Blockers are an important, yet often overlooked, concept in poker that every improving player should understand. But what exactly are blockers and how do they work to influence optimal decision making? This article provides a beginner’s guide to using blockers in poker successfully.
What are Blockers in Poker?
Put simply, blockers refer to cards that you hold in your hand that directly impact the probabilities of your opponent holding certain cards or hands.
Knowing that blockers remove combinations from your opponent’s range is key to understanding their effect. For example, if you hold two aces (AA), you ‘block’ your opponent from having other aces in their hand. This significantly reduces the chances they have a strong ace starting hand like AK.
Having this blocking effect means you can make much better informed decisions based on the reduced probability of your opponent’s holdings. Identifying and utilizing blockers properly gives you a major strategic advantage at the poker table.
Why Do Blockers Matter in Poker?
Understanding blockers allows you to narrow the possibilities of your opponent’s holdings. This translates into higher EV decisions when you bet, call or fold.
Some key ways blockers influence optimal play include:
- Bet-sizing when value betting or bluffing. Holding a blocker can allow you to bet smaller as a bluff since your hand interferes with their strong holdings.
- Determining if a draw has proper equity. Holding a blocker to a flush or straight means the true odds of hitting are reduced.
- Making hero calls against a likely bluff holding a blocker to value hands.
- Knowing when to bet or check strong hands on the river holding a blocker.
Simply put, properly accounting for blockers gives you a mathematical and psychological edge. It helps you craft the optimal poker strategy in any given situation.
How Do You Use Blockers Effectively in Poker?
There are two main steps to effectively utilizing blockers in your poker strategy:
- Identify the blockers in your hand and determine which combinations they remove from your opponent’s range.
- Make adjustments to your strategy based on your opponent having fewer strong hands and draws. Bet smaller as a bluff, check more with strong holdings, make thinner hero calls and avoid chasing poor odds draws.
Of course, there are dozens of specific situations where leveraging your blockers provides a winning edge. But focusing on these two key steps trains you to always be thinking of your blockers at the table. This gives you an instant strategic advantage over recreational players who don’t grasp blocker concepts.
Examples of Using Blockers in Texas Hold’em
Let’s take a look at a few examples of using blockers effectively in Texas hold’em:
- You hold 4-4 on a flop of 3-6-7. Your pair of 4s block opponents potentially having the nuts as there are 2 fewer 4s available for them to have.
- You’ve called a raise with As 10c and the board is 2-7-9 all spades. As you have the ace of spades, you block anyone else having the nut flush.
Mastering Blockers for Poker Success
Learning to integrate blocker effects into your overall poker strategy is a key skill on your path to poker mastery. Blockers influence every single decision at the table in subtle ways. Developing a natural awareness for your blockers will provide a major long-term edge. Use the guidelines in this article to elevate your play and start actively using blockers today.