In the previous two articles, I outlined the theory of continuation betting and gave you some advice on assessing fold equity on various board textures. In this piece, I'll detail some example situations, replete with holecards and villain tendencies, so you can better understand the kind of thought process you should undertake at the table. In each case, I'll make an assessment on hero's hand strength relative to the board and opponents' ranges, estimate the fold equity, and weigh up the pros and cons of c-betting. I'll reveal my plan for each situation (having a plan for your hand is crucial to +EV poker) and provide the bet-size I choose if I plan to c-bet. Bet sizes will range from “small” (around half pot) to “large” (pot-sized). In part 10 of this ABC guide I showed you how to set up buttons for quickly betting a certain percentage of the pot, and it is these buttons I use when making a c-bet.
I'm not going to claim that my action plan in each of the example situations is perfect, but I think it will be close to the so-called “standard line” that ABC players should aim for. I'll be happy to discuss each example in my blog thread on the forum, and I might post some more examples in quiz form to generate debate.

 

I've divided the situations below into four sections:
  1. C-betting for value.
  2. C-betting as a semi-bluff.
  3. C-betting as a bluff or dead money grab.
  4. Skipping the c-bet opportunity.

1. C-betting for value.

Pre-flop action: Hero raises UTG. An unknown player calls on the button and a semi-loose passive villain calls in the BB. The flop comes

Hero's hand strength: TPTK on a two-tone board with no possibility of a flopped straight is a strong holding, as it is losing to very few combos.
Flop texture: Neither very wet or particularly dry. It contains two middling cards and a flush draw, but the only open-ended straight draws are for T8 and 86. JT has a concealed 8-out draw (a double-gutter). Various gutshots connect with this board (e.g. QJ) but even an SLP knows to fold a naked gutshot on the flop.
Assessment of fold equity: Fairly high. The king is a scare card for worse pairs, and villains can definitely put hero on AK, as he raised in EP. Nevertheless, flush draws are always calling, as are weaker kings, and hands like A9s. One villain is somewhat stationy, so will often call at least one bet if he has any piece of the board or an undepair.
Plan: C-bet for value, expecting to get called by worse, with a further barrel to be fired on safe (non-club) turn cards. Hero will generally fold if he gets check-raised by the SLP, as this villain doesn't get aggro with flush draws; he only raises with hands that beat TPTK.
Bet-size: Medium. Since the flop is not particularly wet, hero is targeting worse made hands and flush draws. If it was heads up, then a small bet will do, but multiway means we are more likely to get action, so we should make a larger value bet.

Pre-flop: A loose passive calling station limps in UTG+1, hero iso-raises with in the HJ. Everyone else folds, the limper calls and checks the flop, which is


Hero's hand strength: Top set is the second nuts, as it's only losing to T8 that flopped a straight.
Flop texture: Very wet, since a made straight is possible. There's a flush draw and any middle-ranking cards have some sort of pair or draw.
Fold Equity: Low. Many hands connect to this board, and the villain is a calling station.
Plan: Never slowplay here. Take the calling station on an expensive trip to Valuetown.
Bet-size: Large. This is a spot where betting 100% of pot is appropriate. If the villain calls, I would make another large bet on most turn cards, planning to value-jam most rivers.

C-betting as a semi-bluff.

Pre-flop: Hero raises in the CO, a nitty set-miner calls in the SB, everyone else folds. The flop comes

