Every skilled poker player has the continuation bet in their arsenal.
C-betting capitalizes on two crucial facts:
- The pre-flop aggressor usually has the strongest range of any player in the hand.
- It’s hard to connect with the flop. (The chance of flopping a pair with any non-paired hand in Texas Hold’em is only 32.43%.)
But c-betting has become a victim of its own success. Many players c-bet excessively, which is easy to exploit.
So, how can we prevent ourselves from c-betting too often while also capitalizing on our advantage as the pre-flop raiser? Answer: delayed c-bets.
Delayed c-bets are when the pre-flop aggressor bets after the action checked through on the previous street(s). It’s an underused and often misunderstood strategy, which will allow you to win more pots and avoid tough spots.
We’re about to examine 3 hands where a delayed c-bet has or should have been used. Each were submitted by Upswing members and reviewed by Ryan Fee, whose valuable insights will help you better understand delayed c-betting.
But first, let’s discuss when and why you should use delayed c-bets.
When your hand cannot bet three streets for value
When you have a made hand that is not strong enough to bet all three streets for value, consider delaying your c-bet.
This will be most effective when your hand is unlikely to be outdrawn by your opponent’s flop folding range. For example:
100NL Cash Game. 100BB Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt A♠ 2♠ on the BTN
folds to btn. Hero raises to $3. sb folds. Villain calls from the BB.
Flop ($6.50) A♦ 8♣ 3♥
In this flop spot, Hero’s hand is:
- Not strong enough to bet three streets for value
- Way ahead of the range of hands that BB will fold to a flop c-bet
Additionally, checking back with hands like this makes Hero’s check back range stronger, allowing her to better defend against turn bets.
For these reasons, we can check the flop with the intention of extracting value on later streets.
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When you block your opponent’s value combos
When you flop a super strong hand on a dry board, consider using a delayed c-bet. For example:
100NL Cash Game. 100BB Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt K♠ K♥ in the CO
folds to co. Hero raises to $3. 2 folds. Villain calls from the BB.
Flop ($6.50) K♦ 8♠ 2♣
Hero’s top set blocks most of Villain’s strong hands on a very dry board, so checking is preferable to betting. When Hero checks, Villain will have a chance to bet on the turn as a bluff, or because he hit something.
Also, Villain is unlikely to check-raise — a dream scenario for Hero’s top set — on this dry board. If the board was more coordinated, betting with top set is a more attractive option.
Speaking of check-raising, you should also consider delaying your c-bet…
When you have a mediocre hand on a wet board
If you c-bet with too many marginal hands on wet flops, your opponent can exploit you with an aggressive check-raising strategy. You simply won’t have a strong enough range to defend effectively.
You can prevent being exploited by c-betting only when you hold strong hands or hands that you don’t mind folding versus a check-raise. With a mediocre made hand, delay your c-bet until the turn or river.
3 advantages of delayed c-betting
#1: Strengthens your checking range
Checking back some made hands keeps your checking range adequately protected. By doing this, you prevent your opponents from exploiting you with an aggressive probing strategy.
#2: Prevents c-betting too wide
Many players c-bet just because they “have the initiative”. This allows their opponents to exploit them with an aggressive raising strategy on the flop.
Delay c-betting with a portion of your range will prevent your flop c-betting range from becoming saturated with too many bluffs and/or marginal hands.
#3: Makes bluffing more effective
When your opponent calls a bet on the flop, their range narrows. This means you will be up against an overall stronger range on the turn.
On the other hand, when you pass up on a flop c-bet and the action checks through, ranges are wider and therefore weaker on the turn. This makes delayed c-betting with your bluffs more effective.
This is especially true when you are in position because your opponent has checked twice. When your opponent has shown weakness twice, you can be more confident with your bluffs.
Now let’s dive into the hand histories and Ryan Fee’s comments:
Example #1: Delayed c-betting in a 3-bet pot
This hand was submitted by Lab member Sam S.
