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Using blocking bets to your advantage

reading poker players A blocking bet is a bet that, on its face anyway, is designed to allow us to show down a hand for a reduced price.

For instance, if we are at the river, and we have a hand which we want to show down but we are not all that confident about calling a standard sized bet with, we can make a smaller bet with the hope that you will just call.

Therefore, if this works, we showed the hand down for less and saved chips.

Or if you fold, even better, as we may have won with the weakest hand.

When to make blocking bets

These blocking bets are most often seen on the river, but can be used earlier in the hand as well, to look to control the size of the pot.

The thinking here is that by betting smaller, our opponent may be willing to make a standard bet, but may not be willing to put in a standard raise to our blocking bet, which would cost him considerably more chips in comparison.

So we're going to want to make our blocking bets large enough to actually do some blocking, and if they are too small, they won't work, since our opponent can raise them at a similar price as what it would have cost for a standard bet. So if the pot is $100 and we bet $20, he could just put in a standard sized raise and that would be pretty similar to what he would have bet.

For instance if he raises 3 times to $60, it would be like if he made a bet of 60% of the pot, which is standard. Sizing your blocking bets is an art in itself. Knowing your opponents by note taking will help in this regard.

However, now we have $20 of our chips out there which we'll give up if we fold, rather than just check and make the decision without any further chips at risk. We could and should be using a larger blocking bet, but should it not work, then the chips we have committed to this move are at risk as well of course.

So therefore if we look to block and fail, which means that we get raised, then we are at risk of doing ourselves some harm here, so this needs to be used with discretion. Blocking bets are best used when we really do have a good read that we'll probably get called.

With that said, if our opponents are decent at all, they will be able to see through what we're trying to do here very easily, and may often look to just put pressure on us by raising these blocking bets frequently. So there is definitely the need for balancing here, meaning to also use a blocking bet in situations where we want to actually build the pot and not limit it.

So if we do this with good hands as well, and you are thinking that this represents weakness and are willing to put in some light raises, then our play is not only less transparent, we can get some more action from you when we want it. If we three bet you here and we can get you to fold often enough, we can also use this tactic as a bluff.

So you definitely want to pay close attention to the history you have against certain players with blocking bets. This doesn't come up a whole lot in a game, at least in terms of the instances where you'd want to be blocking, although if a particular opponent is misplaying these situations, you may want to look to go to that well more often than this to add a little extra profit in.

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