn't play out.