C-Betting Tactics

All flops are not created equal. While c-bet success is determined by a number of factors, it is mostly driven by how well your opponent’s pre-flop calling range connects with particular boards. Some boards connect well with general calling ranges, and some do not. Above is a list of board textures and how often you can expect your c-bet to be successful based on my own Hold-em Manager database.

There are several inferences one can make based on the above data:

• Ace and King high flops have a high success rate both in and out of position.
• Rainbow flops yield the highest c-bet success rate.
• Queen and Jack high flops have a high success rate only in position.
• In position, we should almost always be c-bet bluffing.
• Out of position, we need to c-bet bluff more selectively.

Before we get into situations where you may want to refrain from continuation betting, let’s look at a few examples of situations where you almost never want to forgo firing away:

Example #11.1: C-betting Ace high boards

No-Limit Hold’em, \$0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG (\$10.62)
HJ (\$68.23)
CO (\$77.13)
Hero (Button) (\$14.25)
SB (\$47.25) 39/8/22 Folds to flop c-bet 48% BB (\$52)

Preflop: Hero is Button with J♠, 5♦
3 folds, Hero bets \$1, SB calls \$0.75, 1 fold

Flop: (\$2.50) 3♥, A♣, 7♠ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets \$1.25, 1 fold
Ace high flops are the consummate boards to continuation bet bluff. Weaker players always seem to think everyone has an Ace when one flops and will be a lot less reluctant to continue, especially on dry boards.
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Example #11.2: C-betting dry low card boards No-Limit Hold’em, \$0.50 BB (5 handed)

HJ (\$61.95)

Hero (CO) (\$14.25)

Button (\$51.92) SB (\$47.75) BB (\$50)

Preflop: Hero is CO with 9♥, 10♦
1 fold, Hero bets \$1, 2 folds, BB calls \$0.50

Flop: (\$2.25) 7♣, 3♠, 5♥ (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets \$1.13, 1 fold
Low card flops also lend themselves to a high flop c-bet success. Most players’ flat calling range largely consists of high cards, thus allowing you almost the same rate of c-betting success as generated by Ace high boards. ____________________________________________________________

Example #11.3: C-betting unconnected boards

No-Limit Hold’em, \$0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG (\$54)
HJ (\$61.07)
CO (\$38.29)
Hero (Button) (\$18.20) SB (\$50)

BB (\$41.70)
Preflop: Hero is Button with Q♠, 9♠

2 folds, CO calls \$0.50, Hero bets \$1.50,2 folds, CO calls \$1

Flop: (\$3.75) 2♠, 6♣, J♥ (2 players)
CO checks, Hero bets \$1.88,1 fold
There are very few hand combinations that hit this unconnected board. You can expect your c-bet success to be very high in this instance.
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Example #11.4: C-betting paired boards

No-Limit Hold’em, \$0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG (\$57.05)
HJ (\$163.40)
CO (\$9.36)
Button (\$49.75) Hero (SB) (\$14.50) BB (\$22.50)

Preflop: Hero is SB with 9♣, 2♥
4 folds, Hero bets \$1, BB calls \$0.50

Flop: (\$2) 3♠, Q♦, 3♣ (2 players)
Hero bets \$1, 1 fold
Paired boards yield among the highest c-bet success of any texture. Exactly what holding is the villain going to like on this flop? Blind-versus-blind, pairs are likely to reraise pre-flop, so unless he has Qx or 3x, he is not going to fancy this flop.
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Example #11.5: C-betting in position No-Limit Hold’em, \$0.50 BB (4 handed)

Hero (CO) (\$15.75)

Button (\$104.61) SB (\$19.50)
BB (\$140.68)

Preflop: Hero is CO with 7♥, A♥ Hero bets \$1, 2 folds, BB calls \$0.50

Flop: (\$2.25) 8♣ J♦, 10♣ (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets \$1.13, 1 fold
At first glance, this appears to be a horrible spot to c-bet, since it obviously connects with a ton of different hand combinations. However, being in position can trump many other negative factors. Most opponents will be ill to continue on this board with 2nd or 3rd pair as well as a lot of hands that are tying or beating us such as A2-A7, 22-77. Even if we get floated, there are a ton of turn cards that we can barrel. When heads up, it is almost always a mistake to not c-bet bluff in position versus most opponents no matter what the board texture is.
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When To Avoid C-Bet Bluffing

Sometimes it is better to wave the white flag. Here are a few situations in which you will want to refrain from continuation betting as a bluff.

