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Blockers - Mastering Small Stakes No-Limit Hold'em Excerpt

18/02/2018 by Jonathan Little
Book Excerpts
D&B MAGAZINE

You are probably wondering why Q-6o and Q-5o are in the limp/3-betting range (from the small blind). It is because they do not fit cleanly into the other ranges, plus they have a bit of blocker value. A “blocker” is a card that makes it more difficult for your opponent to have a strong hand. While Aces and Kings are the main blockers that you should be concerned with, when facing a wide range, Queens and Jacks become relevant as well.

Notice that for each possible unpaired holding, there are 16 possible combinations. With A-K, you can have:

A♣-K♣,  A♣-K♦,  A♣-K♥,  A♣-K♠
A♦-K♣,  A♦-K♦,  A♦-K♥,  A♦-K♠
A♥-K♣,  A♥-K♦,  A♥-K♥,  A♥-K♠
A♠-K♣,  A♠-K♦,  A♠-K♥,  A♠-K♠

If you know that the Ace of hearts is missing from the deck because it is in your hand, there are now only have 12 possible combinations of A-K:

A♣-K♣,  A♣-K♦,  A♣-K♥,  A♣-K♠
A♦-K♣,  A♦-K♦,  A♦-K♥,  A♦-K♠
A♠-K♣,  A♠-K♦,  A♠-K♥,  A♠-K♠

(because A♥-K♣, A♥-K♦, A♥-K♥, and A♥-K♠ are now missing)

This means that when you know an Ace is missing from the deck, your opponent will have A-K (and all other unpaired hands containing an Ace) 75% as often compared to when you do not know there is an Ace missing.

For pairs, there are six possible combinations:

A♠-A♦,  A♠-A♥,  A♠-A♣
A♦-A♥,  A♦-A♣,  A♥-A♣

Again, if the Ace of hearts is missing, there are only three possible combinations:

A♠-A♦,  A♠-A♣,  A♦-A♣

(because A♠-A♥, A♦-A♥, and A♥-A♣ are now missing)

This means that when you know an Ace is missing from the deck, your opponent has A-A 50% as often compared to when you do not know there is an Ace missing.

What all of this amounts to is that when you have a high card “blocker”, you know that it is less likely that your opponent has a strong hand he can continue with when faced with aggression. Taking this concept one step further, since you assume that many players will 4-bet their best hands in this blind versus blind situation over your limp/3-bet, you are not concerned about having an Ace blocker, and are instead looking for blockers that take combinations of calling hands out of your opponent’s range. Since most King-high pre-flop hands are strong enough to limp/call due to excellent pot odds and showdown value, you should look at the Queens. Q-6o and Q-5o fall nicely into the category of hands you do not want to limp/fold, while at the same time being bit too weak to limp/call due to their lack of showdown value and post-flop playability.

When your opponent 4-bets (usually quite large or all-in), you can happily continue with your best hands and fold the junk. If you happen to be very deep stacked and your opponent 4-bets small (between 2 and 2.3 times your 3-bet), you should consider calling with some of your junky drawing hands, assuming you do not think your opponent’s range consists of only premium hands that you are drawing thin against. Remember, this strategy is for when you are facing a strong opponent who is capable of bluffing, not someone who is weak, tight, and straightforward.


We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Mastering Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em. You can get the full book by clicking this link.