In this article we will be talking about blockbetting. The principle of blockbetting has some correlation with valuebetting and also with donkbetting. I will point out the differences or similarities of these concepts when needed. But to start off with we'll answer the question: What is a blockingbet?
The blockingbet can be used if you are first to act. It is a relatively small bet in relation to the pot, and the aim of the bet is to stop your opponent from making a larger bet. Sometimes you don't want your opponent to make a large bet as you can't call it with positive EV.
The theory behind blockbetting can be applied in tournaments as well as cash games.
In this article we will discuss two reasons to make a blockingbet. The first reason is that you want to draw cheaply, and the second reason is that you have an acceptable hand with some showdown value, but not so much that you want to call a big bet with the hand. When needed I will use examples to illustrate my point.
As mentioned before, you only make a blocking bet when you're out of position. Preferably you would use this bet in heads-up situations to minimize the chance of getting raised. A blockingbet in a multi-way pot is, of course, a possibility. Making a blockingbet in position makes no sense if your aim is to draw cheaply as you might as well just check the hand and see a free card.
There is a very thin line between blockbetting and donkbetting. It sounds logical to, when you're on a draw, only use the blockingbet if you are not the initial raiser. However, by definition, the blockingbet can easily be used if you yourself are the initial preflop raiser, although this would look more like a continuation bet. But on draw-heavy boards like , where you hit a draw against an aggressive opponent who always bets in position if it gets checked to him, it is a good idea to make a blockingbet.
In most situations, however, you will have called a raise. For example, you'll be sitting in the small blind and call a raise from a player in middle position with . The big blind folds and the flop shows . So you flop and open ended straight draw. You check and your opponent bets 2/3 of the pot and you call. The turn seems to be a blank with the , but obviously gives you some extra outs. This is a good time to place a blockingbet. You are assuming here that your opponent has a weak Ace and that if you check to him again, you will have to call another bet of about 2/3 the potsize. Your aim is to see the river as cheaply as possible. You want to place a bet here that will cost you less than the 2nd barrel from your opponent. You can confuse your opponent by doing this which will often lead to a cheap river card. Bear in mind, however, that if your opponent has a monster hand here like a set or two pair, he is most likely to raise your blockingbet. What you're hoping for is that your opponent will call with a weaker hand or even fold if he missed the board completely.
So what is good betsize? In the example above the potsize has reached 21 big blinds by the turn. A standard 2nd barrel would be around 17 BB, so you want to bet less than that, but also make sure you don't bet too little. A single big blind would be far too little and would almost always get called by your opponent. You should bet around 1/3 to Â½ of the pot. The best outcome would be if your opponent folds. If he does call you see a cheap river where you could still win a lot of money if you hit one of your 15 outs. Bear in mind that you don't always need that many outs, a simple open ended straight draw would be just fine as well.
See a cheap showdown
A blockingbet to see a cheap showdown can also be very similar to a donkbet. However, a blockingbet on the river is even more similar to a valuebet. This is because even if you do get called, you will sometimes still have the best hand.
The river blockingbet, to see a cheap showdown, should first of all be used if there is a chance that your opponent has you beat. Now and then you will still be holding the best hand yourself. The second reason to use this blockingbet is if there is a chance that your opponent is bluffing. By betting a small amount, relative to the potsize, an opponent will less often go through with his bluff. Therefore you will sometimes win the pot because your opponent folds, sometimes you have the better showdown hand and sometimes you lose the hand. You can lose by your opponent raising your blockingbet. If he does this on the river, you will almost always be beat. This usually only happens with a monster, although that obviously depends on things like table image and gameflow. If he calls you and you lose, you still lose fewer chips than if you would have called his larger river bet. Because the pots on the river are often relatively large, also in relation to your stack, the size of a blockingbet will often be less than Â½ the pot.
You shouldn't be using the blockingbet if you think your opponent has a strong hand, or even a stronger hand than your own. If you think your opponent has a strong hand while you're holding the nuts, you take him to valuetown, and if you think he has a stronger hand than yours then just check-fold.
Here is an example of a hand you want to see a cheap showdown with: You're in the big blind and a tight but aggressive player in middle position raises. Everybody folds and you have and decide to call. The flop shows . You check and call his bet on the flop. The turn is a . He bets again and you call. The river is the . The potsize is now 120BB and you have top pair with a good kicker. Both you and your opponent are playing pretty deep with stacks of 200BB each. When looking at the board your opponent could be holding a wide range of hands with which he would take this line. Part of his range will beat your hand, part of his range will lose against your hand and another part of his range is a bluff or a missed draw that turned into a bluff. You know there is a big chance that your opponent will fire out another bet on the river. You haven't really shown any strength in the course of the hand and it is unlikely that you have a monster here, especially on a board that is as draw heavy as this one.
The question is whether you want to call a potsized bet on this board with . The size of the effective stack is slightly larger than the size of the pot. If you call here, will it be profitable in the long run? This is the ideal spot to place a blockingbet.
If you bet 50BB here, that should be enough to make him fold his bluffs and make him call with a reasonable range of his hands. If he does have a monster he will raise you here, after which you should probably fold your hand.
With respect to your opponent, he could be taking this line with flushdraws, two pair, sets and hands like A-10. If he is holding the latter, your blockingbet immediately changes into a valuebet.
Here is another example in which you are the aggressor: You have UTG, you bet and the player on the button calls. The flop shows . You make a continuation bet and you get called. The turn is the and your bet gets called again. The river shows the . This is an annoying card for you. It's and overcard and it completes the flush draw. If you check here, your opponent will almost always bet out. He will do this with the flushdraw that hit, every king, and made hands such as 99 and A-10, which he turns into a bluff at this point. He will also raise with missed straight draws such as 5-6 and 8-9. These are all hands that could be in his call range. By blockbetting here you will often be called by hands like A-10 and maybe a K, and get raised if he hit his flush. It is very annoying to call a big bet here after an obvious draw hit on the river and an overcard appeared, while you still beat a reasonable part of his range.
Balancing your game
If the river card in our previous example with AQ would have been a Q, you can still chose to bet 50BB which will only function as a valuebet and after which you will most likely call an all-in by your opponent as well. You beat every other 2 pair and AK, but you still lose to sets. As you can see there is only a small difference between a blockingbet and a valuebet. In case of the rivered two pair you could also check-call your opponent.
What it comes down to here is that you balance your game. Don't always bet small when you're on a draw or when your hand doesn't have much showdown value. If you know that your opponent knows (multi-level thinking) that you make blockingbets to see cheap showdowns, he will be able to adjust to that. Therefore you should be doing the same with very strong hands, which is then basically a small valuebet. Also make blockingbets if you know that your opponent has a strong hand while you're holding the nuts. The result will be that your opponent raises and you get paid off.
Also make sure not to use the blockingbet too often Good opponents will start anticipating it and exploit it.