Blockers in online poker. An extended explanation.

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Blockers are cards that deny a certain part of your opponent’s range.

Now that we know combos, we’re going to understand this notion very easily. Let’s say that we open BTN and BB 3-bets us to a decent enough size so we’re now considering 4-betting him with out KQo. Why is this hand a better 4-bet than a call here?

Well, first of all, to call you’re going to be putting down 7bb into a total pot of 20.5 which will mean that your pot odds are approximately 34% and you’re going to flop a pair with your KQ only 30% of the times.

One more thing to consider is that when you do flop a pair you’re not really guaranteed to be good, although the chances are OK. The big problem is also that if you do flop top pair, your opponent is going to get more money from you when he has a better hand than you are getting from him when he has a worse hand like JJ. Your opponent can get at least 2 streets from you with AA whilst you will get only 1 street from him with JJ.

This means that overall calling with 3-bets offsuit broadways is a losing proposition, unless you know your opponent is 3-betting worse offsuit broadways that you can get 2 streets of value from like, for example, QJ so you can direcly dominate some of their top pairs.

Holding KQo is really good blocking because:

  • Holding a K will reduce his pocket KK combos by 50%, his AK combos by 25%;
  • Holding a Q will reduce his pocket QQ combos by 50%, AQ combos by 25%;
  • Holding a K and a Q will reduce his KQ combos by 44%;

Similar hands to KQo that can be 4-bet instead of called and work really well are other high offsuit broadways that you aren’t really comfortable with calling.

BEWARE! After you 4-bet and got called, immediately put your opponent on KK+ unless you have knowledge that he can call with otherwise.

Now let’s consider the mathematical aspects of this and how to use them to our advantage.

Let’s say that EP 24/20/7 opens and we’re on the BTN holding AQo.

Talking a little bit about calling raises preflop, we already know now that if we call offsuit broadways, then we need to be ahead of more combos that we dominate directly with kickers than combos that dominate us. Let’s see how AQo fares against a standard 15% EP open raising range. 

First of all, the range will look like this:

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-05 20_19_12-PokerStrategy.com Equilab - Hand range selection (MP2).png

Pretty standard open for EP but let’s see how we fare with AQo vs this opening range as per combo domination:

We get to dominate:

AJo – 9 combos/AJs and lower – there are 10 suited aces here each 3 combos so 30 combos/KQ – 12 combos/QJs – 3 combos/QTs – 3 combos

Total – 9+30+12+3+3=57 combos that AQ directly dominates

We get dominated by:

AK – 12 combos/QQ – 3 combos / KK – 6 combos /AA –  3 combos

Total – 12+3+6+3=24 combos

Now, we see that we’re fairly ahead of opponent’s opening range, but you can’t know if your opponent is actually opening exactly 15% from the EP unless you have a ton of hands on him so I’d take everything with a grain of salt. A lot of people open 13% EP or even lower because they like to have tight ranges when there’s a lot of people ahead and especially power 3-betting machines like yourself.

Do you like flatting AQo vs an EP raise? Well let me give you a few reasons you should not do this:

  1. Pot Odds – you have to flat usually 3bb into a total pot of 7.5bb if everyone else folds, and that means 3/7.5=40% pot odds. Let me remind you that you will flop something significant 30% of the times – a pair – and that’s going to be dominated occasionally also.
  2. The big problem here is that when EP has top pair he’s not going to barrel if he’s a 24/20/7 so you can usually get a maximum of one street when you also hit top pair and that is generally from his bluffs. No player in his right mind, versus another reg like you, is going to 3-barrel Axs or AJo on A73Tr. This means that if you get barreled into, I strongly suggest folding here, your opponent will do this only with hands that are better than yours. He knows that you know that he has a tight range so it doesn’t make sense to barrel AJ, he’s only going to get called by better.
  3. Getting Squeezed in from behind -> if you have aggressive opponents behind, they are just waiting for a spot like this to squeeze and take the pot down preflop. If you get squeezed and EP calls, it’s very hard for you to make the call also. You’ll be heavily dominated usually and when you’re not, you’re not going to get a lot of money from your opponents.

This is why I advocate 3-betting this hand always vs EP/MP and especially in positions, because it brings a lot of advantages over calling.

Now let’s say that the opponent can have here multiple reactions to your 3-bet, depending on his player type, his game style and how he perceives you. We’re going to analyze all these cases using an EV formula and combinatorics.

His opening range of 15% will contain exactly 202 combinations of hands.

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-05 20_31_48-PokerStrategy.com Equilab - Hand range selection (MP2).png

Now, the problem here is that we also have to take into consideration the card removal effect based on the fact that we’re holding an Ace and a Queen, both different suits from one another and this will limit your opponent’s opening range by quite a few combos. Don’t get completely scared, that’s in our advantage though.

