Stop Betting the Flop Like This! (Amateur Mistake)

Stop Betting the Flop Like This! (Amateur Mistake)

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

When first starting to learn all the intricacies of the winning poker strategy, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and a lot of players struggle to figure out what part of the game they should focus on.

Should they focus on constructing light 3-betting ranges, blind defense, check-raising the turn as a bluff, or something else entirely?

While there’s nothing wrong with learning the advanced poker strategy, a lot of players often put the cart before the horse. 

Learning the advanced concept should come only after mastering the fundamentals, and a lot of players disregard this as trivial, even though they have glaring weaknesses in understanding even the most basic poker concepts.

One such overlooked, yet crucial aspect of the game is the flop continuation bet, or c-bet for short. 

This article will take a look at when you should (not) bet the flop, what bet size to use, and avoid some common pitfalls when it comes to c-betting.

1. Never Bet The Flop Just Because (Always Know Why You’re Betting)

For every action you take in a given poker hand, you need to have a clearly defined reason for doing so. 

Every time you bet or raise, you’re generally doing it for two distinct reasons, either as a value bet or as a bluff.

The lines between the two aren’t always clear-cut, as you never have all the information in poker, namely your opponents hole cards. 

It’s not always easy to know where exactly you stand in the hand, but you should still get in the habit of defining your bets between these two categories.

This is especially true on the flop, because the decisions you make on the flop will impact how you play the rest of the hand. 

If you make a mistake on the flop, that mistake is bound to compound on later streets, causing you to lose money, or not win enough.

So the first order of business is defining your bets. If you are betting for value, you’re hoping to get called by weaker hands.

This is something that Nathan discussed in a recent YouTube video on the biggest flop betting mistakes amateurs make.

It’s worth noting that a bet is only considered a value bet if your hand is comfortably ahead of your opponent's CONTINUING range (i.e. a subset of hands that the villain will actually call you with).

If your opponent isn’t very likely to have any hands in their range that would be willing to give you action, and is likely to fold to any bet, you can’t really bet for value then. 

If you suspect that to be the case, (for example, you smash the board so hard that it’s highly unlikely for your opponent to connect in any meaningful way), then you might want to consider skipping betting altogether, and allow your opponent to catch up on later streets, or induce them to bluff you and extract value that way.

This also creates something that Nathan coined "Deception Value" which is discussed in much more detail in his latest book.

Basically, it is the value (profit) that you stand to gain on later streets, turn or river, by disguising the strength of your hand right now on the flop.

If you’re betting as a bluff, on the other hand, you’re trying to get stronger hands than yours to fold. Again, you can only bluff someone if they’re actually willing to fold.

You also need to keep in mind which hands in your opponents range are likely to fold, and size your bet accordingly. If you think you can’t get your opponent to fold, skip betting altogether.

2. Use The Right Bet Sizing for Maximum Profit

Clearly defining your flop bets either as value bets or as bluffs can help you determine the right bet size to use to achieve the desired effect. 

The correct bet sizing will also depend on the type of opponent you're up against.

For this purpose you need to be familiar with the concept of price elasticity. 

It’s a term borrowed from economics that suggests that the changes in price affect the demand, i.e. the cheaper the product, the more it sells and vice versa.

It’s basically the same thing when it comes to poker bet sizing. Imagine the pot being the product, and your c-bet size is the price of the product. 

The bigger the size, the less likely your opponent is to buy it. This is how a rational consumer should act, at least theoretically.

A decent poker player will tend to be elastic, i.e. the difference between the bet sizes will affect how often they continue the hand.

Recreational players, on the other hand, care far less about the bet sizes and the odds they’re getting on a given call. 

They’re only interested in their hand, and little else. 

They also don’t really understand the difference between absolute and relative hand strength, and focus exclusively on absolute hand strength to make their decisions.

That’s why they cling on to weak flushes and flush draws, and never, ever fold a full house, regardless of the board runout.

If you spot a recreational player, chances are they are going to fall on the inelastic side of the spectrum. 

If they like their hand, they will tend to get sticky with it regardless of the price, and if they don’t, they’ll toss it, again, no matter how great of a price they’re getting.

