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Using the “Weak” Continuation Bet

Using the “Weak” Continuation Bet
One of the unique features of online tournament play is how quickly you are moved from one table to another during the course of the event. Although you may play with the same group of opponents for a fair amount of time, more frequently you are faced with a rapidly changing lineup of players who have never seen you before.

Although some may have background on you via a poker-tracking program, the information garnered from those tells them WHEN you bet, not necessarily how much. As a result, you have the opportunity to surprise them by throwing them an occasional curve ball. One of these is the use of what appears to be a “weak” continuation bet.

Consider this example: You are sitting in the small blind, and find yourself with pocket aces. Everyone folds around to the button, who has you covered and has been fairly aggressive in the short time you have been seated at the table. He limps in. Although you could just follow suit, hoping the big blind will raise to steal, allowing you to three-bet, you decide to raise right there in order to isolate the button. The big blind folds and the button calls, as you expected.

Now the flop brings A-Q-4 rainbow. Jackpot! How do you get the best return out of the hand? Some players would check the set, but this would definitely look suspicious, since you raised pre-flop knowing you would be out of position for the rest of the hand. Others would just make a normal-size bet, of half the pot or a little more, trying to appear to be making a continuation bet.

However, a third strategy is to put out an abnormally small bet, say about one-quarter of the pot. To an aggressive opponent, this will be like putting a raw steak in front of a lion, as he will read it as being a weak “probe” bet from someone who whiffed completely on the flop. Almost regardless of whether or not he got any of the flop, he will call, hoping to take the pot away on the turn or river.

The turn card is another 4, and now you put the second part of the plan in motion. You check, making it look as if you made a minimal attempt to win the pot, but are now prepared to give it up. Sure enough, he makes a nearly pot-sized bet. At this point, you have a choice of whether to raise right now, or just call, planning to either bet or check-raise the river.

Of these options, calling is certainly the best play. Since there is basically no risk that you will be caught on the last card (unless he has pocket fours, in which case you are going to lose your entire stack no matter what), calling now allows you either to bet the river hoping to appear to be stealing the pot, or checking to him then and allowing him to make a big river bet hoping to push you off your hand, since the chances are he can’t win the pot any other way. Depending on just how aggressive he is will allow you to decide which of these two plays are best for the situation.

Obviously, this is a play that must be used in moderation, and balanced with actual small probe bets if you are staying with the same group of players for any length of time, or if the particular opponent is someone you have made that move against in the past and is likely to remember it. But this play is one that you can add to your arsenal as another way to get maximum value from a monster hand. 
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