If you’re holding the Ace of Clubs and the Queen of Diamonds, then our opponent can’t possibly be opening A3dd, right? There you go.

Luckily, Equilab gives us card removal effects instantly after we input our hand which is AcQd, for example.

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-05 20_34_57-PokerStrategy.com Equilab.png

Now, if we click on Display Card Removal, we get presented with this range:

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\card removal effect.png

Voila! 166 combos total that our opponent is opening with. Now let’s get into the math of things.

First of all, we are 3-betting 9bb vs EP open which means that we’re investing 9bb to win a total of open+3b+SB+BB = 3+9+0.5+1=13.5. 

So our Breakeven Fold Frequency here is going to need to work exactly 9/13.5=67% of the times.

This means that if our opponent is folding more than 67% of his range preflop, then you’re going to win even if you check/fold every flop.

Now let’s conjure up some reactions to this 3-bet that are real-life and also very well based on different types of opponents with the same 24/20/7 stats.

We’re going to make study cases vs a tight, medium and loose opponent.

A tight player would generally 4-bet KK+ here or even only AA but that’s a bit rarer and flat QQ/JJ/TT/AK/AQs/KQs/QJs and that’s kind of it I’m afraid.

First of all, let’s count the number of combos that this player reacts with and see if we have Breakeven Fold Frequency:

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-05 20_48_43-PokerStrategy.com Equilab - Hand range selection (MP2).png

While maintaining card removal effects, we arrive at the conclusion that our tight opponent will react with 44 combos.

Let’s figure this out, he opens a total of 166 combos and calls or 4-bets 44 of them when he gets 3-bet, so this means that he’s going to be folding exactly 166-44=122 combos.

This means that our fold equity is 122/166=73.5%.

This is way over the required fold equity for Breakeven Fold Frequency, so all we need to do is realize that versus these tight opponents, 3-betting a hand with decent blockers is pure gold here and all the equity that we get postflop is just a big bowl of cherries on top of the icing of the cake.

We legitimately don’t need to do anything postflop if our opponent reacts with this tight range, and pay attention when I say that a lot of the guys in Zoom 6-Max or any speed poker format for that matter will react with this range. Maybe add some AJs/ATs on top but that doesn’t really change much in the equation.

Also, postflop don’t pitfall into the trap of playing top pairs aggressively. Remember that you are facing a very tight and strong range that doesn’t really need to hit and is dominating you mostly. You can’t get two streets of value from this range and you only want to invest one street when you hit top pair. It’s very important to acknowledge that most of the money you’re making is preflop and you should be really happy about this, because it’s really easy.

When you flop top pair, your opponent is either going to have a stronger kicker, an underpair that you can’t get 2 streets from, or a weaker KQ/QJ that is never calling 2 streets in a 3-bet pot. Or a set! Beware!

So, this means that when you flop top pair you’re always checking back because there is no reason to protect from draws, your opponent doesn’t have that many flush nor straight combos, so no need for protection betting. If you must get value from JJ/TT/KQ/QJ then you can get it later, this way you pot control by checking back and you make him sometimes bet with worse for “protection” which is awesome. You keep in his weaker holdings by not betting the flop. Even if I hit two pair I’d pretty much be inclined to check back the flop but then I’d be either betting twice or calling two streets if he bets reasonable amounts or call turn bet and then bet when he checks the river.

When you hit trips with a Q, there’s very small chance to be dominated here so I’d bet flop check turn and call river or bet river if my opponent checks.

If the trips are an A, first of all our opponent has 12 combos of AK and second, he’s bound to believe us more than on QQx so it’s time to check back the flop and bet turn and bet river small like 1/3 pot if we get called on the turn, just to drip a little bit more value from that JJ/TT.

Now let me teach you something really cool, it’s called the EV formula and basically what it does is it takes case by case of what can happen and what EV you get in each case multiplied by the percentage that the case is going to happen (logical, no?), and then it all adds up to your exact EV in BB. It’s basically a quantification of the success of your move and in the long run if you execute this move a lot of times and your EV is positive, you are going to be so happy because you are turning a profit.

We need to consider first the events that could happen and figure out the percentage that these events will happen by dividing the combos that opponent reacts with to our 3-bet by the total amount of combos that he opens.

Case 1): He folds. We already calculated this, it’s 122 combos divided by 166 combos = 73.5%

Case 2): He 4-bets. He will re-raise KK+ so that’s 6+3 combos = 9 total combos

Case 3): He calls. He will call with JJ, TT, QQ, AK, AQs, KQs, QJs which we don’t even have to calculate because it’s total amount of combos minus the folds minus the 4-bet so 166-122-9=35 combos.

