Continuation Betting

Article by Byron Jacobs

Continuation betting

As we all know, continuation betting (c-betting) is a difficult topic. 10-15 years ago it wasn’t so hard as players didn’t defend often enough so c-bets were simply profitable, even accounting only for fold equity. Nowadays players are more savvy and relentless c-betting no longer works. Excessive c-betting will be noticed and these bets will be attacked. A more sophisticated plan is needed.

If you work with a solver you’ll soon notice that, in many situations, the solver is often fairly indifferent in the choice between a small c-bet and a check. However, there are also situations where the solver prefers a larger bet size and is somewhat more adamant that betting is the way to go. Understanding when and why the solver prefer different lines is not at all easy.

Of course, much of the time you can base your play on what you know about the Villain you are up against. If they tend to call too much and you have a strong hand then obviously you bet. If they like to get bluffy and you have a strong hand then checking to induce bluffs could easily have merit. However, understanding GTO principles will always help here because it will give you a baseline to operate from.

In his ground-breaking work, Modern Poker Theory, Michael Acevedo has a 68-page chapter devoted entirely to the topic of c-betting. He clarifies the issues around c-betting with the use of an “equity buckets” tool. This ingenious device splits up both Hero’s and Villain’s range into hands that are “strong”, “good”, “weak” and “trash”. They are defined as follows.

Strong Hands: Hands with a hand vs range equity greater or
equal to 75%

Good Hands: Hands with a hand vs range equity greater or equal to 50% but lower than 75%

Weak Hands: Hands with a hand vs range equity greater or equal to 33% but lower than 50%

Trash Hands: Hands with a hand vs range equity lower than 33%

This allows you to see how the ranges interact and whether they are more likely to be merged or polarised. Here is an example.

In this battle between the BB (on the right) and an In Position player (on the left) it is clear that IP has a much stronger range.

The match up with specific flops will usually give a strong clue as to the correct way to play. Consider the following scenario:

It is clear that UTG has a massive range advantage and wants to bet strongly on the flop. However, visualising the equity buckets demonstrates that BB is actually quite polarised, with a huge number of trash hands but also a decent number of strong hands. In this case betting big is a mistake as BB will then get away from the weaker hands and only continue with a strong range. Betting small will encourage BB to continue with hands that are badly dominated while minimising the problems when BB happens to be very high up in their range.

Modern Poker Theory has numerous examples such as this which will allow you to understand the theory and practice of c-betting in great detail.

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