A lot of people get caught up thinking about what cards are going to come after the flop when they are considering a continuation bet. However, it’s usually more important to think about betting and position. When you’re considering making a continuation bet, you’ve already seen 71 percent of the cards that are going to come. However, 75 percent of the betting streets are left to go, and they will all involve pots and bets that quickly increase in size. It’s clear to see that there is a lot more betting left in the hand than cards that are left to come, and this is why we’re going to focus primarily on betting and position.
Position and Betting Flexibility
Being out of position means that you have a clear disadvantage that cannot be easily overcome by having a moderately stronger range than your opponents. When you’re out of position and considering putting in a continuation bet, the strength of your hand and how it will handle the escalating pot size over the next few streets is one of the most important things that you can think about. You have to value bet somewhat less often out of position on the flop because it’s not a great idea to build a big pot for future streets with medium-strength hands that won’t play well in big pots on down the line.
On the other hand, if you’re in position, then you have extra flexibility when it comes to betting lines that you don’t have when you’re out of position. Free card plays and free showdown plays are pretty common examples. One of the most notable things about being in position is that it makes playing medium-strength hands easier. If you were to value bet the flop with a hand that you probably don’t want to barrel, then it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to check through the turn when you’re in position. If you’re out of position, then it’s not so easy to get close to a showdown.
Pot Sizes, Stack Sizes and SPRs
The ratio of the stacks to the pot when the flop starts is called an SPR ratio, and it’s something that you can look up on your own if you aren’t familiar with the concept. When you have SPRs higher than four or five, then you start to have more opportunities for betting on all three streets. However, this also means that you have to be much more careful about how you play certain types of hands. If you’re playing a value betting hand, then it can be useful to think about how many streets of value you think you can get and how you can manipulate your opponent’s range to get the most value out of it.
Here’s a quick example to show what I mean. If you get in $30 worth of value against a range that you have 55 percent equity against, then you’re going to show a profit of $3 on average. Now, if you get in $10 worth of value against a range that you have 65 percent equity against, then you’ll also have a profit of $3. The point here is that the equity you have against your opponent’s range when you bet is just as important as how much money you get into the pot. If you jam a medium-strength hand for three streets and narrow down your opponent’s range too much, then you can often screw yourself over by putting yourself in situations that are difficult to play and that push edges that are too small. If you figured out a way to get just two streets of value against a much wider range, however, then you could make more money in a less stressful way.
The State of Your Checking Range
If you’re continuation betting less than your entire range, then you also have a checking a range, and the condition of that range can have a major impact on how much value you get out of your opponents. If you were to bet all of your good hands, all of your draws and some trash hands on the flop, then your checking range would consist almost entirely of hands that could not take very much heat at all. You might be able to check/call one or two streets with some of the hands from this range, but most of it could be vulnerable to being blown out of the water by an aggressive player.
This is one example of why you might have to change up your continuation betting strategy based on the betting habits of your opponents when they are checked to. Against a passive opponent who will rarely ever put a lot of pressure on you with bluffs, then you wouldn’t need to worry about deviating from a strategy like the one above because your opponent wouldn’t ever punish you for having such a weak checking range. However, against an aggressive player, you would need to switch things up a bit since he will usually bluff more often.
Since aggressive players will be more likely to bluff into your checking range, it makes sense that you should value bet the flop less often. This will put strong hands into your checking range that will then get paid off by your opponents’ aggressive tendencies. You could also make an argument for increasing your check/raise bluff frequency against these opponents depending on the particular board and how they play on an individual basis.
The Overall Idea
The main idea that you have to deal with when it comes to continuation betting is that you’re setting the tone for two more streets of betting where the pot is only going to be getting bigger and bigger. Your position and the strength of your hand are the two main factors that help to determine whether you want that pot to keep getting bigger or not. Using these two factors in the context of how your opponent plays will help you to determine good ways to play your range when you’re deciding whether or not you should make a continuation bet.