There’s no simple fix for becoming a winning poker player.
But there are a handful of simple, easy-to-execute poker moves that can make a world of difference to your bottom line.
By fine-tuning these tactics you’ll have more tools to put to work at the poker table. You’ll be able to better understand your opponents and how to manipulate them, and that will translate directly to money in your pocket.
We already wrote the book on the 10 Essential Texas Hold’em Moves and now we’re back to bring you 10 more.
Today we’re deconstructing the blocking bet, sometimes called the blocker bet. By taking control of the pot with an out-of-position bet you can get yourself a better price on your draws and see cheaper showdowns.
How to Make a Blocking Bet in Poker
The What: A blocker bet refers to betting from out-of-position in order to control how much money goes into the pot on a given betting round.
The Why: When you’re holding a marginal hand that can’t stand up to a big bet, you can make a small bet that is likely to get called, but not raised, in order to see another card or get to showdown for a cheaper price.
The When: Blocking bets are always made from out of position since you must be able to act before your opponent.
The Who: Because making a small bet leaves you open to getting bluffed with a re-raise this move is best suited to use against tight, inexperienced opponents.
The Where: Blocking bets can be used effectively in both cash games and tournaments.
Using Blocking Bets the Right Way
Not everyone agrees on whether blocking bets are truly effective, but they’ll all tell you that if you’re doing it wrong, you’re burning money.
We’re here to tell you that at the right time, against the right opponent, a blocking bet can absolutely increase your winnings.
The important part of using blocking bets is understanding the line you’re taking in the hand, and the kind of opponent you’re up against.
Weaker, tighter players are your targets when you’re thinking about using a blocking bet, because an experienced, tough player will be able to exploit you by bluff-raising.
There are two main situations where you should consider a blocking bet.
Use Blocking Bet to See Cheap River Card
Imagine you’re playing a hand of $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em and a player in middle position raises to $6. The small blind calls and you decide to call with 9♦ T♦.
The flop comes A♦ J♣ 5♦ and you check-call a $12 continuation bet from the original raiser. The small blind folds and the 2♠ hits the turn.
If you know enough about this opponent to know he’ll fire a second bullet with a wide range of hands, you can make a bet of your own, and size it so that you’re getting a better price to draw to your flush.
With $42 in the pot you could bet $20, since your opponent’s likely to make a more standard-sized bet of $30-$35.
And in addition to seeing the river for less if your opponent just calls, you also pick up some fold equity for those times he completely missed the board and decides to just give up.
Use Blocking Bet to See Cheap Showdown
The most common and arguably most effective way to use the blocking bet is when you’re moderately confident you have the best hand on the river, but you’re not comfortable calling a big bet to get to showdown.
Let’s go back to the $1/$2 cash game. Just like the first example a player raises, gets a call from the small blind and you call with 9♦ T♦ in the big blind.
This time the flop comes down T♥ 8♣ 5♠ and you check-call a continuation bet from the original raiser after the small blind folds. You both check the 5♦ on the turn before the 2♠ hits the river.
At this point you’re reasonably confident that top pair is good but you’d rather not pay $35 to find out. By betting out for a smaller amount you’ll be able to see that showdown for a cheaper price, and you’ll also get some fold equity.
How to Balance Your Blocker-Bet Range
It’s important to understand that blocking bets are far more difficult to use against good players.
If you only bet small out of position with marginal hands, looking to get a cheap showdown, good players will simply raise and blow you off your hand.
To combat this you must balance your blocker-bet range by doing exactly the same thing with your big hands too.
In the second example from above imagine you had pocket fives and flopped a set.
You checked the turn hoping to slow-play and instead of checking again on the river to induce a bluff, you bet small to represent a blocking bet and a marginal hand.
A good player will pick up on this and might try to bluff-raise you off the pot, getting more money into the middle when you’ve got the best of it.
Blocking Bets in Action
If you’re still unconvinced about the power of the blocker bet, let 13-time WSOP winner Phil Hellmuth break it down for you in the video below.
More Essential Texas Hold'em Moves
- Push/Fold Strategy
- The Isolation Play
- The Over-Bet
- The Blocking Bet
- Defending the Blinds
- Floating the Flop
- The Light Three-Bet
- The Soul Read
- The Triple-Barrel Bluff
- The Squeeze Play
- The Bluff Catcher
- The Check-Raise
- The Re-Steal
- The Limp Re-Raise
- The Cold 4-Bet
- The Stop & Go
- The Reverse Tell
- The Semi-Bluff
- How to Set Mine (w/ video)