Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Making The Rounds

Here's the odd bit and piece that has caught my eye lately. Firstly from Up For Poker, one part of an otherwise mostly sound "Ten Commandments Of Tournament Poker" :

"V. Thou shalt continuation bet. Again, this should be another obvious rule, but it is absolutely essential to playing well in tourneys. When you raise before the flop, you give the impression of strength. There is NO reason to give the other players any other impression until it becomes too expensive for you. Take a stab at the pot, if you get re-raised, let it go, but take the stab nonetheless. Those stack building bets will help keep your head above water until the big hands come."

No, thou shalt not. Someone who always bets after raising pre-flop is much easier to deal with than someone who bets most of the time they like the flop and some of the time they don't. When those big hands do come, you can make many more chips by flat calling with them in position precisely because people play in this "must make continuation bet" mode. When you have a reasonable hand in the big blind it's well worth calling a small raise in the sure knowledge that you'll get a check-raise in if you like the flop.

Secondly some praise, a good article here on Poker In Europe. The key quote I would like to extract is something I've been waffling about for a while without putting it half as succinctly :

"Online poker sites use clever marketing to convince new players that the keys to being successful at poker are not maths, discipline and experience, but bravery, guts and an ability to read people."

Preach it. That they do. Poker on TV also constantly pushes this myth. And long may it continue. Cool nickname this guy has too. If I wasn't such a lean, mean fighting machine I'd like to be the "Piemaster".

Hmmm... you misread me. I don't say thou shalt ALWAYS continuation bet. Bet many tournament players fail to bet at flops they miss even when they raise preflop. Ignoring this powerful weapon only costs you chips. And, if an opponent does come over the top of you once and you lay it down, you're only setting them up for when you do have a big hand. Failing to use the continuation bet effectively is a recipe for failure. You just don't hit enough flops to rely on that alone.
And I just re-read what you wrote:

"Someone who always bets after raising pre-flop is much easier to deal with than someone who bets most of the time they like the flop and some of the time they don't."

That's juse weird. If they bet when they like it and don't bet when they don't like it, it sounds like they'd be exceptionally easy to read. That's why a more standard play helps disguise the strength of your hand.
Hi CJ,

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

It's true that you don't say "always" but neither do you say "most of the time" or "usually" or anything like that. I think it would be very easy for an inexperienced player to interpret your text as meaning you should always make the bet. Maybe that's just semantics. Again, the key words in my answer are "most of the time" and "some of the time".

There's also no mention of the number of opponents. I hope you agree that you should not be betting into three or more opponents when you miss the flop. It's just throwing chips away.

Players who make these bets too often, especially out of position, are very exploitable. However it probably is fair to say that a new player will benefit from making more cont'n bets _provided the hand is heads up_. I do think that's a condition that would improve the advice.


After sleeping on it something else occurred to me. Making yourself unreadable isn't a priority when half the field isn't even trying to read you and most of the rest are no good at it.

Put it this way, this is how I play, pretty much. When I like the flop and I follow up, do people fold second pair ? Do they fold a gutshot draw with overcards ? You know they don't. Similarly, when I check, do they spring to life and bluff me with nothing ? No.

Also, briefly, when you miss, you shouldn't underestimate the power of checking the flop and betting the turn when he checks behind you, which looks a lot like a monster hand.

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