Although the squeeze play is not as common as it once was, it remains an interesting part of the game. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what the term means and reveal just how to squeeze effectively.

A poker player peeks at his Hold’em hand, revealing a King of clubs and a 3 of clubs. Chips are out of focus in the foreground of the image.
The squeeze play has fallen slightly out of fashion, but it’s still an important concept to understand

What Is a Squeeze Play?

Let’s kick things off with a definition, to avoid any doubt. A squeeze is when you apply pressure (hence the name) with a big raise in a very specific situation. When an early position raise is called by one or more players, you come over the top with a hefty 3-bet. This is a classic squeeze play.

Since the raise in a squeeze play must be big, it only applies in Pot Limit or No Limit games. You cannot squeeze in a Fixed Limit poker game.

Why Squeeze Play?

Applying a squeeze allows you to make the most of generous pot odds or take down a big pot a lot of the time. Usually, this happens without you even revealing your cards. The squeeze play creates four possible scenarios, three of which are brilliant spots for you to be in:

  • Everyone folds. This is good news for obvious reasons, plus nobody will know what cards you held.
  • One caller. You have a big post-flop advantage, having shown your real strength preflop.
  • Multiple callers. You still have an edge given the strength of your range, though not quite as big. Even so, it is an advantage, and we are now playing for a huge pot.
  • Someone 4-bets. Okay, so this is a problem, and we now have a tough decision in a massive pot. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Squeezing Example

Dan Harrington popularised the term “squeeze play” in his “Harrington on Hold’em” series. In one of the books, he discussed a hand from the 2004 WSOP Main Event final table. Let’s quickly run through it here, as it nicely illustrates the concept.

  • Josh Arieh raised from early position with K(Heart)-9(Spade), making it 220,000 to go
  • Chip leader Greg Raymer called with A-2(Clubs)
  • Dan Harrington, second shortest in chips with 2.3 million, raised to 1,200,000 from the button with 6(Heart)-2(Diamond)

Harrington has recognised that Arieh was an aggressive, if somewhat loose player. He also noticed that Raymer was playing too many pots with his chip lead. By applying pressure in this situation, he was squeezing both players.

Arieh knew that he was facing a big raise from a tight player in Harrington. Not only that, he had Raymer, who had yet to make a move and who had a ton of chips, behind him too. He was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and he had no choice but to fold.

Raymer was also feeling the pressure. His raggedy Ace was probably no good in the face of such a sizable bet, knowing Harrington’s image and range. Despite the chip lead, it was not worth it to go to war against what was probably a bigger Ace at best.

As an added bonus, David Williams was sat in the Big Blind with A(Spade)-Q(Club). In the face of all this action, he had no choice but to assume his hand was bad. So he folded the best hand before it even got back to Arieh. Even he was pressured by this perfect squeeze play.

When to Employ the Squeeze

So now that we understand how and why the squeeze works, when is the right time to employ it? Well, you first need to factor in the following considerations before making the decision to squeeze:

  • The initial raiser must be known as an aggressive, loosey-goosey type of player
  • You must be sure that the resulting call is also a loose one, not some kind of trap from a tight or tricky player
  • There are very few players left to act behind you; the fewer the better. Ideally, they should be tight players
  • You must be prepared to bet big, at least 5 or 6 times the size of the initial raise. You need to ask yourself: Does your stack allow for this?
  • Your own table image must be tight, as a squeeze is not likely to work if you are perceived as a maniac

In terms of your hand selection, your choice of squeezing hand really depends on your opponents and their perceived ranges. The more loose a player is, the wider their hand range, so it follows that you can have a wider squeezing range yourself.

Bet Sizing

As with most situations in poker, position will help to shape your decision. If you are going to play out of position post-flop, you’ll need to make a bigger squeeze. Ideally, you want to force the raise through preflop. If you do get a call, you want your opponent to be squirming as much as possible.

If you’re in position after the flop, you can afford to raise slightly less. As a general rule, something around the size of the pot minus 1 BB would work perfectly. When out of position, a figure of approximately pot plus 1 BB is ideal.

How to React to a 4-Bet

This is a tricky spot, and it’s difficult to employ a “one size fits all” approach. It very much depends on the opponent who has raised and what you know about them. Regardless. some things are obvious.

First of all, you should re-raise all in with your premium holdings, such as AA, KK, QQ, and AK. You can call with any other pocket pair pretty much all of the time, unless you have some kind of read. You may also call with some bigger suited hands that you would use for semi-bluffing purposes, such as A-Q or K-Q suited.

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