Blocking Bet in Poker – A Strong Ace up Your Sleeve When Done Right
Playing good poker is all about knowing when to bet and how much in various situations. While some bets are designed to get your opponents to fold their cards, others are made to extract value.
An interesting type of bet that not all players use is the blocking bet, which is a value bet of sorts, but one whose main goal is to protect yourself from facing big bets from your opponents.
The blocker bet is a play that works exceptionally well against passive players who don't have a deep understanding of the game and are unlikely to run elaborate bluffs on you.
Let's look at what it is in more detail and when exactly you may want to use blocking bets in your poker games.
What Is a Block Bet?
By definition, a block bet is a bet that is made to prevent your opponent from making a larger bet when you have a hand that you believe is good but are not absolutely certain about. On top of that, it can also help you see where you stand in the hand, so it can be a very useful tool when used correctly.
For the most part, block bets are made on the river, although a turn block bet can also be considered in some situations.
To make this play, you have to be out of position to act first and usually use quite a small sizing in relation to the pot, with 25% or even less being a standard option.
The logic behind making such a bet is that opponents will not be too likely to raise you even when they have you beat with one of the best starting hands, while they will often call you with worse to see your cards.
The main goal, of course, is to avoid checking to your opponent and having them make a large bet, which you would then have a hard time calling with your medium-strength holdings.
Expert tip: Note that block bets actually work exceptionally well against recreational opponents. Such players will not think about the meaning of your block bet or your range and will play their hand straight up.
On the other hand, making block bets with your medium-strength bets in tough lineups will put you in very bad spots, as observant opponents will often make massive bluff raises, making it impossible for you to call.
Blocking bets are all about picking your timing and your customer. If you apply them right, they can be a great tool in your arsenal, while timing them wrong can cause you a lot of headaches.
When Can I Use a Block Bet?
There are several scenarios where a block bet can be a smart play to get the exact result you want from a hand.
The scenarios we will cover mostly have to do with later street betting and are quite specific but often seen in your average poker game. Applying the block bet concept in these situations can make them easier to play and increase your profits by quite a bit.
Medium Strength Hand vs. Passive Pre-flop Raiser
One common scenario in which a block bet can work quite well is when you have a hand weak top pair or second pair with a decent kicker.
Without improving further, we check the flop, and the raiser decides to check back, followed by another pair of checks on the turn.
By betting into the opponent on the river, instead of giving him a chance to fire out his big bet, you will make him just call with his medium-strength hands that have you beat and save you from calling a bigger bet. On top of that, he will be inclined to call your small bet with some of his bluff-catchers, so you will draw some extra chips your way in a situation where it would likely go check-check again if you did not bet yourself.
Preflop Raiser Skips the Turn Bet
Another very common scenario in a single raised pot is when the original raiser c-bet the flop but decides to check back on the turn.
In this case, if we are holding a hand like second pair or a middle pocket pair in our hand, we may elect to block bet the river, taking control of the pot and making their decision more difficult.
Raising with the top pair may be difficult for the opponent, as they can't really hope to get called by much worse. On the other hand, making a bluff bet will also seem scarier.
Scary River Hits the Board
Poker can be a game full of disappointments at times, and few are as bad as flopping a monster hand like a set, only to see the river bring the one scary card you didn't want to see, such as one that completes an obvious potential flush or straight draw.
However, we know from experience that people don't always actually have the flush in this situation but may have been drawing to other things or are simply holding a top pair they called us with.
Firing a blocker bet instead of checking the river can make your opponent think like it is likely you have the flush or whatever another scary option has completed.
If they don't have the hand, they might just fold their busted draw or call you with one pair, both of which are scenarios you look forward to.
If you check, on the other hand, even opponents who are not too observant will know that this is a good time to bluff, as your hand now looks exactly what it is.
Making this bet will save you from having to make that tough decision on whether to pick off a bluff or not, and you will even get some extra value from hands like top pair or two pair if the block bet works the way you intended it to.
When a Block Bet Is a Good Idea
Now that I have covered a few scenarios in which a block bet can sound like a good idea, it is also important to mention a few other factors.
For starters, you will need to consider who you are playing against and how aggressive the game is in general.
In live games, getting a feel for exact opponents and how they might react to your plays is not too hard, while it can be a bit more difficult in online poker.
In either case, you will need to make a judgment call on how aggressive the player you are block betting into actually is and how likely you are to get raised off your hand.
If you are playing against a particularly aggressive opponent, you can mix in making some small block bets with the actual nuts to balance your range and make sure that you sometimes have the hand to fight back with when they do raise.
Sizing Up Your Block Bets
The last thing you will need to consider when you decide to fire out a block bet is how much you should actually bet to get the desired result.
If you are playing against particularly unobservant opponents, I would recommend going for very small sizing when you have weaker hands and making it slightly bigger when your hand has more chance of being the best.
For example, you may want to bet 20% of the pot with 66 on a KK942 board but 30% on the same board when you are holding A9.
The logic behind this is that your opponent will fold the same hands to both bets but may decide to look you up with a hand like 66, 77, 88, or even 9x. In this case, you will lose less with your 66 and get paid more with your A9.
Of course, these are just some nuances, and any sizing up to 30% of the pot should work well for a block bet, as long as you time it right and choose the opponent to do it against very carefully.