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I am going to write a series of blog posts on tournament poker mistakes I see players making all of the time. Here is the first in that series.
One of the key mistakes players make in a tournament is always making a continuation bet. For some reason, ever since Harrington made this move popular, every single poker player believes he/she should make a continuation bet. Heck, not even Harrington recommends that approach.
What is a continuation bet?
A player who raises pre-flop and gets called by one or more opponents, makes a "continuation" bet on the flop hoping to get his opponents to fold.
Let's review some reasons why you should not always make a continuation bet and the move in general.
1. You must not be predictable.
One of the most important keys in playing winning poker is to be unpredictable. If your opponent always knows that you are going to make a continuation bet, it becomes very easy to take advantage of your play. For example:
He can float you. He can call your flop bet, and bet when you check the turn. OR
He can raise your bet on the flop, to get you to fold.
2. A continuation bet works best when you are heads-up.
If you have two opponents, it increases the likelihood you will get called in one place. And, if you have three or more opponents, you are asking for trouble.
3. Flops that are not coordinated are best.
If the flop is 8-9-10, all spades, then it is more likely you will get called. If the flop is K-7-2 rainbow, it is a lot safer to make that continuation bet.
4. If you flop a draw, be more likely to check behind your opponents.
The reason is that if you bet and get raised, you are not going to have the odds to make the call. A check would allow you to see the turn for free.
5. There is no embarrassment in folding a losing hand.
A good fold is a good thing. You raised pre-flop from the button with Ad-Kd and four opponents called your bet. The flop comes 7s-8s-9s. Everyone checks to you. What should you do?
It is nuts to make a continuation bet here. Yet, I have actually witnessed more than one player betting the flop and turn with his A-K...and losing big! It's bad poker.
The next time you raise pre-flop, do not automatically bet on the flop. Assess your situation and opponents. And when the flop hits the board, it is time to decide if you will make that continuation bet.
Don't put that move on auto-pilot. It is a mistake.