Poker Definition of Blocker

by Jesse Knight


Blocker Bet
1. One of your opponent's outs. A card not in play because it is in a hand and therefore is not live in the deck.
2. A type of bet.

If you are holding a card or cards that your opponent needs, you are effectively blocking his ability to complete his hand. When you hold these cards in your hand they are called “blockers.” The term is most commonly used in Omaha and Lowball games, where each player takes cards out of play that they will not use in to complete their hand. If you have made the nut low in a High-Low Omaha game with Ah 2h 2s 2d, the two extra deuces are blockers to another nut low hand. If, on the other hand, you were playing California Lowball, and you were dealt 4h 3c 2d As Ac, The extra ace would be a blocker, because your opponent most likely needs it to complete his hand. In Triple Draw Lowball games it is not safe to assume that a card that you have taken out of play by discarding will stay out of play. Often by the third draw there will not be enough cards left in the deck to complete the deal. In this case the dealer will shuffle the discards back into the deck in order to complete the deal. This means that your opponent (or even yourself), may acquire through the draw a card that was previously discarded.

Holding blockers will affect your pot odds. By decreasing the likelihood your opponent will complete their hand, you increase your chance of winning the pot. But your opponent will often have several outs in Lowball and Omaha games. Slimming their outs by one or two is helpful, but certainly does not preclude them from making their hand anyway. Some players will expose a blocker in order to get their opponent to throw their draw away. This is both unethical and unwise from a game theory standpoint. Good poker players make betting decisions based upon the information they have available. The better their information, the better able they are to make correct poker decisions. By exposing a card you are improving the quality of their information. You may increase the probability that they will muck when you expose a blocker, but you are also letting them off the hook on a low probability draw. In a poker game, if you have privileged information (information that only you have), like the placement of a blocker, you should keep it to yourself. Generally, as more people share a piece of information, it becomes less valuable.

There is also a type of bet called a “blocker bet.” This is a gambit used in no limit, pot limit, and spread limit games. In these games, the player decides how much to bet, within the confines of the structure of the game. The decision on how much to bet is based on a risk reward evaluation based upon the size of the pot and the probability of winning. For example, a player who bets $50 at a $50 pot has a much better chance of winning the pot outright than a player who bets only $5, but they have to risk $50 instead of $5 to do it.

Also consider that in poker games, there is a natural advantage to betting and raising as opposed to checking and calling. This is because when you bet or raise, your opponent may throw their hand away regardless of whether or not you have them beat. You will win a significantly greater number of pots this way with the worst hand or an incomplete draw then you could by playing passively. Because of this added benefit for aggressive play, it is often correct to bet with hands that are not strong enough to call with. Or, to be more precise, you generally need a stronger hand to call than you need to bet.

As far as raising goes, you need to be more cautious than you would be betting. This is because when you bet, you have often had one or more players check in front of you, and checking is a sign of weakness. When you raise, you are raising a player who has already bet, indicating strength. Your raise reopens the betting for this player, and if they are strong enough they will reraise you. So you must be cautious about how and when you raise.

In addition to this, in no limit, pot limit, and spread limit games, position is more important then it is in limit games. This is because there is flexibility to the bet size. Because of the unstructured betting in these games, the player with the positional advantage can tailor the bet size for maximum strategic advantage. This requires the out of position player to respect the power of position, and play more passively. This in turn allows the player with the positional advantage to become more aggressive, further increasing his advantage. This dynamic makes it very hard to bet without a strong hand from early position in these games. It also makes it difficult to call a bet which is large in proportion to the size of the pot, when you only have an out of position draw.

Quite often in these games, whether or not you have pot odds to take a draw is determined by the size of the bet your opponent makes. And your opponent makes money if he can get you to call when you do not have pot odds to do so. This means that it is common for players with position to make bets large enough to force their opponents choose between mucking on the spot or taking a draw for which they may not have pot odds. However, a strategy exists for the out of position player to counter this. This strategy involves the use of a “blocker bet.”

A blocker bet is a small to medium sized bet made by an out of position player (who is most commonly on a draw) made with the intent giving themselves pot odds. Remember, if they check and the player with position bets too much, they will not have pot odds call. But if instead they bet a small amount, and do not get raised, they may get the pot odds they need quite easily. The key is to represent enough strength so that the player with position cannot raise, without being reckless.

This is an extremely difficult, but vital gambit to master. If your blocker bet is too small, or if your opponent suspects what you are up to, they will simply raise your blocker bet to an amount where you do not have pot odds to call. If your blocker bet is too large, you will be betting recklessly and out of position, which is even worse for you. Because the blocker bet is such a common play, especially in no limit games, your opponents are likely to be on the lookout for it, which makes it pretty tough to pull off. Even so it is vital that you incorporate it into your game. If you do not, you will be bet off nearly every draw, and you will be constantly pushed around in the game.

Usage: Held The Blocker, Blocker Bet, Blocking Bet, Block Bet, Blocker Card

Previous Poker Term: Blind Raise
Next Poker Term: Bluff


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