Poker is unpredictable in its best moments and no player can control all of the action at the table all the time, no matter how good they are. However, there are a few things you can do to tweak the action at the table and gain small advantages that can lead to profit.
One of these strategies that I employ fairly often is the block bet. That’s where you bet a small amount into an opponent to control the action in a hand.
Unlike most other strategies aimed at controlling the table, this one is made when you’re out of position to make it appear that you’re betting for value with a made hand. It’s partially a bluff, partially just plain good strategy.
The general usage for block betting is when you have a drawing hand. The idea behind it is to bet the amount that would give you favorable pot odds on your draw and forcing the other players to react to you.
If the opponents remaining in the hand call your bet, you’ll control the amount of chips you have to wager to get the next card. If you check and hope your opponents don’t bet, that gives you poor draw odds and you want to juice the pot to get more out of your potential hand. However, if they make a big bet in response, you should just fold.
You may also find yourself employing block betting when you are on the river with a marginal hand, such as holding two pair when the board has a clear opportunity for a straight for some lucky player. You’ll want to make it to the showdown but you don’t want to sink too many chips into the pot just to find out if you’ve got the best hand. A player that doesn’t hold the nut hand will often only call taking a shot by putting down a bet for an amount that you’re willing to risk, but someone will raise it with the straight in this situation.
If you lose that bet, it won’t hurt so badly, and you still had a chance to win the hand – one you wouldn’t have had if you’d folded.
The block bet works because the opponents that actually have a marginally better or similar hand will just call the bet out instead of raising. Psychologically, it makes them question the value of their own hand and unless the opponent is an experienced player, the bet is rarely recognized for what it is.
It’s a perfect piece of strategy to try out on tables with low buy-ins.