Flop hand strength: Hero has king high, but flopped a huge combo-draw with the NFD and a gutshot to Broadway. The kings and jacks may be also be outs if the villain called pre with a pocket pair like 99.
Flop texture: Although it connects well with hero's hand, this flop is actually fairly dry, with no OESDs. It's also impossible for villain to have the NFD with Axs.
Pros of c-betting: It's a heads up pot, and villain checked to hero, who has position. Villain is a nit, so possesses a FOLD button. King high has no showdown value, but with the monster draw it is currently a favourite to beat one pair. Since there is an ace on the flop, this flop connects well with the PFR's range, and it scares underpairs. There are no good draws, other than the one hero has, so fold equity is high.
Cons of c-betting: None.
Hero's plan: Bet as a semi-bluff and plan to get all in on the flop if villain raises. The few hands than villain can raise for value are sets (TT, 55) two pairs (ATs, A5s) and maybe TPTK, and we have decent equity to stack off against those once we've put some money in the middle. If villain just calls the c-bet, we should barrel most turn cards. (If we make a straight/flush we can bet for value, but betting on blank turns should get villain off a pocket pair. Even if villain stations with top pair, we still have outs).
Bet-size: Medium. Anything less might not generate enough fold equity to get villain off a pair. We also want to start building a pot for when we make the nuts and stack the nit's two pairs/set.

C-betting as a bluff or dead money grab (DMG).

Pre-flop: Hero raises in the CO. An unknown calls on the button, and a TAG reg in the BB also calls. Both villains check the flop, which is

 

Hand strength: Fourth pair is a very weak hand with just two outs and virtually no SDV. It is basically air.
Flop texture: This is a dry flop; a rainbow with only one OESD (76).
Pros of c-betting as a DMG: The dry flop doesn't connect very well with the ranges of the villains, and hero can represent top pair.
Cons of c-betting: It's multiway, and the bluff has to get through 2 players, one of whom has position. The TAG may recognise that the flop is dry, so he might float OOP, or make a move with an underpair.
Plan: Our c-bet success rate won't be all that high in this spot, but the math says to give it a try. We can c-bet on a one-and-done basis, giving up unless we hit our 2-outer on the turn. Snap-fold if we get raised.
Bet-size: Small. 55% of pot will do. We don't plan to go to showdown or play a big pot here. We want to make a bet that has a decent chance of getting both villains to fold. If we get called, we're either already way behind, or villain has outs, and there are basically no good turn cards for us to barrel, as we won't know where we are. We want to lose the minimum if we're behind, so a small bet is appropriate.

Pre-flop: Hero raises  on the button. A TAG calls in the BB. The flop comes

Hand strength: Very weak. With six-high and nothing but a gutshot and a backdoor flush draw, we obviously have no SDV.
Flop texture: This is pretty ragged. It doesn't connect with many common holdings, but also doesn't scare many either. The TAG in the BB can have many pocket pairs that like this flop. It doesn't hit a PFR's range at all, other than TT+.
Fold equity: Very low when villain has a pair, but very high if he defended his BB with two broadways.
Pros of c-bet bluffing: We're heads up in position against a villain with a FOLD button. Villain missed this flop if he has any two Broadways that didn't make top pair.
Cons: We're not repping much when we bet, as hands like AK completely missed.
Plan: Take a stab on the flop, and put villain on a pair if he calls. Try and barrel him off it if the turns brings us some additional outs. Bet for value if we hit our gutshot. We'll fold to a flop check-raise, obviously. If villain is good enough to spot this is a good situation to check-raise bluff, then fair play to him. He's not doing it with worse than six high, anyway, so he can have the little pot.
Bet-size: Small. If we happen to turn the nuts, we can always bet big there and get paid by pairs/sets, because villain will never put us on 65.

Pre-flop: A LAG raises in the CO. Hero 3-bets in the BB with . The LAG flats in position and the flop comes

