Techniques for Continuation Betting in Texas Hold’em

Mastering continuation (barreling) and effective is crucial for success in live no-limit Texas Hold'em. Once you move beyond the lowest stakes games, many of your opponents' mistakes will involve folding. To capitalize on these errors, you must have a comprehensive continuation . Without such a strategy, you will struggle to hold your own in games with $2/$5 blinds and higher.

Many people have a misconception about bluffing. They see it as a battle of wills, where you “pretend” to have a hand and the opponent decides whether to believe you. However, continuation betting and bluffing are more about forcing your opponents to fold weaker hands when the community cards are likely to disappoint them.

Here are three key tips for effective continuation betting:

1. Continuation Betting on the Turn Most of the Time

This tip is less about the board texture and more about exploiting small-stakes players. In these games, the turn fold rate is typically very high. If you found it worthwhile to make a or bluff on the flop, it is often worth continuing with a bet on the turn as well.

Opponents' calls on the flop can include a variety of hands: middle pairs, bottom pairs, unimproved small pocket pairs, straight draws, flush draws, unimproved high cards, Ace-high hands, and so on. A turn bet will make many regular $2/$5 players fold these hands.

2. Using Connected Boards for Third-Barrel Bluffs

The most attractive times for a third-barrel bluff are on connected boards. You bet the flop, and your opponent calls with various marginal hands. You bet the turn, and your opponent calls with hands that have some value. When considering a river bluff, you are often trying to bluff a player who already has a value hand.

When should you pull the trigger? Generally, you should consider bluffing the river when the turn had drawing possibilities. If a draw completes on the river, it is often a good time to bluff. Betting on connected boards is advantageous because draws weaken your opponent's turn calling range. Consequently, your opponent is less likely to have a strong hand on the river and may fold to a strong bluff.

Example: Suppose you to $20 pre-flop and get two callers. The flop is T♦7♣5♣. You bet $50 into a $60 pot, and one player calls. The turn is J♥. You bet $130 into a $160 pot, and the opponent calls again. The river is K♠. This is a good spot for a third-barrel bluff.

The turn card encourages your opponent to call with many hands containing a J, T, or 7, such as T9, T8, J9, J8, 97, 87, etc. The river is a blank for all these hands, and now the opponent holding these hands has only a second, third, or fourth pair. A strong river bet will force most $2/$5 players to fold these hands. Since the flush draw did not complete, and an opponent with AT or AJ may be reluctant to call a large bet without top pair, the bluff has a high chance of success.

While K♠ is an ideal bluffing card, a bluff does not need to be perfect. Even a river card like 2♠ might warrant a bluff. Although AJ might call, many hands like J9 will fold.

You do not need to make a pot-sized bluff. In this example, the river pot is $420. Against a typical opponent, a $250 or $300 bet can induce many folds while offering you good value.

If you bet on a flop like Q♦5♣5♥ and get called, your opponent likely has a hand they like. This doesn't mean they won't fold to a river bet, but if you bet when a card like 3♣ hits the river, you are essentially saying, “Hey, you have a Q, I have a 5, you should fold.” The success of this bluff is uncertain and depends on the opponent.

Identifying prime bluffing opportunities is more important, and this depends on the board texture.

3. Over-Betting When You Could Have the Nuts and Your Opponent Cannot

Suppose you raise to $20 pre-flop and get called by two players in the blinds. The flop is 7♦6♦2♣. Both opponents check, and you bet $40. One opponent check-raises to $80. You call.

The turn is J♦. The opponent bets $80, and you call. The pot is now $380, and you have $1000 remaining.

The river is T♦, putting four diamonds on the board. The opponent checks.

In this spot, consider an over-bet. Given the action, the opponent is unlikely to have A♦. Most players won't check-raise with many hands containing A♦ on this flop. The opponent might have had the nut flush draw on the flop, but most would have raised more significantly. Checking the river also doesn't fit a player holding A♦.

On the other hand, you could very likely have A♦ because you raised pre-flop and have been calling since the check-raise.

If you bet small, like $150 or $200, you might encourage a call from a small diamond or a set. But if you bet $500 into the $380 pot, you are representing A♦. You can force many hands to fold to this bet, even those with K♦ (though it's less likely the opponent has K♦).

Against typical $2/$5 players, over-betting in such spots has a high fold equity.

By learning to effectively use continuation betting and bluffing, you can exploit your opponents' tendencies and improve your success in live no-limit Texas Hold'em games. The key is to understand board textures, recognize betting patterns, and make calculated bets that force opponents to fold weaker hands.

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