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Are You Blocker Aware?

Blocking is a concept that many novice and even intermediate players fail to consider when deciding whether to bet or check post flop. For many NLHE players, blockers tend to only be discussed or associated with Omaha games due to the extra cards in each player’s hand. However, there are situations that occur in NLHE when a good understanding of blockers can help you continue in a much more efficient manner. Let’s take a look at two hand examples that will further help illustrate this concept. 

Hand 1:

Hero opens to $4.5 with 5c5d in a 1/2 6 max game from the cutoff. Villain flats on the button and we see a flop heads up with $12 in the pot, effective stacks of $195.50 and an SPR of about 16. The flop comes Ac8d5h. Let’s take a look at how efficient c-betting with bottom set is here compared to c-betting with top set. The results may surprise some of you that don’t quite understand the effect of blockers.

So, c-betting half pot with bottom set at 100% frequency in this scenario nets you about 10.72 BBs of EV. What happens when you decide to c-bet top set? Let’s take a look…

So, c-betting with top set nets you a little more EV as it is obviously a better hand than bottom set. However, we aren’t betting it at a frequency of 100%. In fact, PokerSnowie suggests betting only just under half the time. Why would that be the case if top set nets more EV than bottom set?!

Some of you may be saying out loud right now “Our hand doesn’t need as much protection as a bottom set when we hold top set.” That’s true, however I think the more important concept is the blocker effect that is taking place.

When holding combos of top set, we block a significant chunk of our opponent's continuing range that is made up of AX. When we hold bottom set, we unblock all his AX combos, thereby making it much more efficient to c-bet bottom set at a very high frequency and top set on a less frequent basis. Keep in mind when c-betting for value how much of your opponent’s continuing range you block and can you do better by checking at some frequency? Pretty easy and straightforward example, but let’s take a look at an example where we are c-bet bluffing. 

Hand 2:

Hero opens to $30 with Kd4d from the small blind in a 5/10 6 max game and is called by the big blind. We go heads up to the flop with $60 in the pot, effective stacks of $970 and an SPR of about 16. The flop comes Qc5d3h and we decide to c-bet for half pot. 

Okay, so with a hand that is near the bottom of our range, no real showdown value, and some backdoor equity, this hand looks like a good candidate for a c-bet bluff. The backdoor equity is for sure great when considering turns we can continue on, but what about this combo in spades? It’s not really that different a hand is it? Let’s take a look! 

So, maybe they are quite different in fact. We lack backdoor equity in this spot for sure, but something important to remember about this small blind vs. big blind dynamic is how our opponent must defend with his range in this spot. Due to the wider ranges, our opponent must defend with many more combos in his range that appear weaker to prevent from being exploited in this scenario.

Hands that fit into his defending frequencies are combos such as 8d4d and Kd7s. The Kd and the 4d specifically are important combinatorial parts of an optimal defending range in this scenario and by c-betting with Kd4d, we essentially block about 8.8% of our opponent’s continuing range. If you don’t believe this percentage or our blockers to be that important in this situation, let me assure you that casinos are built on edges FAR less than this.

PokerSnowie agrees with this concept as you can see above that c-betting with Kd4d nets you 1.4 BBs of EV, whereas c-betting with Ks4s, which may look like the same hand to some of you still, only nets about 0.78 BBs of EV. Is it a winning play? Yes, but is it the most efficient play? No, and I believe it is important to find small edges like this when constructing ranges.

I hope this article has helped you realize the importance of blockers and their role as far as how they affect your opponent's continuing frequencies. Just take into consideration how your opponent constructs their continuing range and how you block or unblock their continues when considering value betting and bluffing.


Article by Nicholas Johnson