Online Cash 4-Handed. 100BB Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt K♥ Q♦ in the SB
co folds. BTN raises to 2.3bb. Hero 3-bets to 9.5bb. bb folds. BTN calls.
Flop (20bb): J♠ 7♣ 6♦
Hero checks. BTN checks.
Turn (20bb): 9♠
Hero bets 13bb. BTN calls.
River (46bb): 4♥
Hero bets 30.33bb.
It definitely makes sense to use K♥ Q♦ as a delayed c-bet on this board. There are many other hands in our range that are more effective c-bet bluffs. Consider our range:
There are many hands in this range that have less showdown value and more playability on future streets than KQo. These include 98s, T8s, T9s, Q9s, QTs and even our KQs combos that have a backdoor flush draw. If we c-bet with these hands, plus an additional 12 combos of KQo, we run the risk of c-betting too many marginal holdings which makes our range vulnerable to raises.
On the 9s turn, some hands that should have checked on the flop will now be slam-dunk turn value bets (like JJ, 99 and J9). We also need to delay c-bet with bluffs in order to balance our range; using KQo makes sense because it has two overcards and turned a draw to the nuts.
I prefer a slightly smaller bet sizing on both the turn and river in this hand. Our value range consists mostly of one pair hands after checking the flop, and betting large makes less likely our opponent will continue with a worse one pair hand.
Example #2: Delay c-betting with a marginal value hand in a multi-way pot
This hand was submitted by Lab member Igor G.
25NL Cash Game. $25 Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt A♠ T♠ in the HJ
utg folds. Hero raises to $0.75. CO calls. btn folds. sb folds. BB calls.
Flop ($2.35): 8♣ 5♦ A♦
BB checks. Hero bets $1.17. CO calls. BB calls.
Turn ($5.86): 3♠
BB checks. Hero bets $2.93. CO calls. BB folds.
River ($5.86): 4♣
Hero checks. CO checks.
We should not c-bet with this hand on the flop. We have stronger top pairs (AJ+) to value bet here, along with our two-pair and set combos (88, 55, A8s, A5s). If we c-bet with weaker top pairs as well, we make ourselves vulnerable to flop raises – particularly in a multi-way pot like this.
Keeping AT in our checking range ensures that we have some relatively strong top pairs when we check. Plus, betting with AT on the flop could lead to some tricky situations if either opponent raises. When the action checks through on the flop and the turn is a blank, however, AT is an easy value bet and a great hand to have in our delayed c-betting range.
Betting both the flop and turn here is simply too thin.
Example #3: How to exploit weak live players with delayed c-bets
Upswing member Sam H. posted this hand to the Facebook group.
$2/$5 Live 9-Handed. $400 Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt 9♦ 9♠ in MP
UTG straddles to $10. utg1 folds. Hero raises to $25. 6 folds. UTG calls.
Flop ($57): A♦ 5♠ 5♣
UTG checks. Hero checks.
Turn ($57): T♥
UTG checks. Hero checks.
River ($57): J♥
UTG checks. Hero checks.
Since this is a live hand, I’m going to recommend a highly exploitative delayed c-betting strategy that has printed money for me at live tables.
A common tendency of live players is to bet any pair on the turn after the flop has checked through. I think they do it for “protection”, or because they fear facing a turn bet themselves. Either way, this tendency is a massive leak that can be exploited with an aggressive delayed c-betting strategy.
In this hand, we can expect such opponents to lead on the turn with all of the Ax, Tx and 5x combos in their range. If this is the case, we can delayed c-bet on the turn with an astronomically high success rate. We can also check back more hands that we would normally c-bet on the flop in order to reach this very profitable turn spot more often.
These types of players are most common in live games, but this adjustment will work well against anyone that probe bets too liberally.
That’s all I’ve got for you today
If you’d like to see a specific topic covered in our next article, please comment below!
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