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The popularity of no-limit Texas hold’em is at an all-time high. No other poker game has been played by so many people in the history of card games. Because of this, lots of pieces of strategy that used to be fairly hidden before the poker boom that happened around 2003 are now well-known by even recreational players. One of these bits of strategy is the idea of a continuation bet, which is following up pre-flop aggression on the flop with a bet even if you didn’t make a good hand on the flop. Since everyone knows and understands continuation betting now, to gain an edge on players now you have to go one step further and learn how to exploit continuation bets and pick them off from time to time.
Here’s an example to get us started in our discussion. Suppose a tight-aggressive player open raises pre-flop to $4 in a game with blinds at $0.50 and $1 in middle position of a nine-handed game, and you call on the button with Eight-Seven of hearts. The flop comes the Nine of clubs, the Five of spades, and the Four of diamonds, and the flop pot is $9.50. Your opponent, who frequently continuation bets, immediately fires a bet of $7 into the pot. You put in a raise to $18, and after thinking for a moment, your opponent folds and you take down the $16.50 that’s in the pot. So let’s break down the important parts of this example. You may also practice through Login Poker, where you will be exposed to poker games in an online setting.
First off, we know that our opponent continuation bets often, and this piece of information by itself means that when he continuation bets, his range of possible hands is going to be weaker on average than someone who only continuation bets about half the time. When your opponent’s range is weak, that means they’re going to often fold to raises. So now that we know his continuation betting range is often going to be weak, we have a virtual bulls-eye on his head when he makes these bets.
Second, notice the cards that came on the flop. It’s very unlikely that our tight-aggressive opponent who raised from middle position before the flop connected with this board. While he could have an overpair or a set, the vast majority of the time he’s going to have unpaired cards that missed the board completely. On this particular board his range of possible holdings is fairly weak because it’s hard for him to make many good hands. This is another sign that we should be picking off his continuation bets on this board more often.
Finally, notice our hand. We flopped a gut-shot straight draw which will hit on the turn about 8-9% of the time. If he has a strong hand, chances are he will slowplay it by just calling our raise on such a dry board, and when he does this, about 8-9% of the time we are going to make our straight draw and probably bust him. This adds a lot of value to the profitability of our play.
Following these three factors we’ve outlined from our example above will allow you to pick off continuation bets left and right from players who think they know exactly what they’re doing, and will have a hard time adjusting to your aggression.