Okay, so how’s the formula now? Well it’s expressed in words like this:

The times that your opponent folds, you will be making a profit summed up by your opponent’s raise, the small blind and the big blind which will add up to 3+0.5+1=4.5bb.

The times that your opponent 4-bets, you will never react vs a range of KK+ with AQo, it’s dominated and way too weak, so we fold this hand and lose our 9bb investment.

When you get called, this is the tougher part so pay attention. You get called, you’re going to play for a pot on the flop. Let’s say you win the pot 30% of the times ( that’s your raw equity ), then this means that you’re going to be winning 10.5bb (your opponent’s call + SB + BB) 30% of the times, and then losing your invested 9bb the other 70% of the times.

To complete this formula, you multiply each percentage of your opponent’s range, the fold, the 4-bet and the call percentages, by their respective win/loss numbers that we just explained above, and you get the EV formula.

Don’t worry, I’m going to follow with a step-by-step guide into figuring out this formula and how to use it efficiently.

One more thing is that you’re not supposed to be doing this while actually at the tables, but away from the tables to study different cases, opponents on which you have range reads and information and general strategies against unknowns, and study general game planning and 3-betting hands.

Don’t get me wrong, in this case when the opponent is tight and you’re getting Breakeven Fold Frequency, we don’t actually need to calculate all this, but it will prove useful in the other cases where postflop equity for your hand vs his range actually matters, so let’s dig in, learn how to do this process and then use it in a lot more situations.

So, let’s do this in a step by step manner so it’s very easy.

  1. Figure out your opponent’s opening range and the number of combos that he has in it. Use Equilab for this;
  2. Figure out the hand that you want to 3-bet with and how many combinations it blocks from your opponent’s opening range, and how many combinations your opponent has now when he is opening.
  3. Figure out how many combinations your opponent folds, 4-bets and calls vs your 3-bet. Store these numbers for the formula. You’ll also need these numbers in percentages, and you obtain these by dividing the fold/4b/call numbers by the total amount that your opponent opened preflop after card removal.
  4. Figure out the number of blinds that you win when your opponent folds (his raise+SB+BB usually, sometimes also some limps), the amount of blinds that you lose when you get 4-bet is always the amount that you put down when you 3-bet, and then figure out the amount that you win when you win the pot postflop and the amount of money that you lose when you lose the pot postflop is, again, the amount that you invest when you 3-bet.
  5. Apply the following formula:

EV Formula

Opponent fold% * Amount that we win when he folds + Opponent 4-bet % * Amount that we lose when he 4-bets + Call% * (Postflop Win% * Profit when we win postflop pot + Lose% * Loss when we lose postflop pot).

This is the EV formula and I know it seems complicated but when we do a few examples of this it will almost seem natural afterwards.

We said that the 4-bet is 9 combos out of 166 so your opponent is going to be 4-betting 9/166=5% of his range.

Also, we said that our opponent is going to be calling 35 combos out of 166 so the percentage of his range is 35/166=21%

This means that he is folding 100-5%-21%=74%, so we are correct in each case. Now, to apply the formula, we also need to figure out our equity postflop and for that we go into Equilab and select the range that he calls with and the hand that we are 3-betting with, and press Evaluate and we will get our equities.

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-06 00_22_22-PokerStrategy.com Equilab.png

We can round these numbers to 59% loss postflop and 41% win postflop. Now, we just apply the formula.

Opponent fold% * Amount that we win when he folds = 74% * +4.5bb = 3.33bb

Opponent 4-bet % * Amount that we lose when he 4-bets = 5% * -9bb = -0.45bb

Call% * (Postflop Win% * Profit when we win postflop pot + Lose% * Loss when we lose postflop pot) = 

21% * ((41% * +10.5bb) + (59% * -9bb)) = 21% * (4.305bb – 5.31bb) = 21% * (-1.005bb) = -0.20bb

Then, you just add up all 3 of them and you’ll get your EV, which is going to be:

3.33-0.45-0.20=+2.68bb EV. This means that, in the long run, when you 3-bet AQo vs this opponent’s EP open, you’re going to be making +2.68bb.

Now what about a hand like KQo against the same opponent? Surely it has less equity, but is it really enough? It’s even worse to call it preflop than AQo, but can we 3-bet it profitably? Let’s orientate a little bit and follow the steps.

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-06 00_36_11-PokerStrategy.com Equilab - Hand range selection (MP2).png

First of all, our opponent is going to be opening 202 combos but after removing a K and a Q of different suits, there are only 178 combos left.

