HOW TO USE YOUR HUD: Continuation Betting

The continuation-bet statistic determines how often someone bets on the flop after they were the preflop raiser. On later streets, the statistic is defined as “turn continuation bet” or “river continuation bet.” Typically, if there is no indicator at the beginning of the “continuation bet” descriptor, it indicates a flop continuation bet.

The flop continuation bet tells you a lot about a player. When I am sitting at a live tournament and I see a guy raise, get called, and just check/fold the flop I pay special attention to him. Amateurs believe they have to win every pot. Professionals are looking to make money, and they understand the dollars they save will go into their bottom line as well. The kids who are desperate to prove themselves worthy to sit at high stakes felt will flail with continuation bets that had no positive expectation. It is in this arena you will take the most money from these unseasoned professionals.

A continuation bet percentage of 75% or higher means someone who continuation bets regularly when they miss. You only hit the board 33% of the time. If you continuation bet 75% of the time we can figure out how often you don’t have a hand by calculating 33/75 = 0.44. You have a hand approximately 44% of the time if you never pot control with a single hand, and if you consider third pair a betting hand. That indicates that 56% of the time you have nothing. Someone can close their eyes versus you heads-up, raise to the size of the pot, and their gigantic bet needs to work only 50% of the time. If you are not defending fifth pair and high cards you are unlikely to be defending enough of the time.

As the continuation bet gets higher, 80% or 90%, this ratio only gets worse. The player is more exploitable, which is why you’ll notice most good cash game regulars have a continuation bet of around 60%. This is a tough cookie. This player could conceivably be betting 33% of the time with a hand, 33% of the time without, and mixing up their 33% range of checks with showdown value and nothing. Do you know what to do against that kind of range? No, I don’t either.

Lower than that indicates a person who is unbalanced in the wrong direction. If you’re in the habit of continuation betting your good hands, as most of us are, but your continuation bet is 40%, then you’re going to have a problem. You’ve hit a hand 33% of the time, and 33/40 = 0.825. You have a hand 82.5% of the time! If you check some of your value combinations and throw in some bluffs it’s still going to be hard not to get this ratio to be so value-driven. Your hand range is going to contain mostly made hands, your statistics will reflect it, and most thinking players will fold. You will be exploited.

It is important that you put the continuation-bet statistics of multiple streets next to each other on your main HUD. You want to see how much someone follows through.

If their flop continuation bet is 80%+ but their turn is 30% you know it’s there that they become honest. You can flat them on the flop and plan to do something on the turn. If you don’t have the number readily available you’re likely to miss it.

A word to the wise: I have heard countless players tell me, “It’s okay I don’t have it on my HUD. It’s in a pop-up.” That means close to nothing. Practically every statistic you can think of is in one pop-up or another, especially if you have NoteCaddy. That doesn’t mean you look at them. Of the players who tell me that it’s okay, they have a pop-up, I almost always find hands that prove they’re clearly not paying attention to the statistic. In some cases it’s because they are making an excuse for their laziness. Others are simply human. In the heat of the action it’s much easier to look at a number that is staring us straight in the face. If we have to dig through a pop-up it’s understandably less likely we’ll see it when we only have a few seconds multitabling. You watch the continuation-bet statistics, and find where the guy becomes honest. His truthful street tends to be when his continuation bet is 30% or around there, since he’ll have a hand around that percentage of the time.

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