So how do you use this to your advantage? It’s fairly simple. If you have a strong value hand, bet it fast, and bet it big as discussed in Crushing the Microstakes.

Forget all about the balanced bet sizing, and don’t worry about becoming too obvious.

Save the balance for the players who are actually paying attention. Against fish, go full exploit mode. If you’re playing no-limit poker, use the no-limit part to your advantage. 

If the pot is too small for your liking on the flop, inflate it with an overbet (a bet bigger than the current pot).

A common objection some poker players might have to this kind of advice is that they don’t want to “scare their opponents off” and blow them out of the pot, and fair enough.

But that's where the concept of elasticity comes into play. If your opponent is inelastic, your bet size doesn’t affect how often they fold or call. 

You can use this to your advantage by sizing your c-bets on the smaller side when you want your opponent to fold (i.e. c-betting light), and bigger to extract more value.

The smaller the c-bet, the less often your opponent needs to fold for your bet to be profitable.

For example, if you bet ⅓ of the pot, your opponent needs to fold only 25% of the time. If you bet a full pot, your opponent needs to fold 50% of the time for your light c-bet to be profitable.

Learn to Make $1000 Per Month in Small Stakes Games With My Free Poker Cheat Sheet

Are you struggling to create consistent profits in small stakes poker games? Would you like to make a nice part time income of at least $1000 per month in these games? flop strategy 
If so, then I wrote this free poker cheat sheet for you. This is the best completely free poker strategy guide available online today. 

It shows you how to crush the small stakes games step by step. Learn exactly what hands to play and when to bet, raise and bluff all in! 

These are the proven strategies that I have used as a 10+ year poker pro to create some of the highest winnings of all time in these games. 

Enter your details below and I will send my free poker "cheat sheet" to your inbox right now.


3. Don’t Become Too Predictable With Your Bet Sizing

Using an exploitative c-bet sizing works wonders against recreational players, particularly if they happen to be of the fit-or-fold mentality, meaning they like to see a lot of flops.

And then either fold right away when they miss the board (which is most of the time), or tend to get too sticky with their marginal holdings and weak draws.

But always using the same bet size against more observant players will cause you to become predictable very quickly.

This is something that is discussed in many of the Zoom and 6max videos for example in the NL2 Mastery Course.  

If you always bet ⅓ pot when you’re bluffing, and bet a full pot with your value hands, it won’t take long for other players to figure out what you’re doing, and they’ll be able to play perfectly against you.

What you want to do instead is use balanced bet sizing, meaning your bet size doesn’t reveal your hand strength in any way.

This will make it harder for your opponents to get a read on you, but it’s not necessarily the most profitable way to play all the time. 

Since there are so many different scenarios in poker, you should have the general rules in mind, but also be willing to deviate from them if the situation requires it.

If your opponent folds to c-bets too much, make a c-bet even if you wouldn’t do so in other situations. 

If you’re up against a maniac who raises nearly every flop, skip a c-bet even though “it’s standard”.

By the way, I discuss this in much more detail in my new Elite Poker University training. 

Learn EXACTLY how to start crushing small and mid stakes poker games, play semi-pro or even full time pro. Use my proven elite poker strategies to start winning fast.

Get $100 OFF Use Code: Elite100

4. Bluff More on Dry Flops For Easy Money

Aside from the type of opponent you’re up against, one of the most important factors in determining whether or not to c-bet and what bet size to use is the flop texture, i.e. how (un)coordinated the board is.

The flop texture is wet when there are multiple ways for your opponent to connect with the flop, because the cards are of the same suit and close to one another. 

This makes a number of strong combinations like straights, flushes, or drawing hands possible. On a dry board, there are less ways for your opponent to connect with the flop.

Example of a dry board: K♣83♠

Example of a wet board: J9♠8

If the board is very dry, you should generally aim for a smaller c-bet, either for value or as a bluff. An exception would of course be betting for value against a major calling station. 

Then you would obviously want to go for a bigger bet size to extract maximum value, like mentioned before.

In other cases, however, choosing a smaller bet size accomplishes a couple of things. 