So, we’re starting from a number of 178 combos. How many combos is our opponent 4-betting? KK+ will be 3 combos of KK (we have a K blocker) and 6 combos of AA  – we don’t block AA right now.

This means that our opponent is 4-betting 9 combos out of 178 which leads to a total percentage of, again, 5%

Now the amount that he is calling is JJ/TT/QQ/AK/AQs/KQs/QJs which is 6/6/3/12/3/2/3 combos that sum up to a total of 35 combos. 35/178=20% total call percentage.

This means that your opponent will be folding a total of 100% – 5% – 20% = 75% which is still way over Breakeven Fold Frequency.

Now, let’s apply the formula, but first of all, what equity does KQo have postflop against his calling range?

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-06 00_42_03-PokerStrategy.com Equilab.png

37% win, 63% lose postflop with KQo vs his calling range.

Now, we have everything to apply the formula!

Opponent fold% * Amount that we win when he folds = 75% * +4.5bb = 3.37bb

Opponent 4-bet % * Amount that we lose when he 4-bets = 5% * -9bb = -0.45bb

Call% * (Postflop Win% * Profit when we win postflop pot + Lose% * Loss when we lose postflop pot) = 

= 20% * (37%*(+10.5bb) + 63%*(-9bb)) = 20% * (+3.88bb – 5.67bb) = -0.36bb

Thus, the complete EV of the move will be the sum of these numbers which is 3.37-0.45-0.36 = 2.56BB. This is still extremely profitable. No matter what your equity is postflop, if you’re getting Breakeven Fold Frequency preflop then you can’t lose unless you take your hands way too far and not understand the fact that if your opponent is folding more preflop, he will have a very tight range that doesn’t fold a lot when getting to the flop.

Now that we know how to play vs this type of opponent, let’s get to one that reacts with a medium range vs our 3-bet.

This opponent not only will call wider, but will also add in some 4-bet bluffs to his range, because he is a more perceptive opponent and understands that we do have 3-bet bluffs in our range preflop so he is widening his calling range more than normal and also reacting with more raises.

This guy will still 4-bet/stack-off KK+ but will add AQo as a great 4-bet bluff here. Yep, again with the blockers, are you surprised? You shouldn’t be, the power of the blockers is immense.

Now, his opening range being the same and we’re blocking with AQo, this means that out of the total of 202 combos, after card removal effects, he will have 166 combos possible to open with.

He’s going to be 4-betting KK+ and AQo so 3+6+9 total combos = 18 combos.

This means that his total percentage for 4-betting will be 18/166=11%

Now, a bit wider range for also calling here would be something like this:

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-06 15_28_39-PokerStrategy.com Equilab - Hand range selection (MP2).png

71 combos he’s going to call with after card removal effects, then the total % he’s doing this with is 71/166=43%

Now, having the 4-bet % and call %, we can subtract these numbers from 100% to get the total fold %.

100%-11%-43%=46% fold equity.

Now let’s try to apply the EV formula, but first we have to understand our equity vs his calling range so that we have all the variables we need to calculate our EV here.

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-06 15_32_35-PokerStrategy.com Equilab.png

Hey! That’s looking better than before! Oh yes, it’s because his calling range is wider now we actually fare better with AQo vs his calling range!

Now for the EV Formula:

Opponent fold% * Amount that we win when he folds = 46% * +4.5bb = 2.07bb

Opponent 4-bet % * Amount that we lose when he 4-bets = 11% * -9bb = -0.99bb

Call% * (Postflop Win% * Profit when we win postflop pot + Lose% * Loss when we lose postflop pot) = 

= 43% * (51%*(+10.5bb) + 49%*(-9bb)) = 43% * (+5.35bb – 4.41bb) = +0.40bb

So, vs this new type of opponent, 3-betting AQo is still very much profitable, but a bit less, Total EV will be 2.07-0.99+0.40=+1.48bb EV

Now let’s try a hand like KQo that has less equity vs our opponent’s calling range. Let’s see if this is still borderline profitable or it goes into the negatives.

Our opponent is going to be opening 202 combos but after removing a K and a Q of different suits, there are only 178 combos left.

If our opponent is 4-betting KK+/AQo then this is still 18 combos so 3+6+9=18 combos.

This means that his % for 4-betting is going to be 18/178=10%

Then, his calling range is going to be blocked by a K and a Q so this will amount to a total of:

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-06 15_49_50-PokerStrategy.com Equilab - Hand range selection (MP2).png

77 combos out of a total of 178 combos means that in percentage, your opponent will call 77/178=43%

This means that our fold equity will be 100%-43%-10%=47%

Our Equity vs his calling range is going to be:

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\2017-08-06 15_52_50-PokerStrategy.com Equilab.png

There we have it, the EV Formula seems good to go!

