Sunday, May 3, 2015

Continuation Betting for Dummies

I haven't been posting here much due to crazy work travel, work problems, and, well, work, work, and more work. That said, in the limited spare time I have every day I have been making slow and steady progress on the ABC lessons with Le Monsieur. The latest one that I just uploaded to our shared Evernote lesson notebook was a big 3000-word treatise on when to continuation bet on the flop. (There are six additional lessons that accompany this one, btw...)

I thought this when-to-cbet lesson would be a snap to write, but in the end it took me nearly 3 weeks of research, errant thought, false-starts, and general noodling around to come up with a step-by-step instructional that a newbie can follow to determine whether they should c-bet on the flop or not. It also gives guidance on how much they should bet in each case.

Writing this lesson was a really fun--and sometimes aggravating--experience, but I think the end result is really useful. I also think it's kind of ground-breaking in a way; in fact, I've never seen this type of approach to c-betting addressed before anywhere in poker books, blogs, or in training videos. This is basically cutting edge stuff, folks.

Anyway, you'll have to wait for the app to come out for the full step-by-step version, but here's the TL;DR Cliffs Notes version of cbetting:

  1. First determine your fold equity (FE) in the hand. You have to estimate what the likelihood is that the villains who saw the flop with you are going to fold if you bet. I've touched on this before in this blog, like in Bug's Poker Tip #7 and Tip #17 before, but not nearly to the extent I did this time around, nor did I quantify each effect, nor have I put in a sequential, step-by-step process. Long story short, the significant level-1 factors that influence your FE include: number of villains, board texture, type of villains, stack sizes, preflop action, position of the players, and the hero's image. I've spent hours wading through poker tracker data to actually determine the approximate weightings and importance of each of these, and I now have a solid and easy means to accurate estimate FE in a poker hand. In a nutshell, my method uses points that you assign for, say, the number of calling stations left in the hand, or who has position on whom preflop, etc.  You total the points and end up with a FE estimate. It's pretty cool stuff if I do say so myself-- oh, and dead simple to do.
  2. Second, determine if you want the villain to fold or not, which of course hinges around your own hand strength, or pot equity (PE). This seems simple on the surface, but again, when you're teaching level-1 poker to a newbie, and you're trying not to inundate them with hand reading, poker stoves, leveling, etc., it's surprisingly challenging to actually determine whether your hand is strong enough or not to want a call. Again, I spent a lot of time sorting and analyzing real poker hand data, and now have come up with another simple point count system that does a reasonably accurate (and conservative) job of determining your pot equity in a hand independent of villain's range.  Related to this is a method of determining if your hand is vulnerable or not to getting out drawn on the turn and river. And yes, once again, this is not as easy as it sounds to do, but I think we have a very innovative and simple method figured out.
Okay, so after you have the FE and PE's of a situation estimated, the third and final step is to plot them against each other on a 2-d chart. Here's a simplified version of the graph, and if you've done a reasonably good job estimating your fold and pot equities, this type of chart actually can go a long way toward helping you a) decide to if you should c-bet; and b) determine how much you should bet:

Researching and writing these lessons continues to be extremely fun and educational. I also think it's going to result in a really powerful training aid for beginning and intermediate poker players. And, oh yeah, it also helps offset all the work, work, and work that my day job insists on dumping on me lately. 

All-in for now...


  1. Suppose I raise with A-K and an ace comes on the flop. Occasionally, I'll check for meta-game considerations (the villain can't think he can just take the pot away from me if I check). If the villain has seen me do this, it might also affect how often I cbet.

  2. Memphis, yes, definitely, I play the meta- and level-games, too. But doing so is a relatively advanced tactic, and something I'm trying to not fold into these beginner lessons. Le Monsieur and I are organizing the lessons along the lines of classic levels of thought. The lessons we're currently writing are geared toward mastering level-1 poker. When we're done with this level, we'll move up to L2 tactics and lessons, and then eventually L3. At this latter level is where I think those kinds of meta-game tactics are best introduced and taught. :-)

  3. Perhaps an even better explanation is we're teaching ABC poker, and really trying to eschew any kind of "fancy" play that, frankly, will get a beginner in a lot more trouble than its worth. IMHO :-)

  4. "fancy" play that, frankly, will get a beginner in a lot more trouble than its worth


    My comment wasn't in the least meant to be critical.

  5. lol, Memphis. No worries. I didn't think you were being critical, though to be honest I welcome any and all feedback, positive or negative, when I post something new like this. I've spent quite a bit of time working on this c-bet determination method, but it kind of feels like I can't quite see the forest from the trees. Feedback like yours is not only wanted, it's absolutely needed by yours truly. Cheers!