First off, what is a continuation bet? This is when a player bets the minimum bet after the flop. If the blinds are 20/40 the player would bet 40 into the pot.
Players use this bet for several reasons.
- they may have hit nothing on the flop and are puting out the single bet to see if anyone else has hit (information bet). They want to see if they can force people out of the pot. Normally a raise will cause the initial bettor to fold.
- they HAVE hit the flop, and are trying to beef up the pot. In this case they will hope that others will call. If they have the nuts after the flop with no dangerous draws showing they will want as many people to stay as possible.
- they have caught a drawing hand on the flop and are trying to beef it up in the hope they make their draw on the turn or river.
Continuation bets are more commonly seen in low stakes games by pretty novice players but can be used to great effect by good players also. So how do you deal with the continuation bet?
I normally find that when someone plays the continuation bet, there is normally 4 or 5 people in the hand. In my experience, most of the time they have hit the flop, but usually it’s only middle or bottom pair they have hit. They want to see another card as cheaply as possible, so their idea is to bet out first to make the other players think they could be holding a decent hand. They know that the other players will be wary of the bet, even though it is the minimum. In low stakes games you will find that most of the players will only call this bet or fold.
The best way to deal with the bet is to test the water yourself. Raise up the pot. Don’t go gung-ho and go all-in though, just in case they do have a hand. I would suggest a half-pot raise. If, they come over the top of you then you have an easy fold. If they call, the chances are that they are chasing a draw. In this case you have to bet out again after the turn if no draws are apparent. I find that betting after the turn is enough to make them muck their cards if they only had a drawing hand. If they call, then I would be very wary. Unless you have a decent hand, I would play very cautiously.
I have to admit that I don’t use the continuation bet very often, unless its against players who I know will fold if they haven’t hit the flop. If I happen to hit the flop, then I raise it up between twice the BB and the size of the pot. You need to make people pay to see more cards. I’m always an advocate of many small pots being just as significant as one large pot, so I don’t care if everyone folds around to me. Letting people see more cards on the cheap can be a recipe for disaster, so for that reason alone I would not advocate using the continuation bet unless you have the absolute nuts after the flop.
An information bet is exactly what it says on the tin – you are trying to gain information from the other players in the hand. It is slightly different from the continuation bet as normally you won’t put out a single bet. You can use it to bluff or as a semi-bluff.
This can be a very effective bet for taking down pots, especially in games $5 and up. As we know, at these levels you will see slightly less of the pure novice/bingo players/chasers etc. The higher the buy in, the better calibre of player you will meet. You will start to see slightly more cautious players, who tend not to chase just as much. These are the players you are aiming for.
Information bets are akin to the stock market – sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate! Now I’m not saying you should bet out with wild abandon, but by picking your spots carefully – especially once you know how the other players are playing – can bring huge dividends.
So, when and how do you use these information bets? You are involved in a pot with a few other players and you are in late position. The flop is , and it checks around to you. You are holding . Do you also check to see the turn card? Hell no! Bet into the pot! But, as I said earlier, don’t go mad. I only bet out ½ to ¾ of the pot or 2 – 3 x the big blind, whichever is smaller. You don’t want to get commited to the pot. If you are called, I would be thinking overcards. If you are raised then I think you are beat, so an easy fold. But you will find most will muck their cards if they haven’t hit.
Whatever happens, you gain the information you want.
Another occasion you can use the info bet is by betting your drawing hands. A lot of players tend to check their drawing hands. They want to catch a free card. Don’t do it! If you are holding any gutshot or flush draw, bet out – even if you are first to act. Same rules apply. A call could be a pair or also on a draw. A raise could mean top pair or better and it would be time to get out (unless pot odds dictate otherwise). This is more commonly known as a semi-bluff, but it is an information bet. You are betting really to see how strong your hand is… trying to gain information from the other players. But at the same time you DO have a chance of completing your hand.
Don’t play these bets too often though. Good players can and will pick up on you so choose your spots. Always be wary if you are called. Chances are that you are behind in the hand. Don’t use these bets if you are shortstacked. When shortstacked, you are ideally looking for a hand that you can go all-in with. Using a continuation or information bet could be costly as you will have more chance of being called. The bigger chipstacks will try to remove you, even if they are holding only overcards or bottom pair.
These are two strategy bets you should be adding to your game. You will find that they will pay dividends the majority of the time. If not in chips then definately in information.
As usual, comments are most welcome.