Poker is a constantly evolving game and continuation bets are definitely a part of it.  It used to be a few years ago, that players would c-bet much higher % of flops (70-75%), but what players have noticed is that the odds of having a made hand on the flop are nowhere near this.  We have a pocket pair about 10% of the time and only hit about 1 in 3 flops, so that means that if a player is c-betting say 75% of the time… they just can’t have it a large percentage of the time. 

Since they won’t actually have anything over 30% of the time they c-bet if they’re c-betting this often, the way that players have adjusted is to correctly float flop bets more often or to raise them.  Floating can be very beneficial if the opp is used to c-betting the flop, but then playing honest poker later in the hand.  We can call the flop bet, then if the opp checks the turn, we can then try to take the pot away (if we’re going to try this play, we need to know that the opp has a fold button and won’t continue to barrel without a made hand).

So, if the opps that we’re playing are going to be calling our c-bets more often, how do we evolve to the next level and counteract this?  We have multiple options in doing so.

The first thing we can do is to not c-bet on wet boards and to not c-bet multiway pots that hit a caller’s range better than it does ours.  If we’re going to c-bet these situations, we’re just lighting chips on fire, as the opps are much more likely to have a real hand… and if they’re not going to fold a number of their misses, they’re obviously not going to fold a made hand.  

The second thing we can do is to check behind on the flop if we’re in position and delay our c-bet until the turn.  If we check behind on the flop and the opp checks the turn, we can pick up the pot by c-betting the turn, as an opp that checks twice normally doesn’t have anything (make a note on the player if they do check their made hands twice).  This also can create a second favorable situation because we will want to balance out our range and check back with both our misses and our made hands.  When we do it with a made hand, it also gives the opps a chance to bluff the turn, which gets an extra bet out of them.  Then, we can either call (especially if we think the opp might fire again on the river) or we can raise the turn (against a player that may be passive or a player that we think may be bluffing or making a blocking bet to try and price in a draw).

The third thing we can do, is to alter our bet sizes, especially on dry boards.  I’ve lowered a number of my c-bets against one opp from half pot, down to 33-40% of pot (some players even go down to 25% but in the MTTs that I play most often, I think this is a bit too low) on the flop, or down to half pot from 66% on a wet board, especially if I block some of the possible combo draws.  I’ll also drop them in multiway pots as long as I don’t expect to see a cascade of calls.  A big key with this is that we don’t want to bet too small if the opp is stationy and we have a made hand, or we don’t have blockers if there are a number of combo draws in their range, as we still want to give them the wrong odds to try to outdraw us, but not charge them quite as much.  In some cases, the opps could be getting a good price to outdraw us if they have one specific hand, but I want to look at what their entire range is… not just one hand.  Although, if the opp’s range is narrowed down to only a very few hand combinations and they do have the larger draws as the majority of their range, then I’ll bump the bet sizes back to the larger sizings.  I won’t change the bet sizings based on my holding, but will be based on what the board and the opp’s perceived range is.

Lowering the bet sizes will also be a huge help in late game scenarios or say in the sit and go’s that I play, as players are a lot shorter stacked.  I grind turbo sng’s in blocks of 100 and when you get near the endgame (sometimes even halfway thru), everyone is extremely short.  In these scenarios, I have found many spots to use the much smaller sizings (25-30%) as even a small bet postflop will commit many of the players at the tables, especially if there is an additional bet on the turn or river.  Another benefit to making the smaller sizes is that I can make plays at the pot in more hands before I’m pot-committed and have to shove.  Even if it allows me an extra play in just one hand, if I can take that pot down with it, it will make my stack much more playable and then give me even more options for future hands.

To give you an example of how this has worked for me, I’ve pulled some of my numbers from PT4 and this year, I’m c-betting 54% of the time (down from 59.6% in 2016 and just over 70% five years ago).  I am winning less pots with my c-bets on the flop, down from 47% last year to 44% this year, BUT… when I add in the delayed c-bets (which are taking down over 2/3 of the pots where I make this play), my total for hands where either my c-bet or delayed c-bet takes down the pot has risen to where I’m taking down 61.3% of these pots on the flop or turn.  That’s a dramatic increase and a ton of extra chips in my stack!

It will be interesting to see how many players are using the smaller bets when I go to Las Vegas to play in the WSOP Marathon next month, as I expected to see more of this last year in the HPT main events that I won my way into ($1650’s)… but I didn’t see the players making these plays basically at all.  Everyone was overbetting everything instead of betting smaller, which can easily be exploitable if we can pick up a hand and have it hold.