60-Minute Master: NL 6-Max Part 8, Continuation Betting

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Although continuation betting (c-betting or cbet) is a basic poker concept, it has evolved significantly over the time and there are numerous intermediate and advanced concepts that you need to be aware of in today’s games. C-betting is considered c-betting a basic concept in NL Hold’em, but it is nonetheless constantly evolving. It’s also common to hear a large range of different opinions on whether it is correct to cbet in certain spots. Some rely heavily on board texture while others base their decision more on their hole cards  or their opponents stats. So which is the correct approach in today’s games?

 

BEWARE OF OUTDATED STRATEGY

If you consulted a strategy guide on cbetting from 5 years ago it would be common to see the following advice: Cbet very frequently on dry boards but be more cautious on drawy boards. The result was that most regulars would nearly always fire a continuation bet on any type of A72r, or K72r texture. The idea was that the drier the board texture, the less often our opponents will have connected with it and the more they will be folding to continuation bets.

It shouldn’t be too hard to see how this can be exploited. If we were playing against an opponent who fired a continuation bet with 100% frequency on a K72r board, how would we adjust? We’d obviously stop folding just because we hadn’t connected hard with the board. We’d take a chunk of our air hands with good potential and consider floating them.

So does this mean that c-betting any monotone high-card texture with 100% frequency will not be profitable anymore? In many situations, yes, but naturally it depends. The reason why the strategy was initially profitable is that our opponents would play a fit-or-fold strategy. On a dry texture, they would fold more frequently as a result.

But better players understand that we have not hit dry textures either, and won’t necessarily be more inclined to fold just because they haven’t hit the board. In fact, if they perceive that we will be c-betting a certain texture with a high frequency, they may even be less inclined to fold.

Against some opponents, the old strategies may still apply. But attempting to use them by default at any limit above 25nl could be considered ambitious. It’s not purely a case of being exploited on the flop. If we shift all of our air hands to one part of our range (i.e. c-betting), our opponent will be able to perceive that we don’t have these hands when we take another line. For example, if we go for a delayed cbet it will clearly be for thin value or a slowplay – since we are perceived to put all of our air hands into our flop c-betting range.

It’s necessary to take a slightly more balanced approach by default. We are not talking about game theory perfect balance here by any means, we should still focus on playing exploitably. But certain things we could get away with 5-years ago are no longer as viable as they once used to be. We are going to need to take a more dynamic approach to cbetting if we want to survive in today’s games.
 
 

THE 3 PRINCIPLES OF C-BETTING

Rather than auto-firing on any particular flop texture – consider these 3 principles.

1. Stats – This is one thing that hasn’t changed from 5 years ago. How much is opponent folding to cbets? It’s also extremely important to understand that opponent’s stats on later streets are entirely relevant in our flop decision. So if we purely check our opponents fold-to-flop cbet without consulting his fold-to-turn-cbet stat, there s no guarantee that we are making the correct decision on the flop. See the 2 part series Postflop Planning, for more information on this.

2. Backdoor Potential – For many years players have made the mistake of thinking that 100bb poker is about pot-equity. It’s not. It’s about playability and potential on later streets in the vast majority of cases. There are certain high equity hands that make very poor cbets. (For example some type of Axo hand with little backdoor potential). And some of the lower equity hands actually make excellent cbets. (Imagine some type of mid-high suited-connector with all possible backdoor flushes and straights available). Before we cbet any hand we should consider the playability of the hand on the turn and river. If we have a value-hand we should also consider how many streets of value we think it is worth.

3. Vulnerability – This is possibly the most important and most overlooked concept regarding cbetting. The vulnerability of our hand. We should tend towards cbetting vulnerable hands, whereas with non-vulnerable hands we have the luxury of being able to check back.

 

CONCLUSION

All in all, find out what works and continue/expand it. I.e. Maybe A2-s-A5s works well for you opening UTG, so try A6s+ for a while. What doesn’t work, fix it or eliminate it. Just do the necessary work to find out. These spots come up so regularly, you can’t afford to have losing ranges.

 
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