A blocker is a card you see, either on the board or in your hand, that ‘blocks’ your opponent from having any hand containing that card. Poker is a game of small edges, and the small edge you gain by effectively utilizing blockers will have a notable impact on your long term win-rate. When it comes to such blockers, it’s important to think about what possible hands of your opponent are blocking and which hands they’re not. Below is a hand illustrating the danger of overvaluing your blockers!
MP Min-Raises Aces
The hand is a 6-Max NLH with the blinds at ₹0.50/₹1. The player from the middle position wakes up with two black Aces and min-raises, gets called by the button and the big blind. The effective stacks are 110 big blinds for this three-way pot.
The flop comes K♣️ Q♣️ 8♠️, leaving the preflop raiser with an overpair, the backdoor nut-flush draw, and two opponents who could easily have worse one-pair hands. The hero is in a great position and decides to bet almost half pot. He bets ₹3 into a pot of ₹6.50 and gets called by button.
The turn card comes a T♠️ , which is a very bad card for AA and definitely not a blank. In the button’s flop-calling range are hands like AJ (offsuit and suited), as well as a number of suited hands like J-9, Q-T, K-T, T-9 and maybe T-8. All of the hands mentioned above are now the better hand than Aces after the turn card.
Meanwhile other suited hands like K-J, Q-J, Q-9, J-T, and A-T have all increased their chances of drawing out. A-Q and A-K are hands the button might have three-bet preflop, however, they still remain crushed on this card, as do unlikely holdings like 9-8 suited or 8-7 suited that would fold to a turn bet.
The hero raises to ₹6 into a pot of ₹12.50. Half-pot again. This is not a bad play at all. The hero is still ahead of much of the button’s range and behind the button’s raising range. In fact, if the button is raising their stronger hands, the hero can play his Aces perfectly well, getting value from weaker hands and folding against stronger holdings. Also, if they button just flat calls, the hero can make a decent value bet with his AA on a safe looking river. However, the button does raise and not so little. He re-raises to ₹25.
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Blocking The Nuts
The hero looking down on his A♣️A♠️ must be thinking that he blocks the Nuts. Looking down at such a hand, he can discount half of the total combinations of A-J. However, that doesn’t mean his opponent having the nuts is half as likely when he makes that big raise.
It means his opponent having the hand that makes the nuts was half as possible before the flop came out. What is impossible, by the way, is the button having either of the two nut flush draws. There are two spades and two clubs on the board, and both the A♣️ and the A♠️ are in the middle position player’s hand. In other words, while the two strongest semi-bluffs can’t be in the button’s hand, the nuts can be. What Not To Do! The hero was completely in love with his A-A and made the call. The river was a 6♦️, a complete brick. On a spade or a club (or a jack), the hero might more easily check and call this river. After all he holds a card that makes these rivers less scary. It doesn’t make sense to lead out on 6♦️ but that’s what the hero decides to do and for a whopping ₹30.
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This gave the button a pretty easy decision. If he had nothing he could fold, if he had something he could make the call or if he had a nut had, he could simply shove. In the case, the button did have the J♠️9♠️, shoved, and got full value from the Aces! Blocking the nuts is never enough. Understand the situation and play accordingly.