Opponent fold% * Amount that we win when he folds = 47% * +4.5bb = 2.11bb

Opponent 4-bet % * Amount that we lose when he 4-bets = 10% * -9bb = -0.90bb

Call% * (Postflop Win% * Profit when we win postflop pot + Lose% * Loss when we lose postflop pot) = 

= 43% * (42%*(+10.5bb) + 58%*(-9bb)) = 43% * (+4.41bb – 5.22bb) = -0.34bb

Total EV of 3-betting KQo vs this EP raiser is going to be 2.11bb-0.90bb-0.34bb = +0.87bb EV

Now let’s try to figure out vs an even wider range how we fare here.

Let’s say that this opponent is going to be 4-betting QQ+/AK and some bluffs like AQo/KQo.

We’re still going to be folding our AQo but a lot more often than before.

Also, his calling range is going to be wider:

C:\Users\Scrimitzu\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\call loose 2.png

Although this looks like more hands are getting called, it’s still 71 combos because AK/QQ has been put into the 4-betting range so they are absent from here.

Now, let’s figure out the math behind this.

4-bet percentage: QQ+/AK will have 3+6+3+12=24 combos, AQo/KQo will have 7, respectively 9 combos.

Total 4-bet combos:24+7+9=40 combos

Total 4-bet percentage = 40/166=24%

Now total call percentage will be 71/166=43%

This means total fold % = 100%-24%-43%=33%

So, now we need to figure out the equity vs the opponent’s calling range:


Voila! 60% win, 40% lose.

Now it’s time for the EV formula and this one will be really interesting:

Opponent fold% * Amount that we win when he folds = 33% * +4.5bb = +1.48bb

Opponent 4-bet % * Amount that we lose when he 4-bets = 24% * -9bb = -2.16bb

Call% * (Postflop Win% * Profit when we win postflop pot + Lose% * Loss when we lose postflop pot) = 

= 43% * (60%*(+10.5bb) + 40%*(-9bb)) = 43% * (+6.30bb – 3.60bb) = +1.16bb

Total EV of 3-betting KQo vs this EP raiser is going to be +1.48bb-2.16bb+1.16bb = +0.48bb EV

Let’s see if we can drop KQ on negative EV versus this type of play!


We talked about SQZ sizes and why these should be applied and in which situations, but we didn’t talk about SQZ ranges. Essentially, you can SQZ very wide and the best hands to do this with will be hands that block your opponent’s 4-bet/calling range after getting 3-bet, and hands that fair also well vs his 3b calling range.

First of all, most people like to call high broadways and high pocket pairs vs 3-bets, and 4-bet super value, thus the best hands to be SQZ-ing with will be Suited Connectors (these hands have the best equity vs overpairs) and off-suit broadways that we can’t really call with in most situations, but they have blockers, like KJo (blocks KK,JJ,AK,AJ etc.).

In theory, we saw that squeezing has to work even rarer than 3-betting, but it will be a bigger price for our opponents to call, so they will fold more often. This opens up squeezing ranges to a bigger volume than 3-betting standard ranges.

Also, before you squeeze you have some more information pre-flop -> the player who only called a raise and didn’t 3-bet probably isn’t on his top range, for sure doesn’t have KK+ because he would have re-raised pre-flop. Thus, he is on a weaker range that can rarely call a SQZ.

What matters most of the time in squeezing is the player who is opening, what range you are facing.

If we’re facing a Loose Passive, a Maniac or a Whale opener, this means that we should be squeezing the same ranges that we are 3-betting vs these guys, because we’re bound to get called and we need to play a lot of value vs these guys.

Remember, it’s pretty easy. If they call a lot more than normal, don’t bluff. If they fold a lot more than normal, bluff a lot.

Now, facing a Nit or a LAG, it’s important who the calling player is. If the calling player is a more recreational type, and he likes to press the call button, remember that vs these guys we should be playing hands that flop strong top pairs with strong kickers, so we can get value from their worse pairs. We will not squeeze bluff then these guys are calling pre-flop so often. A good SQZ range here depends also on the guy who is opening, but most of the times will be AT+/99+/KQ.

When both the raiser and the callers are LAGs and Nits, then you need to exercise caution and not exaggerate with SQZ bluffing, for example, J6s etc.

The only thing that matters is the range of the guy who is opening, and how much of that range he’s willing to fold to a SQZ. Most of the time, the fold equity that you’re getting pre-flop will be enough to make a hefty profit if you choose your spots well.

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