Playing in a poker game is an unpredictable activity at best. No player, no matter how skilled, can control all the action all the time. But the good players have strategies that allow them to control the action more than the average player does, and over time these small advantages turn into profit. One such strategy that’s employed to control the action is the block bet. Put simply, block betting is a strategy where you bet a small amount into an opponent in an attempt to control the action in a hand. This play is always made while you’re out of position in order to make it appear that you’re betting for value with a made hand.
This tactic can be useful for a number of reasons. The most common situation where one would want to employ a block bet is when they’re on a drawing hand. The idea is to bet an amount that will give you favorable pot odds on your draw. As long as the opponents remaining in the hand call the bet, you would have controlled the amount of chips you have to wager to get the next card. Your option is to check your draw and hope that your opponents don’t bet an amount that gives you poor draw odds. If they make a big bet you have to either get off your hand or make a poor decision of calling or putting in a dangerous raise.
Another important time when a block can come in handy is when you hold a marginal hand on the river. Say you hold two-pair but the board cards present the opportunity for a straight. You would like to showdown with your opponent, but you don’t want to commit too many of your chips to find out if you have the best hand or not. Throwing out a bet for an amount that you’re willing to risk will often be only called by a player that doesn’t hold the nut hand. If you lose it doesn’t hurt so much, but you still had a chance to win the hand; a chance you wouldn’t have if you check/folded to a big bet.
And let’s not forget the times that your block bet will force your opponent out of the hand. There will be times when your block bet will be up against an opponent who has completely missed the flop. They’ll take your block bet as a value bet and will get out of your way.
The block bet works well because your opponents that have the lead in the hand will often just call the block bet. They become unsure about their hand and look to play it safe, or they call in an attempt to trap your aggression with their big hand. Unless the opponent is an experienced player, the bet is rarely recognized for what it is. And as long as you don’t use it too often it will be effective for saving bets. Just be sure not to use this play too often and it will help you control your fate, at least to a degree.