When starting your poker journey, you must familiarize yourself with a few poker terminologies. Fish, nit, TAG, actions, slow rolls, and connectors are just a few.
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In this blog, we’ll focus our attention on one concept: blockers. So what are blockers in poker? And how can you use it to improve your betting and bluffing strategy?
First, let’s define the term blocker.
What are blockers in poker?
Blockers refer to cards that reduce the possibility of certain hands your opponent has made. It’s best explained using an example. In this case, we’ll use straight and flushes.
Let’s say you have the ace of spades and king of diamonds. The table completes the initial bet, and the flop comes 489—all of them are spades.
Since you’re holding the ace of spades, you’re completely confident the other active hands haven’t made the best flush. Sure, they could’ve still made a flush, as there are still eight more spades. But you’re certain it’s a lesser flush as you’re holding the ace of spades.
That information is extremely valuable. A spade might hit the turn or river depending on the number of active hands. If that happens, you now have the best flush. If a spade doesn’t hit, you’re still blocking the possibility of a flush since you’re holding one of the spades.
The same is true for a straight. If you have 55 and the flop comes 478 rainbow, you’re blocking the possibility of straight as you have two 5s on your hand. That is the concept of blockers in poker.
Blockers and bet sizing
Blockers can also inform your decision regarding the amount you’re betting against your opponent. Let’s look at another example.
Let’s say the board has A679T rainbow, and you’re holding J8. Since the board is a rainbow, the possibility of a flush is out the window. That means you have the best hand with the jack-high straight.
Your strategy now focuses on how much value you can extract from your opponent. Perhaps they have AA or two pair. You may already have a good idea of your opponent’s cards based on how everything transpired before the river hit.
There’s also the chance of them holding A8, giving them the second-best straight. But remember: you’re blocking that possibility as you’re already holding one of the 8s.
If they have the 8 and you’re raising a value bet, it could lead them to re-raise. In this case, you can earn more from your hand instead of mindlessly betting large earlier.
Blockers and bluffing tactics
Bluffing and blockers in poker go hand in hand as well. Let’s look at the scenario below.
Say you’re the big blind and have A spade and J heart. You check. Your opponent is sitting at the hijack position and bets. You flat and the flop comes KQ spade and 5 clubs.
You check, and the opponent bets half the pot. You flat again, and the river comes 6 spades. It doesn’t improve your hand, but it does give you more outs going into the river.
Now, you can decide to take control and fire, with the intention of firing again on the river as if you already have the nuts. Or you can check, wait for your opponent to fire again, then re-raise them with an even bigger bet. You’re telling the story that you have the flush already.
You’ll be able to make this play as you have one of the spades in your hand. Of course, there are still a lot of factors to consider here. The most important of which is the opponent’s past decisions.
If you’ve labeled your opponent as a calling station—someone who consistently calls a raise—this tactic is a poor strategy. You won’t be able to get them off their hand, and they’ll likely call again once you fire on the river.
Blockers in poker help you paint stories
As you’ve seen, veterans use blockers in poker to convince their opponents of the story they’re trying to tell. So knowing this poker concept is essential in improving your game.
However, the best way to hone your understanding of blockers in poker is to use them in actual games.
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