Sports & Games

What Are Blocking Bets in Poker? How to Take Advantage of a Block Bet in Poker Games

Written by MasterClass

Sep 9, 2019 • 3 min read

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As poker strategy has evolved over the last 15 years, the sizing of bets has continuously become smaller. Today, we see tiny bets with different purposes that were never seen before, both at the table and in online poker. One of these new strategies is the blocking bet, also known as a block bet, or blocker bet.

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What Is a Blocking Bet?

A blocking bet is a small size bet—around 20-33% of the pot—designed to stop your opponents from making a larger size bet themselves when you are out of position. The hope is that your opponent will be unsure of your hand strength and will call, rather than raising on the preflop.

What Is the Strategy Behind a Blocking Bet?

The idea behind a blocking bet is to control the pot size. In many different situations, you would prefer to keep the pot size small in order to minimize your risk.

This concept highlights the difficulties of playing out of position:

  • In a game of incomplete information, you always prefer to have as much knowledge as possible in order to be able to make the best quality decisions.
  • However, sometimes you just don’t know enough to be able to predict your opponent’s future actions.
  • A blocking bet is a great tool for you to maintain a cautious stance.

If you check out of position, your opponent is free to make a large bet, either as a value bet, a bluff, or semi-bluff. Often, this bet—coupled with your positional disadvantage—is enough to force you out of the hand. Making a small blocking bet though will usually be enough to dissuade them from raising unless they have a monster hand.

What Are the Advantages of a Blocking Bet?

There are a couple of situations where utilizing a blocking bet will save your chips and improve your win rate over the long run.

  • Holding a marginal hand. These hands prefer a small pot for obvious reasons. Blocking bets work perfectly as a combination of a thin value bet and holding off your opponent’s aggression.
  • Holding a draw. Keeping the pot small until you hit one of your outs is always desirable unless you think that you can get your opponent to fold.
  • Getting away cheaply with a second-best hand. If your opponent raises your blocking bet you can usually be sure that you are beat unless your opponent is a good player and they are potentially trying to exploit you after reading your hand as weak.

What Are the Risks of a Blocking Bet?

As the skill level of the average player increases, it becomes more likely that your opponents will understand what you are aiming to do with a small bet. Playing transparent poker is a recipe for disaster, and if your opponents see you making frequent blocking bets then you are just asking them to begin a counter-strategy of bluff raising you whenever this happens.

For this reason, you must aim to implement a balanced strategy, whereby whenever you make a blocking bet you also include some monster hands into your range. Unaware players might think that they are missing out on value if they bet small with their best hands, but the truth is that often your opponent will not have a hand that can call a large bet anyway.

  • Once you have a handle on balanced blocking bets as a strategy, you will reap the benefit of opponents who clumsily begin to raise your best hands leaving you free to exploit them by not using blocking bets with weak hands against them.
  • This game of cat and mouse has the potential to go wrong if you misread the situation. At the very lowest stakes, the vast majority of players will never raise as a bluff.
  • If this starts to happen more frequently to you, take extra care to assess if your opponent is not just having a good run of cards.

Want to Become a Better Poker Player?

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