Hand strength: Two overcards is not particularly strong in a 3-bet pot. A tighter villain will usually have a medium pocket pair when he calls in position, but a LAG will have some suited Broadways too.
Flop texture: Fairly dry, with no OESDs. Hero holds the , so villain is less likely to have the nut flush draw. (If villain's range is Broadways and pairs only, he'd need precisely or , which is just two combos).
Fold equity: Reasonable, because our 3-bet reps hands like QQ+. Villain can't really call a bet if he has less than top pair, and he hardly ever has a good draw on this board.
Pros of c-betting: Villain will fold often, because calling a flop bet in a 3-bet pot will make him pot-committed, which is not something he wants to do with an underpair or a draw. Hero can also pick up the NFD on the turn.
Cons of c-betting: We're out of position, will be bloating a pot with ace high, and might not even have 6 outs.
Plan: You should generally be c-betting with a high frequency in 3-bet pots, because there is so much dead money in the pot. Checking is too weak, and allows the villain in position to steal the pot with any two cards, so the plan is to fire out a bet on most boards. Since there's certainly some fold equity here (and AK might have outs if it's behind) betting is +EV. If villain calls, you're usually behind, and will have to check-fold the turn if it's a blank.
Bet-size: A standard size for a c-bet in 3-bet pots is half pot, whether you have a hand with equity or not. The stack to pot ratio is usually so low in 3-bet pots that a villain will be pot-committed if he calls on the flop. Since he doesn't want to get pot-committed with less than top pair, he'll often fold all worse hands than that.
I think I'll have to write a whole post just about 3-bet pots in the future, because they play somewhat differently to single-raised pots, so look out for that.

Skipping the c-betting opportunity.

Pre-flop: A calling station limps in the CO. Hero raises in the SB and an unknown in the BB calls, as does the calling station. Flop comes

Hand strength: Queen high on a paired board with nothing but an overcard and a backdoor draw is weak, especially multiway.
Flop texture: Pretty dry, with no draws, but not at all scary for a range of pairs and overcards.
Pros of c-betting: We have very little SDV, and few outs to improve, so betting is our only chance of winning the pot and this board is hard for villains to hit.
Cons of c-betting: Our isolation raise failed, and we've ended up OOP in a multiway pot; with at least one calling station in the pot. We have little fold equity on this board, as even ace high (which beats us) is usually calling. Since the pot is multiway, any bet will need be a larger proportion of our stack than usual. It's a high risk, low reward scenario.
Plan: No need to c-bet here. We can check and fold. If we're lucky, both villains will check, meaning they probably don't have a made hand, so both our cards may be live. We could make a delayed c-bet if the turn improves us or brings flush/straight outs, but a relatively blank turn could be good to bet too, as this seems like an orphan pot just waiting for someone to adopt it.
Bet-size: None at all. Just give up

Pre-flop: A semi-loose passive limps in MP1 and hero raises on the button. A nit calls in the SB and the SLP also calls. Both villains check a flop of

Hand strength: The “ace magnets” have done their usual thing and turned a monster pre-flop into much less than a monster on the flop. KK is the best possible hand that is worse than top pair on this flop. We don't want to play a big pot here with second pair and only 2 outs, but we have some SDV, so we'd like to get to showdown as cheaply as possible, and maybe get some value from worse hands.
Flop texture: This is a super-dry flop. There are no draws, unless you include junk like 54 that has a gutshot to the wheel.
Fold equity: Actually quite high, because the ace is a scare card and the board is dry.
Pros and cons of c-betting: We are in position and have some fold equity, but we have a hand with some value. We don't want villains to fold if we have the best hand! The SLP has many aces in his range, so we don't want to build a pot if he has us beat.
Plan: Many players would automatically c-bet here and it's a mistake. By betting, you are essentially turning KK into a bluff, but it's a pointless bluff, because better hands are never folding! When you bet this flop, the only hands that call are Ax and sets. Sure, you can bet and find out you're losing, thus saving you from putting money in the pot on later streets, but betting for this information is pointless. (See Dave's blog). The plan is to try and get one or two streets of value from worse hands. You do this by checking behind. Think about it. If a villain has a hand like 99 and you check this flop. He'll think “Hero doesn't have an ace, so my nines are probably the best hand”. Villain might also have a hand like QJ that could make a second-best pair if it's given a free card. On the turn, villain may bet and you can call, or he might check-call a bet of yours. Naturally, sometimes one of the villains has an ace. If you feel that's what he has when he bets the turn and river, you can fold the river after only putting money in the pot on one street. Often, the fact that you call the turn will freeze a villain holding a medium pair. He'll have second thoughts and wonder if you have the ace after all. This means you can get to showdown for just one bet. You might have had dreams of winning a big pot with your cowboys pre-flop, but you have to change your plan when the flop is bad for your hand. Try and get to showdown and win a small pot, not lose a big one. 
Bet-sizing: Nothing on the flop. Bet small on the turn where appropriate. Remember this situation, as it comes up quite often: In position with KK on a dry ace-high flop, you should check behind.

