When playing poker, a card that hinders an opponent’s ability to form a hand is called a blocker. For instance, if you have an Ace and a King before the flop in Texas Hold’em, the likelihood of your opponent having a pocket pair of Aces decreases because you possess one of only four Aces in the game.
Typically, there are six other possible ways to get a pair of Aces, but since you have one Ace, the number of Aces that can be drawn is reduced to three. Essentially, your blocker cuts your opponent’s chances in half. In short, a blocker is a card in your hand that decreases the possibility of your opponent making certain hands.
Examples of Blockers in Poker
Top Set Blocks Top Pair
Your Hand: Jh-Jd
In this case, only one Jack is remaining in the deck that could make another pair of Jacks. It is highly improbable that your opponent has a Jack in their hand. Therefore, your top set has blocked the possibility of a top pair on the flop.
Pocket Pairs Can Block Straights
Your Hand: JhJd
To have a nut straight, your opponent must hold a Jack in their hand. As you already have pocket Jacks, only two remain in the deck. Therefore, if your opponent bets on the river, it is probably a bluff since they have a low chance of having a Jack to make the straight.
Block Sets With Two Pairs
Your Hand: Qh-8d
In this case, you have the highest two pairs – QQ and 88. For your opponent to have a set on the flop, they must have QQ, 88, or 55. Hence, the possible combinations for a set are nine. However, since you already hold a Qh and an 8d, you have blocked four of the nine combinations (Qh Qc and 8d 8h).
Using Blockers Preflop
In the past, blockers were primarily used in preflop poker situations. Nowadays, players can employ blockers by making three-bet and four-bet bluffs, intending to fold if re-raised.
The most effective bluffing hands typically have a King or an Ace since these poker cards eliminate many of your opponent’s pocket Aces, Kings, and AK combinations.
If you plan to bluff with a hand that is likely to see the flop, avoiding blockers in your hand may be advantageous. A hand without blockers will have higher equity against your opponent’s preflop calling range.
In poker, counting hand combinations is essential when considering blockers, especially when trying to estimate your opponent’s range in a particular situation. Combining this knowledge with understanding pot odds can significantly improve your decision-making process.
Using Blocker as Big Bluff on the River
Blockers are extremely valuable in poker, as they allow you to make a large bet on the river that can be difficult for your opponents to interpret as a bluff or a strong hand.
Typically, these bets should be on the larger side to increase the likelihood of your opponents folding, but it’s essential to balance your play by sometimes making similar bets when you do have the nuts.
Before making this play, checking your opponent’s stats is essential. Attempting to represent the nuts may be ineffective if your opponent is unlikely to fold and will call with a wide range of hands. This poker strategy is most effective against opponents who understand the concept of what you are doing and will consider it in their decision-making process.
For example, you have As-Jh, and you are sitting in the big blind. Your opponent sitting in the hijack position places a bet after you check, and you decide to call. The flop comes Ks-Qs-5c, and your opponent bets half the pot. You call again, and the river reveals a 6s, giving you more outs.
At this point, you have the decision to make. You can take control and bet to fire again on the river as if you have the nuts, or you can check and wait for your opponent to bet again, then re-raise them with a bigger bet to tell the story that you have the flush. You can make this play because you have one of the spades in your hand. However, you must consider several factors, primarily your opponent’s past decisions.
Using Blockers to Value-Bet
Getting familiar with using blockers for value-betting matters in a poker game. It allows you to extract the maximum value from your opponents’ hands. The same idea of using blockers for bluffing can be applied to value-betting.
Value-betting with blockers works best when you reasonably assume your opponent’s hand is weaker than yours but still strong enough to call a bet. When you use blockers for value-betting, the main goal is to extract value from your hand. This means betting an amount that extracts the maximum value rather than scaring your opponent into folding.
While using blockers for value-betting can be effective, it’s vital not to overestimate the strength of your hand. If you think your opponent has a stronger hand than you do, it’s better to check and fold instead of losing more chips by making a value bet.
Using Blockers as Bluff Catchers
You can utilize blockers the same way as you would in a bluffing scenario, but in the opposite way. For example, if your opponent is betting aggressively on all streets, and you hold the ace of hearts, you can consider what they represent. Since they cannot have the nuts, you must assess why they play aggressively without knowing your hand.
This approach can assist you in catching occasional bluffs, particularly on the river, where players often make large bets with polarized ranges, either holding the nuts or having nothing and trying to bluff you. However, it is not advisable to start calling with weak hands, such as ace high. A competent poker player may still bet with a strong flush that is not the nuts, so avoid assuming they are only bluffing.
Using blockers in poker card games is a strategy used to manipulate opponents into making decisions that are not necessarily beneficial to them. It can be utilized as a bluffing tool, value-betting tool, and even as a bluff catcher.
While it’s effective when applied correctly, there are several factors you need to consider before attempting this tactic, such as your opponent’s style, their actions on the previous streets, and the strength of your hand. Remember to maintain good discipline when using blockers, as a lack of restraint can lead to significant chip losses.