In average games, most professional poker players continuation bet the flop approximately 75% of the time. But this begs an obvious question: which 75% of the time? The answer is a function of knowing two key equity values: the Hero’s pot equity on the flop, and the estimated fold equity the Hero has in that situation:
First, some definitions are needed to help understand the terminology of the chart:
- Pot Equity. Technically speaking, pot equity is a player’s “share” of the pot, given the situation and the relative strength of their hand. It is the average amount of money that a particular hand would win if that specific situation were repeated a large number of times. True pot equity is calculated by multiplying the amount of money at stake in the pot by the percentage chance of winning. Informally speaking, the Hero’s pot equity can just be thought of as roughly just the probability of the Hero’s hand winning against the villain’s range. This latter, informal definition, is how we use the term in the chart above; i.e., think of pot equity as just the probability that our hand would win at showdown. Here’s a screen shot from Poker Cruncher to illustrate:
- Fold Equity. Technically speaking, fold equity is the pot size multiplied by the chance our opponent will fold if we bet. Informally speaking (and, again, how we use the term in this post), fold equity can be thought of as just the likelihood, or probability, that a bet from us will cause our opponent(s) to fold, leaving us to take down the pot.
The C-Bet Chart:
To use the chart, above, you need to first estimate your pot and fold equities. The easiest way to estimate pot equity is to use an online calculator or app, like PokerStove, Equilabs, ProPokerTools Odds Oracle, FlopZilla, or Poker Cruncher. Estimating fold equity, however, is a little trickier and more an art than a true science; see this article on eight continuation bet factors to begin learning which things increase or decrease fold equity in different situations.
Once you have estimates for the two equity values, next find your approximate equity zone on the chart:
- If you have high pot equity and low-to-medium fold equity, you should c-bet hard for pure value.
- If you have high pot equity and high fold equity, you should consider slow-playing to allow your opponent(s) to catch up so they can/will pay you off. If it checks around on the flop, don’t continue to slow-play the turn, as you need to try to build some value with your big hands.
- If you have medium pot equity, regardless of how much fold equity, you should almost always be c-betting, either for value+protection against draws, or as a semi-bluff with your own drawing hands.
- If you have low pot equity and low fold equity, you should not continuation bet.
- If you have low pot equity and high fold equity, you should c-bet as a pure bluff.
[Note: here’s another view/version of the C-bet chart with actual expected value (EV) values calculated from pot equity and fold equity.]
Continuation bets should almost always fall in the range of 60%-100% of the pot. You can sometimes bet less than this in special circumstances, and also sometimes more than this, but as a general rule, keep your c-bets roughly the same size and in this range. Also, don’t be too obvious with varying your bet sizes, as astute opponents will quickly pick up on this kind of bet sizing tell.
If you’re new to the table and/or your opponents aren’t paying close attention to your bet sizing, you can vary your bet sizes with your zone on the chart. For example, the higher up and to the left you are in the chart, the larger your bet sizes can/should be. When you’re in this upper-left zone of the chart, you have a very strong hand and villains that are unlikely to fold to a bet. Typically, pot-sized bets–or even more–are possible if you find yourself in this zone.
Conversely, the farther lower and to the right you are in the chart, the smaller your bet sizes should be. In very special situations, you can c-bet small with so-called “post oak”-type bluffs that are a small fraction of the pot, but as a general rule, keep your bluff bets at least 60% of the pot in size.
Finally, it’s important to note that fold equity itself is often a function of bet sizing; bet too small, and opponents sometimes feel priced in to call (e.g., make a “crying call”). This of course thereby greatly reduces your overall fold equity. To help avoid this, you should rarely bet less than 60% of the pot when pure bluffing. Similarly, betting a large amount (e.g., shoving all-in an amount that is significantly larger than the pot size) can result in significant fold equity. The downside of this, of course, is you’re risking more money when you have essentially no pot equity or showdown value.
To illustrate how the chart works, let’s imagine some different flop scenarios:
- Value. We have K-Q offsuit on a J-T-9 rainbow board against three loose-passive opponents. Our pot equity is very high (we currently have the nuts) and our fold equity is low (this board texture hits a large part of the villains’ ranges, and the villains are the type that tend to call a lot). We should bet relatively large for pure Value.
- The Nuts. We have A-A on an A-A-6 rainbow board facing one timid, rock-like and passive opponent. We raised preflop in early position and the villain just cold-called our raise out of the big blind. He has checked to us on the flop. Our pot equity is 100%; i.e., we have the stone-cold mortal nuts that can’t be outdrawn. We also, unfortunately, have a tremendous amount of fold equity; our opponent is weak-tight and is likely to be afraid of us having an Ace, given our EP preflop open-raise. In this situation, we find ourselves in the upper right-hand portion of the chart. This means it’s time to slow down and let our opponent try to catch up on the turn. Betting now will only result in the bad guy folding, which is not what we want when our hand is this strong.
- Top Pair Top Kicker. We have A-K on a K-J-9 monotone board against two opponents. Our pot equity with TPTK is reasonably high (i.e., the likelihood that our hand is best is very good). But, because we’re up against multiple opponents and the board is very wet, our fold equity is low to medium at best. Per the chart, we should c-bet for value and protection (i.e., give our opponents the wrong odds to continue in the hand) but then proceed cautiously, depending on what our opponent does and/or what the turn card is.
- Air. We have 6-5 offsuit on an A-K-2 rainbow board against one weak-tight opponent, who just cold-called our preflop open-raise. We have essentially no pot equity (i.e., essentially “air”), but, because the board also doesn’t hit our opponents range, and he is weak-tight, we also have reasonably high fold equity against him. We should be c-betting as a pure bluff in this situation.
- Air. We have 6-5 offsuit on an A-K-2 monotone board (not our suit) against three very loose-passive calling stations. We again have air, but, this time, we also have very little fold equity (multiple loose-passive calling station opponents, wet board). This places us in the lower left-hand corner of the chart. Therefore, we should not be continuation betting, but instead we should check and probably just fold to any action from one or more of the villains.
- Big Draw. We have 8h-7h on a 6h-5h-2s board. Based on our reads, we believe our skilled opponent almost certainly has an overpair or overcards to the board. With our combo straight and flush draws, we have around 55% pot equity. Against this opponent it’s hard to pin down an actual fold equity amount, but here in the middle of the chart it almost doesn’t matter. Let’s assume something like 50% fold equity. This places us near the middle of the chart, and, therefore, we should continuation bet as a semi-bluff draw.
- As stated above, to help better understand how to estimate fold equities, see this related post: Eight Poker Continuation Bet Factors
- An X-Tip: Why bluffing at micro-stakes games is over-rated.
- An X-Tip: Read the board texture before c-betting.
Learn. Master. Crush.
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