Poker Blockers: How They Work In 2022

The concept of blockers in poker has been around for a while but, until recently, it’s one that has been far more stressed in Omaha games. Lately, however, we’re seeing the concept applied more in Texas Hold’em as well. While the value of blockers may not be as high in Hold’em as it is in Omaha, they’re still well worth considering as a part of a greater overall game plan.

Poker Blockers: How They Work In 2022

If you’re new to this concept or have heard a bit about it and are looking to get more insights and ideas, you’ve come to the right place. This article is fully dedicated to explaining how to get the most value out of your blockers in different situations. Whether you’re trying to catch a bluff, considering bluffing yourself, or figuring out if you should go for value, understanding the concept of blockers can be very helpful and significantly improve your overall poker strategy.

Blockers: They Are Exactly What They Sound Like

If you’re completely new to the concept of blockers and have just heard the term being thrown around, your initial idea or assumption about what these are is probably correct. As the name suggests, blockers are cards that block certain hands. In other words, they make certain hands less likely or completely impossible in your opponents’ poker range.

It is best explained with examples of flushes. If there are three hearts on the board and you’re holding the Ace of hearts in your hand (with another non-heart card), you may not have the nut flush but you can also be 100% certain that none of the other players still active in the hand have it either. By holding the A♥, you’re blocking the best possible flush, which can be a very useful piece of information that impacts how you play the hand.

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Of course, this is only the most extreme of examples. The idea of blockers can be applied in other situations as well. For example, if you are holding 99 and the board comes T76, your opponents are half as likely to have the nuts because you’re holding two of the four key cards. This doesn’t mean that they’ll never have a 9 themselves, of course; it’s just that hands with a 9 are blocked which makes them less likely – although you’ll still need to account for other important facts as well.

Incorporating Blockers In Your Value Betting Strategy

While the whole idea of blockers is mostly discussed in terms of bluffing, it is also something you should have in the back of your mind when betting for value. When you’re the one holding the nuts and reducing other players’ chances of having a really big hand, you need to take this into consideration when sizing your bets.

Let’s consider a board of 4 5 K 6 8, with no possible flushes. You get to the river with 97 and have the absolute nuts. You’re looking to get value from your hand, but you should also keep in mind that the chances of one of the other players having a 7 is reduced. So, your value bet should be designed to target hands like a good top pair or two pair hands.

Of course, your decision will also be connected to other factors in the hand as well. Depending on how the hand played out up to that point, you may have a decent idea about other players’ range – which can massively influence the exact line (and bet size) you choose on the river.

Blockers & Bluffing: A Powerful Weapon When Used Correctly

The first thing we’ll look into is how the concept of blockers in poker can be applied to situations where you’re planning to run a bluff. We’ve already alluded to this possibility earlier, and now we’ll expand on the idea.

Say you’re sitting in the big blind and are dealt A♦T♠. Your opponent makes a standard open from the hijack position and you have him pegged as a somewhat tighter player, so you decide to flat and see the flop. The board comes K♦ J♦ 3♥.

This is clearly a board that is much better for his range than it is for yours, but you do have a gutshot draw to the nuts and that key card, the ace of diamonds, in your hand. Already at this point, you can start thinking about future streets and how you want to play them.

Between the times you’ll actually improve to the best hand and the times they’ll be forced to fold because you’re representing the nuts, this can be a very effective tactic. You can afford to make this play because you know that under no circumstances could your opponent have the nuts (unless the river pairs the board of course). So, you can really put them to the test by betting big on the river (or even over-betting) to take full advantage of the situation.

Of course, like with many other strategic ideas in poker, you shouldn’t get blinded by this newly discovered concept and take it too far. You’ll still want to target opponents who can find the fold button (virtual or real). Bluffing a calling station is almost always a bad idea because they just don’t fold and don’t care too much about the story you’re trying to tell.

Blockers & Ranges: Putting Two & Two Together

We’ve already mentioned that the concept of blockers goes along with other strategic poker concepts. Its value becomes much higher when you start incorporating other ideas and combining them into a sound and effective strategic plan.

When you’re thinking about blockers, you shouldn’t be thinking about them in isolation. Ideally, you want to think about them within the range you assign to your opponent through deductive hand reading at the poker table. We’ll demonstrate what we’re talking about here through some more examples.

Let’s say a solid player opens from UTG +1 at a 9-handed table and you make defend loosely with 5♥4♥. The board comes 2♥ 4♠ 5♣, giving you top two pair. You check to the raiser, they bet, you raise, and they decide to 4-bet you. Let’s now think about their range for a second.

They are opening from an early position and are a competent player. All straights include a 3, which they should pretty much never have in this particular spot. Their position virtually blocks them from having the nuts on this board.

The Concept Of “Unblocking”

There’s been more discussion lately about the benefits of unblocking key hands in our opponent’s postflop range. Given that blocking is when visible cards make it less likely to have certain holdings, unblocking is when visible cards actually make it more likely your opponent could have certain holdings.

For instance, take this hand that I played in my $1/$2 poker VLOG. I break down an OESFD where my exact hand unblocks my opponent from having many of the hands I’d prefer them to have when barreling the turn.

By holding Q♦J♦, my opponent cannot have hands like A♦J♦ nor Q♦J♠, hands that would likely fold facing another bet on the turn. We would instead prefer to hold something like 7♠6♠ and unblock key combos in our opponent’s range that are more likely to fold against continued pressure.

Conclusion: Practice Makes Perfect

While the idea of blockers may be novel to many players, it is definitely a valuable concept that is well worth exploring and adding into your overall game-plan. Don’t worry about learning everything there is to learn in a day or two. As you could probably guess from this article, this is a fairly wide area that will take some time to truly master – which is totally OK, as you will expand your knowledge and deepen your poker survival kit as you practice these things between sessions.

The best way to master the concept of blockers, of course, is by actually playing and putting the idea to the test. Now that you have some fundamentals down, you can start looking for spots where an understanding of blockers could come in handy. As already mentioned, be careful not to overdo it, and don’t forget to take into account other information you may have about your opponents. It all comes into play when making your decision.

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