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To C-Bet or Not to C-Bet? That is the Question!

June 26, 2020
by Dave Roemer

As there have been a number of recent questions regarding continuation betting the flop as the preflop raiser, I thought it might be helpful to share one such situation that was presented recently along with my thoughts on whether or not the hero should C-bet and why.

This was posted in the #School_handreviews channel of the PokerStars Discord. If you’re not yet a member of the PokerStars Discord, you can join the server here: https://discord.com/invite/TE6CU2W

The poster stipulates they are a novice, working on their post flop skills, and they wish to discuss whether or not they should continuation bet on the flop. They write:

“We open preflop with Q♠ 10♠ from middle position (note: they were actually UTG 7 handed, early in a tournament with 75 big blinds effective), and the Lowjack flats. The flop comes 3♠ K♦ J♣ . Should we check or bet?”

The poster then went on to say they were thinking check because they don’t want to get raised off their strong draw, but also thinking bet because we have a good semi-bluffing hand, so they are not sure which is best.

I think this is a great candidate hand to include in our c-bet bluff range, for several reasons:

  • Our showdown value is relatively poor with Q high
  • We have good hand equity when called, with 8 clean outs to the nuts and a back door flush draw.
  • We have a distinct range advantage! We can reduce or rule out a number of the strongest hands from the villains range. Hands like AA/AK/KK/JJ would often 3-bet preflop, while we can easily hold all these as the preflop raiser.
  • We block a number of hands in villain’s preflop calling range that would continue vs. a c-bet and be hard to shake later in the hand. Hands like KQ, KT, QJ, JT are all reduced in combos since we hold QTs.

A couple other thoughts… we shouldn’t worry too much about “what if I get raised”, this is not going to happen at a high frequency, especially in spots where we have such a range advantage as to have all the nutted and strongest hands while our opponent really doesn’t. It’s just not enough of a threat to be a deterrent. There was also a poster who wanted to tie their action to reads, insisting if reads had been given then they’d act accordingly. Certainly, if we have definitive reads on our opponent we might tailor our action to exploit them in some way. The problem is, in poker we often won’t have any tangible reads. We meet new players at the tables all the time, especially online in micro and low buy in games. In tournaments, we pay play a limited time at a table with someone, only accumulating a nominal number of hands and not get seated with them again for months. It’s nice to have tangible, actionable reads, but this is often not going to be the case when making decisions, so it’s certainly not the place to start from when approaching whether or not to cbet.

Ultimately I think check-calling is fairly sub-optimal here. If we were going to construct a c-betting range with some balance of value bets and bluffs, I imaging QTs would sit squarely in the cbet bluff bucket. While I would like to include some draws in my checking range, it’s going to be hard to find much on this texture when we have so many value bets available and a strong range advantage in our favor. Perhaps a few combos of weaker draws with better showdown value would work better, like AQ or AT.

When trying to determine if you should c-bet the flop as the preflop raiser, think about things like how does my range and the villain’s range interact with this board. When considering betting for value, what worse hands can call? When considering betting as a bluff, how much fold equity do you rate to have? Do you have showdown value or not? All these things factored in to your decision will help strengthen your flop continuation betting game considerably.

What aspects or hand situations regarding flop continuation betting would you like to see addressed in a future article? Share your answers below!

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