Who hasn’t heard of a continuation bet? It’s the oldest trick in the poker playbook. And while it’s obviously a necessary string to any winning player’s bow, the c-bet has become extremely predictable. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to disguise what you were up to when c-betting? It’s time to talk about the art of the delayed continuation bet.

Five chip stacks of black, red, green, white and blue are in the foreground. There are further collapsed piles of chips in the background.
C-bets are predictable these days. But delayed continuation bets are better disguised.

Continuation Bets Can Be Harmful

In poker, you should never become predictable. That’s why we talk about hand ranges rather than specific holdings. It’s important to keep things varied so that our opponents never know what we’ll do next. This way, it becomes harder for anyone to exploit us. C-bets are no exception to this rule.

If you c-bet the flop every single time, your opponents can employ a counter-attacking check-raise strategy. Knowing how wide your continuation range is, they can check, wait for the inevitable bet, and force you to fold your weak hands with a big raise. Whereas if you’d simply checked back, you’d have seen a free turn card and would still have a chance to realise some equity.

The Exception

You didn’t think you’d get through a poker article without a “but”, did you? As always, there is an exception to this general rule.

If you are playing against a complete newcomer or an extremely passive player, you can happily c-bet the flop every time without worrying. Such players rarely check-raise and will fold too often to your bet. But, of course, these dream opponents are not going to be around at every single poker game.

So What Is the Answer?

The trick is to mix in some delayed continuation bets. What do we mean by that? Well, as the name implies, just fire off that c-bet later in the hand. On the turn, to be precise.

It’s pretty much a given in modern poker that players will check to the initial aggressor. So, if you raise preflop, you’re either going to be the first to act, in which case a c-bet is expected, or your opponent will check to you while expecting the same. Don’t give them what they want all the time. Check, take a free turn card, and then fire on the next street.

Benefits of a Delayed Continuation Bet

Aside from staying unpredictable, there are two other big reasons why delaying a c-bet is beneficial. Let’s discuss these.

First of all, delaying your c-bets from time to time means that your bluffs are more likely to get through. Think about it. When an opponent has called both a preflop raise and a flop bet, their range is much stronger. They are telling you a lot about their hand.

But if you check through to the turn, ranges simply have to be broader and weaker. If you have position, your opponent will have checked twice to you already. Against such a range, it’s much easier to force a bluff through.

Secondly, your perceived checking range is stronger when you mix in some checks on the flop with decent hands. When you show down and win a pot, and your opponent recognises that you checked back the flop, they won’t forget in a hurry. This makes it much more difficult to exploit you after a check.

When to Delay Your C-Bets

Okay, we now understand why we should sometimes delay our continuation bets. But when is the right time to mix this into our game? Let’s look at some common scenarios.

Average Hands on Action Flops

As we’ve established, c-betting too often is exploitable by increased check-raising. So, try doing it only when you have the best hands in your range, or the worst.

You are always happy to see a check-raise when you possess a big hand. But if you are c-bet bluffing with trash, you don’t mind folding either. Mediocre hands, therefore, seem like a good choice for mixing in a delayed c-bet.

Big Hands With Blockers

Let’s say you hold a genuinely premium hand, such as Q-Q. You raise and find a preflop call. A rainbow flop of Q-7-2 follows. This is a pretty dry board where your opponent is unlikely to have a piece. And the kind of holding you want them to have here is something like A-Q. That is extremely unlikely with two Queens in your own hand.

In this spot, it makes sense to give a free card and let your opponent catch up. Even if they don’t, they might try bluffing the turn. Either way, it’s good for you to delay betting on this type of flop.

Made Hands That Aren’t Overly Strong

Any hand that isn’t good enough to value bet on all three streets is also a suitable contender for a delayed c-bet. Imagine flopping the top pair with a weak kicker, such as A-3(Clubs) on a board of A(Diamond)-9(Spade)-2(Heart).

You’re likely ahead, but are you happy betting all three streets, knowing you might be against a better top pair? You’re not likely to be outdrawn, but similarly, your opponent isn’t going away if they have an A-T type hand. By delaying your flop c-bet, you are putting less money into the pot, thus protecting yourself against such a situation.

A delayed continuation bet seems easy to understand, but it takes time and experience to learn how to use it at the right time. So, why not sign up for a free account with Natural8 today and start practicing?