First off, if you smash the flop (meaning you have a very strong hand like two pairs, a set and so on) and you’re betting for value, it’s very difficult for your opponent to have connected in a meaningful way as well, and is likely to fold to a c-bet. 

In this situation it might be prudent to go for a smaller bet and offer them a better price on a call, and hope they catch up on future streets so you can get more value out of them.

On the other hand, if you’re betting as a bluff, a dry texture is more favourable to do so because again, it’s less likely for your opponent to have connected in some way. 

If you size your bet smaller in this case, you’re reducing the required fold equity (i.e. the percentage of time your opponent folds to a bet) for your light c-bet to be profitable.

See my recent ultimate Texas Hold'em cheat sheet for more on this.

5. Be Extra Careful on Wet, Coordinated Flops

If the board is wet, on the other hand, you want to go for a bigger c-bet with your value hands.

Wet flop example: 87♠6  

Your opponent is more likely to have connected with the board, meaning they’ll be more willing to continue with a wider range of hands, so you want to extract value out of them while your hand is ahead.

You also want to charge them a premium for their drawing hands. The bigger the c-bet, the worse price they’re getting on their call. 

Since drawing hands are always an underdog against made hands in no-limit Texas hold’em, you don’t want your opponent to complete their draw cheaply.

Let them know right away, if they’re going to chase their draws, it’s going to cost them. This is also called betting for protection.

And I talk about that more in my recent ultimate poker odds cheat sheet.

Now it doesn’t mean you should just shove all-in if you ever see a flush draw on the flop. It’s hardly the best way to get the most value. 

You just need to be aware there are theoretically more hands willing to continue on wet boards, so you shouldn’t make it easy for them to do so. 

Betting between ⅔ of the pot and the full pot is generally a good size to use.

As far as bluffing goes on wet, coordinated boards, it’s generally ill-advised for obvious reasons, unless you have a good reason to believe it could be profitable. 

Your opponent is less likely to fold, and that’s the whole point of bluffing in the first place.

You can try bluffing if you have some sort of hand equity to fall back on, if you have a drawing hand, for instance. 

As opposed to stone-cold bluffing, where the only way to win the pot is getting your opponent to fold, semi-bluffing gives you a chance to either win the pot outright, or complete your draw on future streets.

As such, semi-bluffing is obviously preferable, and could be a good idea if you have a strong draw on a wet flop. 

In other instances, you’ll want to think twice about light c-betting, unless there is some other factor at play that tells you otherwise.

Never Bet the Flop Like This (Summary)

To recap, here’s a quick mental checklist to go through when deciding whether or not, and how much to c-bet on the flop:

1. Are you betting for value or as a bluff? If you’re value betting, which hands are likely to give you action?

If you’re c-betting light (bluffing), which hands are you trying to get to fold?

2. What bet size to use? If you’re playing against recreational, inelastic opponents, use exploitative sizing: for value hands, go bigger, for bluffs, go smaller. 

Against more observant competition, use balanced sizing, i.e. the sizing that doesn’t give away the strength of your hand.

3. Is your bet size too obvious and giving away your hand strength? Do you need to mix up your game? 

If so, should you change the bet size, or should you try alternative lines, like check-raising, check-calling, or making a delayed c-bet instead?

This step isn’t necessary if you’re playing against clueless recreational players. Against them, keep it simple and count your money

4. What’s the board texture? If the flop is very dry, you can bluff more frequently because it’s less likely your opponent connected with the board in any meaningful way.

5. Is the board very wet and coordinated? If so, which hands could have connected, and what are the possible drawing hands? 

Do you need to bet for protection and charge a premium for your opponent’s drawing hands, or can you go for a smaller bet to lure them in if you have a very strong hand yourself?

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, of course, and shouldn’t be followed mechanically. It serves more of an example of the thought process to take when making decisions. 

The more factors you consider, the better your decision making process. 

At the same time, following a mental model like the one above or a similar one will help you not get the paralysis by analysis, and reach the best decision faster in the limited time available on the felt.

By following the guidelines set out in this article, you will never make another c-bet just because “it’s standard”.

Always aim to make the best decisions, because “standard” isn’t good enough.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $1000+ per month in small stakes games, get a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.
 Stop Betting the Flop Like This!