#1: Against More Than One Caller

Against multiple callers, a continuation bet will work much less often and, as a result, fold equity will be diminished. This is because in multi-way pots, there are two or more ranges opposing you in the pot, thus increasing the likelihood that someone connected with the board. As a side note, using the same logic, you should also be a lot less willing to play strong hands slowly against multiple opponents.

#2: Against Calling Stations

Due to reduced fold equity, your c-bet bluffing frequency should be much lower against players with no fold button. As the saying that you’ve probably heard a million times goes, never bluff a calling station. However, if your hand has a reasonable chance to improve and your opponent has shown a tendency to float flops and give up on later streets, then a multiple barrel bluff can be a gold mine for you.

And while you should not be c-bet bluffing calling stations with a high frequency, you do need to expand your value betting range against them. Against true calling stations, value betting tier 3 hands should be fairly standard, especially on draw heavy boards. Just remember to check back the river, unless your hand improves. You will be amazed at the types of holdings some players will call multiple barrels with.

#3: Out Of Position Against Aggressive Opponents

Against tough regulars who like to frequently float and raise flops, it is okay to check-fold a large percentage of the time. If you find that a particular player to your left is calling your raises in position consistently and playing back at you on a variety of flops, do not hesitate to sit out and find another table. If I find myself in this type of situation, just as I do against calling stations, I will widen my value range. I find it especially lucrative to use a check-shove line with a variety of tier 2 and 3 hands. Once you have a history with this type of opponent and have check-shoved on him multiple times, you may want to begin c-betting with a polarized range and never check-fold. In other words, c-bet tier 1 and 4 and check-shove tier 2 and 3.

#4: On Boards That Nail Your Opponent’s Range

Typically, on boards heavy with potential draws, it is okay to not c-bet, especially out of position. Example flops include something like 7♣5♣8♣ or Q♥J♦9♥. These types of boards connect with a lot of ranges, and your c-bet success will be much lower as a consequence.

#5: When You Connect And Your Opponent’s Range Is Weak

Iamnottalkingaboutslow-playingnuthandshere. Iamtalkingaboutgoingforadelayedc-betwhen your opponent’s range is weak on the flop, and the turn is unlikely to change anything. A6 on an A44 board is a good example. On this type of board, your c-bet will generally work over 70% of the time. The only time you will tend to get action on the flop is when you are beat, so a delayed c-bet is warranted in order to increase the potential of getting at least one street of value from worse hands while at the same time mitigating your losses when you are behind.

If you check back the flop and your opponent leads out on the turn, you almost never want to raise. I much prefer a call call line on the turn and river. Out of position, a check-call check-call check-fold line (not BvB) might be best, unless your opponent has shown a tendency to fire multiple barrel bluffs when checked to.

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The decision to c-bet bluff all comes down to fold equity. And while I am a proponent of relentless c-betting, you must remain mindful of the situations where you are just burning money. That being said, many of the above reasons not to c-bet can be trumped by other factors. I am mainly talking about if your opponent(s) are complete post-flop nits. If facing one or two players and they fold to c- bet more than 70%, I am firing a c-bet, no matter the board.

After you play a few hundred thousand hands, you will begin to gain a 6th sense about these matters. You will obtain an uncanny ability to know how your opponent will react to your c-bets, and you will be able to adjust your strategy, as necessary, on demand.