The most profitable bluff in poker…
There are many aspects of Texas hold’em that need to be mastered to become a profitable poker player. Starting hand selection, betting, raising, check raising, slow playing, hand reading, and bluffing…just to name a few.
But there is one particular type of bluff that is absolutely necessary to master. It is the most frequently used, lowest risk, most profitable bluff in Hold’em. It is the Continuation bet.
The continuation bet, or “C-bet”, allows you to use selective aggression to maintain control of a hand after the flop has hit. So how exactly does one do this?
Well, first you have to establish control, and this is done preflop. It’s quite simple… raise your hand preflop rather than just calling the blinds. This generally allows the preflop raiser to establish control. Since you are communicating to the rest of your table that you have a strong hand, most other players will fold, or just call. By being the first to raise the pot preflop, you have established the lead, and are in control.
Now, since a non-paired hand will pair on the flop about 32% of the time, this means that 68% of the time, the flop will miss your hand…but it will also miss your opponents hand 68% of the time as well! So, this presents a great opportunity to bet a decent amount, knowing that your opponent will generally have missed the flop, it will be very hard for him to call and continue on with not even bottom pair.
This is really the magic of the continuation bet. Whether or not you make a hand on the flop, being the first to bet the flop will generally force a fold from your opponent, as long as you established the lead preflop.
So, once the flop hits and you are first to act, betting 1/2 – 2/3 the pot will generally take it down right there. This is small enough bet to preserve your stack, but large enough to give incorrect odds for calling most draws.
If you are last to act, and your opponents check to you, bet 1/2 – 2/3 the pot. It’s the same as before, except in this hand you have position on them as well!
By establishing the lead preflop, you are saying you have a strong hand. Once the flop hits and you continuation bet, you are really telling your opponents, “I have a strong hand, and I will make you pay to see the next card, and possible pay all the way to the river”.
Unless your opponent has a real hand (which they usually won’t), you will take down the pot.
As usual in poker, it doesn’t matter so much what hand you have…it matters more what hand your opponent has. The C-bet will force them to fold their frequently weak hand, even though yours is just as frequently weak. Remember, selective aggression forces players to give up pots…and to make a profit in poker, you need to win more than your fair share of pots!
And, as usual in poker, this strategy is an effective, but not perfect strategy. There are three situations when it loses effectiveness:
- Many people see the flop. C-betting works best against 1 opponent, maybe 2. If 3 or more see the flop, you can be fairly sure someone hit something they like, and a 1/2 a pot bet won’t force a fold.
- The flop is very coordinated. Continuation betting works well when a flop is Ace, 8, 2 rainbow. It looks like you hit your Ace. But, if the flop is 9 of clubs, Ten of clubs, Jack of clubs, it is very likely that someone will stick around to see if the next card makes their straight or flush.
- You have been C-betting, or bluffing a lot in general. If the rest of the table starts to see you as a bluffer, they will call you down with little more than Ace or King high sometimes.
I generally aim to C-bet about 75% – 80% of the time…which is just enough to bet most of my real hands, some of my small pocket pairs, some of my draws, and a few stone cold bluffs. this keeps opponents guessing, 100% c-betting is just asking someone to go to show down with you.
Like all things in poker, practice makes perfect. However, once you master the continuation bet, your will have a new tool to build up your chipstack with!