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The Strategy Behind the Down Bet

Since the inception of poker, winning strategies have continued to evolve. And, since its heightened popularity as a result of the online poker boom in the early 2000’s, that evolution has accelerated drastically. One adaptation that has come from this evolution of poker is the down bet.

What is Down Betting?

Historically, when making continuation bets (c-bets), many poker professionals would size them to be approximately half the value of the pot. Now, we are starting to see many knowledgeable professional and recreational poker players make smaller c-bets relative to the size of the pot.

Let’s not mince words here: down betting does not mean betting any small amount. Betting 10% of the pot, for example, is generally not going to get much in terms of folds, while also not getting much in terms of value. In other words, you’re getting the worst of both worlds with such a bet sizing, regardless of your holding. Instead, down betting generally means betting an amount between 25-33% of the pot.

Example of Down Betting

Let’s consider a very simple scenario. Action folds to you before the flop, and you raise in position, getting one caller. The flop is K72 rainbow.

When you c-bet on this flop, you’re making what’s called a range bet. You’re essentially saying, “I have at least top pair with a good kicker”. And, if that statement were true, you should expect to only get called by worse holdings. Top pair is only losing to a set on this flop. Because of that, this is a difficult board for your opponent to continue without at least one pair. In addition, it’s nearly impossible for them to bluff due to the lack of draws.

Your bet in this example should have the same effect regardless of whether you bet 25% or 50% of the pot. The smaller sizing makes this bet a down bet.

Benefits of Down Betting

So what is the benefit of down betting? Down betting allows you to bet more frequently with a wider range of hands if the board connects with your perceived pre-flop raising range.

Whether you’ve connected with the flop or not, whether you’ve flopped the nuts or hit lightly with bottom pair, you’re able to extract thin value against worse holdings while still protecting against draws and overcards. In short, you’re able to make these bets at a higher frequency without giving anything away about your hand due to the consistency of your bet sizing.

One worry you might have from this strategy is: won’t I get more calls on the flop? The answer to that is: yes, you will. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Take this quote from Hunter Cichy, who has won over $1.1 million in tournament cashes:

People are folding less frequently to the small bet, but you’re getting a bigger bang for your buck. You’re producing more fold equity per chip overall.

Card Player, “Poker Strategy: Down Betting With Poker Coach And Pro Hunter Cichy

Down Betting in Practice

Because down betting represents a smaller percentage of your chip stack, it leaves more room for telling a consistent and convincing story.

Consider the historical scenario where poker professionals used to c-bet for about 50% of the pot size. By betting so large on the flop, the player in control of the action would need to make an even larger bet on the turn in order to maintain pressure. These large bets bloat the pot, which is great for strong holdings. However, more often than not, your hand will not be strong on the flop; it will only be good or mediocre at best. In such cases, bloating the pot is not an advantageous play. As a result of these larger flop bets, checking back the turn is a strategy often employed to prevent bloating the pot further.

The result of checking back, though, is that hands that might have folded to a second barrel on the turn will instead get to see both a turn and river for no additional cost beyond the chips committed on the flop. With this example in mind, Hunter Cinchy makes a strong case for down betting:

Instead of [betting large on the flop and checking back the turn], you can down bet and then fire the turn at a much higher frequency like 50, 60, or even 70 percent of the time. Because there are still hands in your opponent’s range that you can still fold out. And it disguises your range a lot more headed to the river. It allows you to balance out your river bluffing ranges a lot more.

Card Player, “Poker Strategy: Down Betting With Poker Coach And Pro Hunter Cichy

Conclusion

Is down betting always appropriate? Not necessarily. Down betting is a form of range betting, in that you should be betting the ranges that your pre-flop raises represent relative to the flop. Checking back a flop might be more appropriate, while betting larger amounts will also be the better option.

Other aspects of a hand need to be considered as well, such as:

  • What is the board texture?
  • How many players are in the pot?
  • How big are the chip stacks of the players involved?
  • Am I in position or out of position?
  • How have my opponents reacted to my bets in the past, and what were their holdings when doing so?

Many factors go into determining an appropriate bet size, and down betting — like any aspect of a poker hand — should not be an assumed or predetermined action. Your hand should tell a story, and if down betting safely fits into that story alongside the other information available at your disposal, then it may be worth considering.

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