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Thinking About Your Ranges When Continuation Betting

Some people have described the feeling of being overwhelmed by all of the things that go into deciding whether or not they should make a continuation bet. We’re going to make our thinking less stressful and more efficient by looking at the question from a slightly different angle. Instead of thinking about whether or not we should continuation bet a single hand, we’re going to think about whether our continuation betting range should be strong, weak or balanced and whether our checking range should be strong, weak or balanced.

The Relationship Between the Two Ranges

Suppose that we have the decision to make a continuation bet or to check. Every single hand in our range has to go either to our checking range or our continuation betting range. If we put a hand into our checking range, then we’re effectively taking it out of our continuation betting range and vice-versa. This creates a situation where we can’t often make both of our ranges overly strong or overly weak, so we’ll have to choose wisely. If our starting range contains a fair number of strong, medium-strength and weak hands, we’ll usually have to have one strong range and one weak range if we want to play in an exploitative manner. Alternatively, we can also have two ranges that are pretty balanced in terms of overall strength. Your main decision is going to be to look at the situation at hand and decide which way the strength in your ranges should shift.

Signs That Your Betting Range Should Be Strong

Logically, it’s not too difficult to figure out when your continuation betting range should be strong. Note that, a large percentage of the time, these are effectively reasons for your checking range to be weak. When you’re out of position, it’s harder to make profitable value bets with medium-strength hands, so this could affect the size of your overall range without changing its overall strength too much. Otherwise, if your opponent is going to call down a whole lot, then you should bet into them with a strong range. Along similar lines, if your opponent will raise your continuation bets often, then feed them a strong range to raise into. The general idea here is that if you can get your opponent to put a lot of money into the pot by making a continuation bet, then you should bet a strong range.

Signs That Your Checking Range Should Be Strong

If your checking range is pretty strong, then your betting range is usually going to be weak. The number one sign that you should have a strong checking range is if your opponent will bet into you a lot if you check. If you’re in position, this will involve another card coming off of the deck, so you have to take that into account. Aside from that, if your opponent folds a lot to continuation bets, then you should usually have a weak continuation betting range which will make your checking range strong. Once again, the general idea is to structure your range in a way that your opponent will often put in money against your strong range without putting money in against your weak range.

The Two Big Ideas That Drive This

As you have probably noticed, there are two main ideas that you can focus on to make this decision process quick and easy. First, you want your opponent to put in money when you have a strong range. Second, you want your opponent to fold when you have a weak range. You don’t always have the opportunity to put both of these ideas to work in a single hand, but you’ll often be able to work on at least one of them unless you’re facing a very balanced opponent. These are the two factors that we are going to focus on to make our decision process quick and easy.

Let’s look at two practical examples.

Practical Example #1: Facing a Loose/Passive

We raise pre-flop with some reasonable, tight-aggressive MP range in a six-handed game with 100bb stacks. The player on the button is 36/14 and is passive overall. Villain has folded four times out of 12 to continuation bets, and he has a pre-flop 3-betting percentage of two percent after a sample size of about 150-200 hands. You see the flop heads-up, and it comes Q96 with two spades.

This opponent is going to be putting in quite a bit of money when he’s facing bets. He doesn’t fold often, and he probably called pre-flop with a wide range to start with. These things are telling us that we should have a strong betting range. Because of his overall passivity (note his VPIP/PFR ratio and small 3-betting percentage) he’s unlikely to bet if we check to him. This is telling us that we should have a weak checking range. Everything in this hand is pointing towards the right way to play: the classical method of picking apart a calling station.

Practical Example #2: Facing a Multi-Tabling Regular

Again, we raise pre-flop with some reasonable, tight-aggressive range from middle position in a six-handed NLHE game with 100bb stacks. A multi-tabling regular who runs about 20/16 and 3-bets a total of 5% calls us on the button, and the blinds fold. This player folds to continuation bets about 75 percent of the time over a very large sample, and he’s only raised continuation bets about eight percent. He has a moderate flop aggression frequency or aggression factor (whichever one you subscribe to). The flop comes K92 rainbow.

What you’ll notice here is that it’s pretty hard to get a lot of value from this player in this situation. He’s not putting in very much money when you make a continuation bet because he folds a lot overall, and since this flop misses most of his range, it’s unlikely that you can expect him to play differently. As a result, a good way to exploit this player would be to have a weak continuation-betting range paired with a strong checking range. Your good hands will be able to get more value when you check the flop and bet turns or have him bet the flop compared to if you just continuation bet the flop yourself.

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