Pre-flop: Hero raises in UTG+1 and is called by a semi-LAG in the CO. The blinds fold. Flop comes

Hand strength: As with the KK example, you have a marginal hand with showdown value on this flop, but this time your second pair has more ways to improve, and you're out of position.
Flop texture: This is a fairly dry flop. JT is open-ended, but that's about the only decent draw. A s-LAG on the button is likely to be holding a pocket pair or suited connector, and he saw the flop intending to crack hero's overpair or put him under pressure with a semi-bluff raise or a float. He can't make those plays if you don't bet the flop.
Pros and cons of c-betting: We're heads up and villain is capable of folding, but we're OOP with a hand with some SDV. We could bet here and expect to take the pot down sometimes, but that doesn't maximise value if we're ahead. We certainly don't want to fire three barrels with second pair, and getting raised off our equity is the last thing we want.
Plan: We can check here, in order to keep the pot-size under control, and to sometimes get value from worse. By checking, our hand looks like JJ/TT that hates the flop and is planning to fold. A s-LAG will often bet with his entire range when we check, and most of that range is losing to second pair top kicker. (Villain has very few kings in his button-calling range). When OOP with a medium strength hand, we can check to induce bluffs which we will call. Note that there are no cards that can come on the turn that scare us. We'll still have at least second pair, but may improve to two pairs or trips, or pick up some backdoor outs. If villain decides to check behind, because he can't bring himself to bet with 98s or 77, then we can make a delayed c-bet for value, targeting various worse pairs, and any draws villain may have picked up on the turn. If villain bets the flop and turn, we'll give him credit for top pair and will give up on the turn, having only called on one street.
Bet-size: None. Check-call, and bet small on the turn if villain checks back the flop.

Pre-flop: Hero raises in MP1 and is called by a LP in the CO, a TAG on the button, and a nit in the BB. The flop comes

Hand strength: Two overcards and no draw whatsoever is a weak hand, especially multiway.
Flop texture: This is a soaking wet flop with three cards that connect well. It's possible for one of the villains to have flopped a straight, but the ranges of all three villains include pairs, sets, two pairs and draws on this board.
Fold equity: Very low indeed. A c-bet here is unlikely to be successful. At least one of the three players is bound to call, and there might even be a raise.
Pros of c-betting: None.
Cons of c-betting: Two villains have position on you in this multiway pot. One is a calling station that is incapable of folding any pair or draw.
Plan: Check-fold. You have very few clean outs, and could even be drawing dead already.
Bet-size: None. It's check-fold all the way.

Note that in the past couple of articles, I've included several spots where c-betting isn't advised, because the board is very wet, the action is multiway, and/or hero is out of position. I hope this hasn't put you off from c-betting entirely, because as we saw in the theory article, c-betting is a profitable play in the long run. In many situations when the route to profit is not obvious, betting should be your go-to play. “If in doubt, bet” might sound glib, but, with regard to c-betting, it's not bad advice. You should usually be inclined to make a c-bet unless there are a number of factors that make it unwise. After all, an optimal c-bet percentage is somewhere in the range 50-75%, so you should be making the play more often than not.

In later articles, I'll give advice on playing the turn and river, but my next ABC article will be more generic. I'll be detailing the most common mistakes that are made by 2NL players. If you recognise that you make a few of them yourself, hopefully you'll take steps to fix the leaks.

Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome as usual. Please post in my blog thread on the forum. Till then, good luck on the virtual felt!