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Bluffing with Blockers

Pro Poker Tips: Bluffing with Blockers

Red lines are all the rage and rightly so. Improving your red line means you’re taking down more pots. What’s a good way to win more pots? Learn to bluff more effectively. Using blockers with your bluffs will definitely increase their success rate.

What are blockers?

A blockers are simply cards in your hand that reduce the combos of strong hands your opponent can have. If you have an Ace in your hand, then that’s one less Ace that he has. There are 6 ways to have pockets Aces, but if you’re holding Aspade 2 spade, then there are only 3 ways your opponent can have pocket Aces. That’s 50% less!

Blocker situations can arise both pre-flop and post-flop. Let’s discuss both.

Pre-flop Blockers

Pre-flop spots usually involve 4-betting. Let’s say you open from middle position (aka the “high jack”). The Big Blind 3-bets, and you’re trying to decide whether to 4-bet bluff. Well, the more big cards you have in your hand, the fewer your opponent will hold. For example, if you have Kheart Qdiamond, then you significantly reduce the likelihood that your opponent has AK, KK, and QQ. In other words, it is now MORE likely that your opponent was bluffing and will fold.

If you have AK yourself, while it’s true that you’re blocking him, this wouldn’t be a bluff! AK is a great hand. Therefore you have to draw the line between the hands with big cards that are bluffs, and the ones that you want to go with. If I’m under-the-gun, hands like AJ, KQ and KJ can be good bluffing candidates. If I’m on the button however, I usually want to call with these hands against a 3-bet so that I can see the flop. In this spot, I’ll usually opt for weak Aces like A2 – A5 as my blocking hands to 4-bet. You only have one card that’s acting as a blocker, but it’s better than none.

Post-flop Blockers

Post-flop, most blocking situations arise on the river. When you’re bluffing on the flop and turn, it’s better to focus on equity. Choose to bluff with hands that have at least some chance to improve. However, let’s say you get to the river, and your hand still hasn’t improved. How do you decide when to bluff? Blockers!

Your job is to think carefully about your opponent’s hand range. Which hands in his range are likely to call you when you bluff? Are you holding cards that block these hands? If the answer is yes, then you may have a great bluffing opportunity. This does take practice, but it is a critical skill to develop if you want to become a professional poker player.

Opting for blockers will also keep your bluffing frequency under control. If you just bluff whenever it feels right, there’s a good chance you’re going to do it too much. Then you get a reputation as a bluffy player, and the other regs will call you down more often. Or the opposite could be true. Perhaps you bluff the flop and turn, but always chicken out on the river. Start looking for those perfect blocking cards.

Triple Barrel Example

Here’s an example of where I triple barrel with Jspade Tclub in the SB.

In this example, we have the perfect river blocking hand! Since our opponent raises AK preflop and might be raising KQ on the flop or turn given how wet the board is, his next best hands are KJ and KT. And guess what? We block both of those!

3-bet bluffing the River!

Here is a very powerful example that happened yesterday and actually inspired this blog post. In this hand, we have the ultimate: the nut flush blocker. I have Aclub6 spade in the BB.

This was against a very good opponent. He check-raises us on the river, but since I block the nut flush, he obviously doesn’t have the nuts. Even though there is very little money left behind, I 3-bet jam. I knew he was good enough to think that I would never do this with anything but the nuts. And as predicted, he folded.

Those are my examples, I’d love to hear about some of yours!

3 Comments
  • Darren- Coach @ PokerInABox
    June 8, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Hey Mike,
    Good article on bluffing with blockers! I am in agreement with you that bluffing with blockers is necessary as sometimes it can even cap their range (not just block combinations) without them knowing. For example, in the hand where you reraise allin on the river with the Ace of clubs, he is capped at a king high flush. Something that I would like to emphasize even further (you touched a little on it in the article), is that when we are bluffing our opponents, it is absolutely necessary that we have knowledge that the person we are bluffing WILL fold. If this player is someone that will just snap call it off with any flush and potentially even think about calling with hands weaker than a flush, I would suggest to give up in the hand even if we do have the nut blocker.

    🙂
    cheers

    • brian- Coach @ PokerInABox
      June 11, 2015 at 4:42 pm

      Agree, in this example villain who makes a big check raise on the river might very well have done it with a blocker himself: an ace or even AA turned into a bluff reduces the chances that you have exactly the Ac.
      Vs most rec. players and stationy regs I think even bluffing the river with Ac in this case is futile, as they often snap top pair, 2pr+ etc. We could consider overbetting though, perhaps 1.5x pot since stationy players I believe love to call whenever they’re getting somewhat reasonable odds.

  • Mika Hämäläinen
    October 26, 2016 at 12:21 am

    Hi! Good article.
    In the example videoes (embedded weaktight.com videos it seems) all I get is a small white box indicating waiting or loading. Very faintly in the background the table can be seen, but the small white box can not be bypassed. I get this on Firefox, Chrome and Edge. No error messages, nothing. I even copied the address of the weaktight-video and pasted it directly in the browser, but the small white box prevails. So it’s not at your end. Could you embed the videos using another hosting service?

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