Blocking Bets – By: Tommy Angelo

What is a blocking Bet?

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “blocking bet”, it’s a bet designed to get you to a cheaper showdown on the river when you are first to act (or out of position). If you have a somewhat marginal hand, and aren’t sure of where you stand, you can place a somewhat smaller bet out there in hopes that your opponent will just call instead of raise. The typical size of a blocking bet is anywhere from 1/4 of the pot to 1/3 of the pot on the river. This is made with the assumption that your opponent will likely bet 1/2 the pot or more on the river if you check to him.

This play typically works against most small stakes opponents, and if you haven’t practiced making this play, you should look to incorporate it from time to time. A common example is when you hold top pair, but the board is somewhat scary – with possible two pair hands out there or straight/flushes. Most opponents won’t bluff in those situations fearing that you may hold the better hand, so unless they actually have a strong hand they won’t raise and then you can safely fold. If your opponent bluffs a lot however, then your better option may be to check and just call. Most opponents won’t fall into this category.

How do you combat the blocking bet?

Now you know what a blocking bet is, what do you do if you suspect someone is making a blocking bet against you on a scary board when you hold a hand such as two pair or better? If your opponent checked, you would have bet more than the 1/3 pot bet they just placed in front of you, but if you raise you open the door for a re-raise. That’s exactly why the blocking bet is so effective. Yet we’ll be more clever then that. Instead we’ll mini-raise the river in these situations as to get good value on our hands. NOW if our opponent doesn’t have a REALLY strong hand they will NOT re-raise you on the river. If you are raised in this spot, then you can be nearly 100% certain you are beat. This accomplishes the same thing however if they just checked, you bet 1/2 to 2/3 of the pot and they check-raised you, you’d then just fold. Yet by not falling for the blocking bet, you are maximizing your value and not giving your opponent a cheap showdown. Let’s look at a common example of when you’d mini-raise the river.

You hold QdTd in the CO. A player in MP (middle position) limps, and you decide to limp and the blinds come along. The flop comes: Th7cQc

Everyone checks to you and you bet the full size of the pot. The SB folds, the BB calls and the player in MP folds.

The turn now comes: 8h

The BB checks to you and you bet 1/2 the pot. The BB calls.

The river now comes: Ah

The BB now bets 1/3 of the pot. Could he have slow played a big hand?

Sure, he could have a set, or 9cTc. Yet there are a lot of other hands he could have here and his bet is likely designed to get him to show his cards cheap. He could have a Queen. An Ace high club flush draw and now hit an ace, a ten with a flush draw. Q7, T7, etc…

That’s the beauty of the mini-raise in this spot. You get more value out of your hand (about what you wanted to get) AND you don’t leave yourself completely out in the wind (meaning you can fold to a re-raise). Just make sure when you make this play that your opponent isn’t too short stacked that commit you to the pot regardless. But look on adding these concepts to your game.