Continuation and Probe Bets
by Chad Holloway of Predictem.com
Pre-flop raises are an essential part of any game of poker, whether it's no limit hold'em, Omaha, or seven-card stud. They are the best option for representing a big hand and driving out your opponents; however, it is the action that occurs after a pre-flop raise that is of extreme importance. Once a pre-flop raise has been made, either by you or an opponent, the flop will come and a crucial opportunity in the game will present itself. Depending on position, it will be up to either your opponent or yourself to check, bet, raise, or fold. If there is a bet, which there could and should be, it will fall into one of two categories. The 1995 World Series of Poker World Champion, Dan Harrington, described the two bets, which are termed "continuation bet" and "probe bet", in the first volume of his acclaimed poker book series Harrington on Hold'em:
"The difference between a probe bet and a continuation bet is the identity of the pre-flop raises. If you took the lead before the flop and then bet when the flop misses you, the bet is a continuation bet. (It's a continuation of your previous action.) If your opponent took the lead pre-flop and now checks, your bet is called a probe. (You're probing to see if he thinks the hand is worth playing.) Both bets are ways of gaining information and defining your hand. Continuation bets need to be slightly larger than probe bets because you are representing more strength with a continuation bet."
As Harrington states, continuation bets can be made regardless if you hit your hand on the flop; in fact, are often made in an attempt to represent strength and swipe the pot when a player misses the flop. When deciding to put in a continuation bet, a number of factors should be considered including: the amount of the pre-flop raise, the number of players in the hand, the amount of the pot, your position, and the table image of your opponent(s). For example, if you bet pre-flop and got one caller, you'd be much more likely to put a continuation bet than if you were called by four players, and you might not want to continuation bet if you know the player(s) behind you is aggressive and likely to come over the top.
Another important factor is the texture of the flop. Because a pre-flop raise is a sign of strength, a call of that raise must be assigned some strength as well. That being the case, you might not want to continuation bet if you raised with pocket sixes and the flop is all face cards, but certainly would if the flop was something like seven-deuce-three off-suit, in which case you can continuation bet and represent a big pocket pair and drive out your opponent(s). As a result of a missed continuation bet opportunity, you or your opponent will be provided with a new opportunity in the form of the probe bet.
The probe bet should be used when your opponent checks to you so you can attempt to take down the pot right there. Just be careful not to commit yourself or your opponent to the pot by betting to much or too little, and beware of the opponent who raised pre-flopped but checked it after, he may be trapping with a monster. No matter the game, be sure to incorporate both these bets into your game to ensure maximum success.
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