Continuation Bets Continued

Dara O'Kearney

In my last two pieces, I set up the following scenario:

The under the gun player opens to 2.3 BBs playing 40 BBs, it’s folded to us in the big blind with the same stack or more, and we defend.

This is the optimal opening range for under the gun off 40 bbs:

Our defending range in big blind should look like this:

You call and the flop comes Ah 8s 2d. You check as you always should on this flop which is better for your opponent’s range than yours, and he continuation bets small, say 1.2 bbs. We looked at what hands make good raises for value, or good calls, and what are the best check raise bluff candidates on this flop.

I ended the last piece asking you to decide what you would do with the following hands facing a continuation bet on this flop:

(A) K9s

(B) K2s

(C) 92s

(D) 42s

(E) 99

(F) 42s

Let’s look at the solver approved answers, and why.

(A) K9s

This hand is a pure fold, even with a backdoor flush draw. This surprises a lot of people who argue “our king high will be good a lot of the time, and we have a backdoor draw as backup”. While this statement is inarguably true, it’s not enough of a reason to stick around with this hand (and weaker suited kings). Having the best hand right now is completely useless if your hand won’t get to show down, as it shouldn’t very often when your opponent keeps barreling. A lot of the time when you call this flop your opponent will follow up with a much bigger turn bet, forcing you to fold all your bluff catchers like this, so it’s best to just get out now. Furthermore, the fact you will have to face a much bigger turn bet if you call means you won’t feel thrilled when your backdoor draw improves on the turn, or you improve to a pair. As a general rule when the best you can improve to on the turn is either a mediocre pair or draw, you’re better off folding the flop, even to a small bet (or raising as a bluff). Calling is often the worst option in these cases.

All the better Kxs with a backdoor flush draw does call though, not so much because the kicker is better, but more so because all the better kicker kings also have a backdoor straight draw going for them.

(B) K2s

Call. This might surprise you on the grounds that with K2s you’re basically in the same spot right now as if you have K9s: beating all the bluffs, losing to all the value. And again, while this is true, it’s not the point. The point is that K2s has much better equity against the value. Imagine your opponent has AQ, or AJ, and they’re value betting. You’re drawing to runner runner against all those hands with K9s, but you have five immediate outs to pull ahead with K2s (any king, any 2).

(C) 92s

Mostly call, sometimes raise. It might surprise you that we are never folding this, and even raising it sometimes. It’s weaker than K2s, but not by much, which is why it never folds. Why does it sometimes raise? It unblocks weaker continues, unlike K2s. If we check raise this board, our opponent will continue with more hands that contain a king than a nine. This means when we check raise 92s they will call more often with hands we are ahead of (king high).

(D) 42s

Mostly raise, otherwise call. This might look at first glance as more or less the same hand as 92s, so why does it raise more often? The answer is against really strong hands that will always continue against our check raise, it has more ways to improve to the best hand, with the backdoor straight draw also working for it.

(E) 99

Pure call. Many players are at least tempted to check raise this hand “for protection”, but this is a mistake. 99 (and all other pocket pairs in our range) are pure bluff catchers and therefore make the most money by allowing our opponent to keep bluffing if they are so inclined. Yes, that means you’ll sometimes get outdrawn by hands that would have folded to your check raise, but that’s more than compensated for by the extra money you make when your opponent keeps bluffing and doesn’t get there

(F) 44

Mostly call, sometimes raise. Say what? But didn’t I just say that all the pocket pairs in our range are bluff catchers (beating the bluff, losing to most of all the value)? Yes, but we sometimes raise 44 (and 33) for the same reason 42s makes a better raise than 92s: the backdoor straight draw. Additionally, 44 (and 33) benefit much more from folds than 99 does, because they’re much more vulnerable. If we check raise and our opponent folds something like K6s, that’s much better for 44 (which has to fade two overcards to win at showdown) than 99 (which only has to fade one).

To wrap up this series on defending against continuation bets, let’s look at the full solution for the big blinds facing a small continuation bet in this spot.

Remember that in these diagrams, red means raise, green means call, and blue means fold. And black means this hand is not in the range because it would have either folded preflop or raised.

Now that we have finished our look at how we defend against continuation bets in this situation, we’ll move on to looking at how the preflop under the gun raiser should respond to a check raise. Before then, I want you to think about what you would do with each of the following hands if you’re the under the gun raiser and get check  raised on this flop:

(A) AA

(B) TT

(C) 66

(D) 33

(E) KQs

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Dara has written three number 1 best-selling poker strategy books (“Poker Satellite Strategy”, “PKO Poker Strategy” and “Endgame Poker Strategy: the ICM book”) with Barry Carter and hundreds of strategy articles for various sites and magazines. I have coached dozens of players of all standards, made training videos for various sites, and cohost the Global Poker award-winning podcast The Chip Race with my good friend David Lappin.

"I have played a number of Irish Poker Tour events and I’ve absolutely loved the atmosphere and craic at them, so when they asked me to start providing strategy content for them aimed at the players who play them, I was flattered and honoured to accept."

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