A lot of the time when you raise pre-flop you will get called by multiple opponents and miss the flop. A continuation bet is when you bet the flop having been the last pre-flop raiser, in the hope of taking dead money down in the pot and folding the other opponents. It’s a very common bluff in No Limit Holdem – even at the micro-stakes games, and it tends to be a great move for taking initiative in the hand and giving you a strong table image.
Continuation betting is a very profitable move and I think there is something to be said for continuation betting 90%+ of hands in micro-stakes games (NL50 and below). The typical amount to c-bet should be about 50% – 75% of the pot. The exact amount depends on your opponent and the wetness of the board i.e. how easily he will fold. Aggressive opponents tend not to fold so easily so you will need to raise at the higher end of the spectrum, where as weak passive players tend to fold more often on missed flops. A lot of weak opponents with marginal hands, bottom pairs and missed Kx/Qx types of hands will fold. You tend to get a lot of bad players limping from the blinds too often with rag aces or connected holdings, so when this happens a continuation bet almost always wins you the pot. For the record, continuation betting is always more successful from position, raising after your opponent checked. For example, let’s say that you raised pre-flop from LP with QKs and you got called by BB with 44. When the flop brings a number of overcards to the board such as A-Q-7 it’s very hard for BB to raise out of position here because he could get re-raised. Once you see a player check in front of you, you can c-bet the flop and hopefully make him fold.
The biggest factor which will determine whether you should continuation bet a flop is the cards on the board. When c-betting with air, you always want to be bluffing a dry flop that your opponents won’t have hit or gained much equity from. The best types of flops to c-bet are dry boards with unconnected rainbow boards like A-3-9. It’s very hard for your opponents to hit these. That’s why c-betting here would be successful. Suited boards such as 4s-9s-Qs are also ok to c-bet with 2 or less opponents in the pot. Think about it, your opponents can’t really profitably call your raise unless they have the nut flush i.e. the As or Ks. Even opponents with AA or AK will be forced to fold since they know they will be drawing dead a lot of the time. The worst boards to c-bet in my opinion are those which hit your opponent’s pre-flop calling range. Any group of middling cards on the board such as 5-6-8 or high suited connectors like Js-Qs-6h are very bad to bluff. Most of your opponent’s calling range pre-flop will be with 6s-7s type hands or broadway cards like JQ/KQ/KJ. Such opponents will hit these flops hard, and even if they don’t directly hit top pair they’ll still have enough equity and draws to call your c-bet and see the turn. On boards like these you should really be check/folding since there really isn’t anyway you’re folding the majority of opponents. There’s also a big chance that if you do decide to c-bet the flop you’ll get re-raised with a semi-bluff or premium hand.
Another great thing about c-betting is that you are extremely unlikely to get re-raised. Opponents who hit a monster on the flop like full house are more likely going to slow-play these hands to prevent giving their strength away. Likewise, players who hit a small peice of the board or nothing at all are more exercise pot-control, and bluff/semi-bluff you on the turn or river depending on how you act in later streets. This prevents them making the size of the pot too big whilst they are unsure whether they’re ahead or not.