POKER TIPS & STRATEGY

What is a Continuation Bet (C-Bet) and Why Does it Matter?

By David Huber
September 14, 2023

A continuation bet in poker is one of the most common decisions that any player will be faced with upon raising preflop and getting one or more callers. A poker cbet is often viewed as necessary in community card flop games such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha, and can be a highly effective tool for preflop raisers once the first three community cards are dealt.

In this article, we will provide a basic explanation of what a poker cbet is, how it can be used, as well as the potential pros and cons that come with cbet poker.

c-betting strategy

What is a cbet in Poker?

A continuation bet (cbet) in poker is defined as a postflop bet that is placed by an original preflop raiser in community card games. Here is a sample $2/$5 No Limit Texas Hold’em hand that shows an example of a continuation bet.

Player 1 (Under the Gun)
Player 2 (Cutoff)
Player 3 (Button)
Player 4 (Posts Small Blind of $2)
Player 5 (Posts Big Blind of $5)

Player 1: As-Ac
Player 2: Ks-3h
Player 3: 5c-5d
Player 4: 8s-2h
Player 5: 5h-4h

Player 1 raises the action preflop to $15. Player 2 folds. Player 3 calls. Player 4 folds. Player 5 folds. There is now $37 in the pot – only Player 1 and Player 3 remain in the hand.

FLOP CARDS: Kh-6s-Td

The action is on Player 1, who c-bets (continuation bets) $25 into the $37 pot. Player 3 now has the option to either call the continuation bet, fold, or raise the continuation bet.

Telling a Story with a Poker Continuation Bet

Once you’ve mastered the basics of Texas Hold’em rules, you begin to learn that the primary idea behind a poker c-bet is that the original preflop raiser has a reason to raise – a strong starting hand.

This poker hand “story” is progressed on the flop when the original preflop raiser leads out with a Continuation Bet. In some cases, a player may view a c-bet as a way to partially shield against being out of position for the remainder of the hand (if the original preflop raise was called by one or more players who will have superior position during postflop betting action).

Let’s take the hypothetical hand above and assume that Player 5 – the Big Blind – decided to call the preflop raise, which would make the total pot amount $47 by the time the flop is dealt.

Player 5 is very likely to check the action to begin the first postflop betting round – perhaps even in anticipation that Player 1 will throw out a c-bet. Player 1 indeed Continuation Bets (let’s say $30 into the $47 pot), which immediately puts Player 3’s pocket fives in a tough spot.

It will cost Player 3 an additional $30 to remain in the pot and attempt to hit a set of fives on the Turn or River (assuming Player 3 is behind in the hand, which happens to be the case here). Even worse, Player 3 has no guarantee that Player 1 can be bluffed off the hand if a subsequent 5 does not hit the board on the Turn or River. So Player 3 might fold to Player 1’s continuation bet.

This leaves Player 5, who has backdoor flush and straight draws on the flop. If Player 5 decides to call Player 1’s continuation bet, the hand progresses to the Turn with a total pot of $107. A raise could possibly “test” Player 1’s willingness to commit more chips into the pot, while a fold would immediately award the entire pot to Player 1.

Continuation Bet: Single Barrel, Double Barrel, and Triple Barrel

The Continuation Bet that an original preflop raiser makes on the flop is typically referred to as a Single Barrel. Again, let’s go to our hypothetical No Limit Texas Hold’em hand and pick up the action where we left off – on the flop.

Player 5 decides to call the $30 flop bet that Player 1 makes, so we now have a pot of $107.

TURN CARD: Kh-6s-Td-7h

Player 1: As-Ac
Player 5: 5h-4h

The action is now on Player 5, who has turned a Flush draw as well as an open-ended straight draw. If Player 5 checks the action here from out of position (first to act postflop), then Player 1 has an option to Double Barrel by continuing with another lead bet – this time on the Turn.

So let’s say that Player 1 does indeed decide to bet a second “barrel” into the pot – $80. Player 5 is now looking at a total pot of $187 and once again has the option to call, fold, or raise the action. Player 5 decides to once again call, and the total pot grows to $267 with the River card to come.

Player 1: As-Ac
Player 5: 5h-4h

RIVER CARD: Kh-6s-Td-7h-9s

Player 5 checks the action on the river, and Player 1 Triple Barrels with a River bet of $150.

Since we are at showdown, Player 1 knows that his/her hand strength is One Pair: Aces, with King, Ten, Nine kickers. Player 5 also knows that his/her hand strength is exactly what is on the community board (King High nothing: K-T-9-7-6). In terms of showdown hand strength, Player 5 is “playing the board” since neither of his/her hole cards can improve upon the hand that is face-up on the community board.

The total pot after Player 1 triple barrels has grown substantially – to $417! The action is now on Player 5, who is extremely unlikely to simply Call since he/she is playing the board with now hope of taking down the pot outright in a showdown scenario.

