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 A 2 , 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 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 K Q, 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, 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 J T 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 A6 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!