I’m sitting with a decent amount of chips and the action folds to me in early position. Early position indicates that I’m one of first few players to act in the hand. My cards fall into the playable hand range with a 33 big blind stack size (two cards greater than 7, any ace, suited connectors greater than 6-5, any pocket pair, 9-7 suited, and 10-7 suited) so I begin my pre-flop process of surveying the table. It’s important to survey the table for a quick reminder of the stack sizes in each seat. A very low stack, like 7 big blinds, will go all-in with a much wider range of hands than a stack of 19 big blinds. Other players’ stacks may affect your opening hand range. Labeling stacks by the number of big blinds instead of the actual chip amounts will simplify hands and help with decision-making all tournament long! Can you look at the stack sizes above and convert them all to big blind stacks? If no, email us – we are here to help.
I glance at the 8-handed game and recognize that there are no short stacks (stacks that are less than 20 big blinds – 12k). It’s important to be aware of short stacks so we can avoid coming into a hand and being mathematically priced in to call an opponent’s all-in bet. For example, if Player 402 had $2,400 chips (4 big blinds) instead of $17,460 (about 29 big blinds) and I choose to min-raise, I’d be forced to call Player 402’s all due to the pot odds (more on pot odds in a different post). In the hand above, this is not a threat. I’m feeling calm in that even if I raise into this hand and receive a 3-bet, I’ll be able to make an easy fold and move on to the next hand.
I elect to make a standard minimum raise. This ensures that if I do receive a 3-bet, I’ll lose the least amount of chips. The min-raise also puts pressure on the other players to put more than just the blind amount (600) into the pot if they choose to play. There are downsides to the min-raise in that it is the same “looking” raise on each trial. Some players may notice this and 3-bet you a little lighter than usual. If this is happening to you I recommend making the raise look slightly different (raise 1299 instead of 1200 in the hand above) or finding your 4-bet. The 4-bet is a complex topic that will be discussed in a different post.
I’m pleased with the result of my minimum raise in that it caused the 4 players to my left to fold their hands. If any of the 4 players to my left had 3-bet, I would have to fold. Why? Because my hand is not strong enough to 4-bet with hopes of getting called and my stack is not deep enough to 4-bet with hopes of my opponent folding. Also, if any in the group to my left just called my min-raise, I’d be out of position in a post-flop situation. This means that I’d have to act first and my opponent would get the luxury of seeing what I do before making any decisions. Position becomes very valuable after the flop as you will see in this hand.
When Player 248 calls I’m thinking that he could have any two cards in his hand. I’m not too concerned with putting him on a range because more information will come (the flop and his initial action) that will help me know what move to make. His call should play well for me post-flop because I’m the last to act and can utilize a continuation bet to win the hand if both of us do not connect on the flop (which is typically the case). A continuation bet indicates that a player raised preflop and then continued on the flop when the action came around.
Player 402 chooses to fold pre-flop (again, the min-raise is doing its job by isolating the action). As expected, Player 248 decides to check and the action is on me. The picture above illustrates a classic continuation bet scenario. To review: I raised pre-flop, Player 248 called pre-flop, Player 248 checks post-flop, and now it’s my turn to make a decision with position post-flop. My general rule with post-flop betting is this: 1/3 or less of the main pot is a small bet, 1/2 of the main pot is a medium sized bet,and 2/3 or more of the main pot is a large bet. Small continuation bets work just fine. A small bet whispers, “I had a hand preflop and I have a hand post flop.” Betting small also ensures that you’ll lose the least if you receive a call or raise. The biggest downside to a small continuation bet is that some players will raise you light, with less cost to them.
I find a medium sized continuation bet to be most effective; it yells, “I had a hand pre-flop and I have a hand post-flop.” With this size of bet you shouldn’t receive as many check/raises unless your opponent has a hand. You also will not lose too much if called or raised.
Large continuation bets come at a large cost to you if your opponent got lucky and connected on the flop. You are screaming at the top of your lungs, “I had a hand pre-flop and I REALLY have a hand post-flop.” They will, however, get most players to fold (and not attempt a bluff) when made.
We’ll also want to consider my stack size and my opponent’s stack size. For my stack, I DO NOT want to make a continuation bet that will put me under the 20 big blind mark (in this hand, 12k). Why? Because with 20 big blinds, I can wait for a better preflop spot later. We do not want to get in the habit of betting our stack below 20 big blinds and then folding, without a clue if we were ahead or behind in the hand. Other players will use a myriad of plays to take advantage of us if we do (examples in another post). For our opponent’s stack, we may be able to fluctuate the size of our continuation bet to create an “all-in or fold” situation as well. For example, maybe I make a big continuation bet in hopes that a 25 big blind stack will fold against me and make a very small continuation bet when looking for the same outcome against a 8 big blind stack. More to come on these harder topics in other blog posts.
I make a medium-sized continuation bet. I find my options to be very easy at this point in the hand. If Player 248 raises (check/raise), then I’ll fold and still have over 20 big blinds in my stack. If Player 248 folds then I’ll win a nice pot with no hand (this is my favorite scenario). Lastly, if Player 248 calls then we’ll get more information to help us with the next move.
Sometimes confused for a bluff, the continuation bet is one of the most powerful advantages that the pro uses over the donkey in my opinion. When a pro raises pre-flop, the donkey thinks, “That player must have a good hand.” When the donkey checks to the pro in the same hand post-flop and the pro makes a continuation bet, the donkey thinks, “That player must have a good hand”. In my personal experience, learning about the continuation bet was eye-opening and changed the way I viewed the game. My best results came quickly after. Watch how your results change as your master the min-raise, continuation bet combination.