Continuation Bets: The Call-Raise Bluff
By Loki Luchs of Predictem.com
The farther that you move up in limits, the more likely you are to encounter overly-aggressive players. As opponents become more sophisticated in their plays, you have to become more sophisticated in recognizing their tactics and understand how to counter their strategies. One of the most common tactics that middle range players master is the continuation bet. At higher levels, winning players will continuation bet between 50 and 70% of the time when they have raised pre-flop. This will be a constant strategy that you will have to combat against.
One of the best counter-strategies to continuation bets is to wait for situations where you are in position and a pre-flop raise that might indicate a strong ace is matched with a ragged board. Your opponent will lead out with a continuation bet to try and pick the pot up right there. The problem with raising right away is that your opponent has the option of re-raising you right there. Also, a ragged board flop smells like a bluff on your part. Instead of bluffing the turn, consider flat calling! If your opponent is on a continuation bet, that is the last thing that they want to see. Are you on a draw? Are you already strong? The turn, barring any scare cards, may give your opponent enough reason to signal a white flag to you by checking; bet with nothing and take down the pot. If they fire a second shot, it’s time to decide if your opponent is over-playing a strong ace or if they’re attached to an over-pair.
When they lead out on the turn and you raise, you put them in a very difficult situation; you’ve played the hand like you’ve flopped a set, and they’ll be hard pressed to call with anything less than an over-pair. (Depending on how strong their over-pair is, they might be inclined to lay that down as well.) Part of the reason for the difficulty they’re facing is that they may be drawing dead if you’ve flopped a set or turned a straight. Also, since this is an uncommon play, they’re unlikely to put you on a bluff, unless they’ve seen you do this before. Another factor for the seasoned veteran is that they are more than aware that if they call your raise here, they are almost certainly committing themselves to calling a large bet on the river.
A fun twist on this tactic can be useful when you’re in a game with players who could be potentially going on tilt. After you bluff a player by a flat-call on the flop and then raising a turn-bet successfully, fold face-up! Your play will seem inexplicable and moronic to the whole table and the player you just bluffed will call you down on every hand for the rest of the night. You’ve just advertised that you are willing to call with nothing and bluff with nothing to every player, so you’ll have plenty of action as long as they’re at the table. Keep in mind that no middle-level players and most advanced level players won’t recognize the complexity of your maneuver, because this play happens more frequently by accident with amateurs than it does on purpose from accomplished players.
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