The two most logical options for Player 5 in this situation are to either fold the hand, or raise Player 1’s river bet (which was a triple barrel bet). This of course assumes that Player 5 still has enough chips remaining to raise on the river, and that Player 1 still has enough chips remaining to make a decision whether to call a difficult one.

In other words, if Player 5 only has $160 chips remaining – and is facing the $150 river bet from Player 1 – Player 5 is obviously folding this hand as there are no pot odds to call.

But what if both players are deep-stacked with roughly $900 remaining each, and Player 5 decides to raise all-in for $900? The pot is now $1,317 – and Player 1 must now decide whether to call the all-in for $750 more or fold the hand!

And there’s really no way for Player 1 to know with 100% certainty that he/she possesses the best hand at showdown. If Player 5 has any eight, then Player 5 would win with a Ten-high straight (T-9-8-7-6). If Player 5 has precisely J8, then that would give Player 5 a Jack-high straight (J-T-9-8-7) Or Player 5 could be holding QJ, which would give Player 5 an even better straight (K-Q-J-T-9). What’s more, any Two Pairs would defeat Player 1 at showdown.

This is why pros who know how to navigate the river in relation to their lesser-skilled opponents will have a long-term advantage.

Why is Poker C-Betting So Popular?

Odds are that your heads-up opponent will “miss” the flop – meaning that the first three community cards will not pair, provide an open-ended straight draw, or four-to-a-flush scenario for a single opponent in the majority of cases.

By isolating a single player going into the flop (via a preflop raise), the raiser places himself/herself in a desirable position to Continuation Bet more frequently.

However, if a table is 9-handed, and the original preflop raiser gets called by all eight opponents, a Continuation Bet might not be so highly recommended. The more players that see a flop, the less effective a poker c-bet might be in terms of forcing a fold from all players and taking down the pot without progressing to the Turn or River cards.

If you’ve raised the action preflop with Pocket Twos, get called by all 8 opponents at a nine-handed Texas Hold’em table (and the Flop cards bring A-K-Q), it’s doubtful you’re going to get every single player to fold to a Continuation Bet. And actually it may not matter all that much what the flop cards are if nine players are seeing the flop.

How to Learn When to Continuation Bet

One publicly available resource that might come in handy is the massive quantity of live streamed poker games (both in-person and online) that are cast on popular platforms like Twitch and YouTube.

If you’re watching a No Limit Texas Hold’em game, sooner or later you will likely hear a commentator use the term “c-bet” or “continuation bet” to describe a flop wager placed by the individual who raised during the preflop phase of the hand.

Pay attention to the specific hands in which a c-bet is employed by players and see if you can identify situations in which a sole opponent becomes “isolated” before the flop.

Another great resource that’s widely available is poker courses, which are in abundance these days and can often specialize in explaining concepts such as continuation bets in games like Texas Hold’em or Omaha.

Remember, a continuation bet refers to postflop wagers made in community card games, not in other poker variants such as Seven Card Stud or draw games, which do not have community cards.

Continuation Betting in Pot Limit Omaha Games

The concept of a continuation bet is not nearly as popular in Omaha, where each player is dealt four face-down hole cards to begin each hand.

Due to the possibilities that exist to make stronger hands, it’s less likely that all but one opponent will fold to a single preflop raise in Pot Limit Omaha. Also, when it comes to Fixed Limit Omaha, it is very common for a multitude of players to see a flop at tables that have six or more players seated.

Consider the Consequences of Continuation Betting

As shown in our sample hand above, a continuation bet can sometimes lead to a pot size increase that is well beyond the amount that is present at the center of the table when the first flop bet is made – especially in No Limit Hold’em.

Prepare yourself ahead of time and use the experience you’ve gained over the course of your poker playing journey to become more comfortable (and hopefully more profitable) when choosing to Continuation Bet.

If you refuse to at least consider the possibility that you might be double barrelling (or triple barrelling) on future “streets,” then you might find yourself more frequently placed in an undesirable position of not having any clue how to proceed when faced with an important Turn or River decision.

Conclusion: Poker Continuation Betting (C-Betting)

The poker c-bet is a common way to “gauge” where you’re at versus a single opponent in Texas Hold’em. It is typically NOT a tool that will be used in scenarios that have attracted four or more players to a community card flop.

Sometimes a player may even be able to “hide” a very strong hand on the flop by making a predictable c-bet that the opponent perceives to be automatic. And of course, you’re definitely not going to get a fold (no matter how much you continuation bet) if your opponent happens to flop a monster.

Practice continuation betting in community card poker games in which you are comfortable playing, and improve upon your bet sizes (in No Limit and Pot Limit formats) to further your poker learning experience.

Pay attention to scenarios in which a poker c-bet might be more profitable, and make sure to be wary of any given opponent’s hand strength on the flop if you’re going into multi-way action once the community cards have been dealt.

Best of luck at the tables!

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David Huber poker author
Written By.

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for close to two decades: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as “dhubermex” online, David’s poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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