Concepts: The Squeeze Play
Definition: to "squeeze" = press out, push.
This would be the translations of the word in a poker context. The squeeze play is a move that is applied mostly before the flop. It describes a reraise, after a player has opened the pot with a raise and at least one player has called the raise.
In this article we will explain the reasons and suited situations for a squeeze play, deal with the practical implementation and the theory behind this move.
Reasons for a squeeze play
Let's look at a normal NLHE scenario: A player opens the pot with a raise and one or several players behind him want to play their hand (and their position) against the initial raiser.
We also want to play our hand, but eventually our position is unfavourable (since we are in the blinds), our hand isn't really suited to play a multiway pot or generally a little bit too weak against a raise.
Here a possible squeeze strategy comes into play: In principle, a squeeze play corresponds to a simple reraise at this point, but the pot, which we are prepared to play for postflop, becomes extremely big and the players involved in the hand are quickly committed after the squeeze play with a lot of different hands.
A squeeze can be a value play as well as a bluff. Here are possible reasons why to make this move:
If we think that we have the best hand, we raise and try to get as many chips as possible into the pot (e.g. with or ). Such a value raise doesn't depend on the fact, if an appropriate squeeze situation has developed or not. Thus, we would also make such a move, if there was only a raise and no callers in front of us (provided that we decide to slow play our hand). Especially, if there are already several callers, a slow play is no longer an option, when we're holding AA or KK.
We therefore speak of an aggressive standard play, with which we want to build the pot in order to get a high payout.
An advantage of the value reraise in such a situation is that we later on also have the opportunity to bluff, when the conditions of a squeeze play are given (see below).
Decision-Making and Position
We facilitate difficult postflop decisions with hands that belong to certain hand categories after the flop, such as
- , belong to the category „Top Pair Top Kicker"
- to bekong to the category „Overpair",
since we are already building a huge pot preflop and any further bet will commit us to the pot.
We try to „squeeze" as many players as possible out of the hand, since the above mentioned hand types are very difficult to play in multiway pots. In addition to that, we avoid any positional disadvantage, because by building such a big pot we will have an easy decision, even out of position (namely, to commit us to the pot or simply to fold, in case we miss the flop).
How a squeeze play can facilitate our decisions and weaken our positional disadvantage, can be seen by means of calculating the ratio of the remaining stack to the pot:
Provided that we're holding in the small blind with effective stack sizes of 100BB per player.
There is a raise in front of us to 4BB and two players call, we squeeze to 20BB and are called by the UTG player.
Thus, the pot preflop is 20BB + 20BB + 6BB (2 Callers) + 1.5BB (Blinds) = 47.5BB.
Our plan is to commit us, in case no ace appears on the flop. In this situation we can do that very cheaply, because preflop we have received a stack to pot ratio of:
(Effective remaining stack) : (Pot preflop) = 80BB : 47.5BB ≈ 1.7
On the flop we have only a little bit more than a pot size bet left and could therefore already be all-in here or at the latest on the turn.
The hand is therefore already planned and played before the flop, because in case there is no ace on the flop, we bet and also invest the rest of our stack, if we have called up to the turn. From a technical as well as from a strategic point of view we have no other choice.
Bluffing and Image
We know that the initial raiser can have a wide hand range when he opens the pot from the given position. As a rule he is rather sitting in an early position (since there were also some callers behind him, unless they are sitting in the blinds), consequently he is rather holding a strong hand.
The player(s) that have just called often have speculative hands such as suited connectors, small pairs, AQs or offsuit etc. (because otherwise they would usually have reraised themselves) that have to be folded on a regular basis, when there is a lot of action before the flop.
The problem for the initial raiser is that he can't finish the betting round after our reraise and that there are one or several players still left to act behind him. Although the callers will often fold (as we have already realised they are frequently holding speculative hands), but it often happens that they are lured by the big pot and simply stay in the hand to at least see a flop. Thus, the initial raiser doesn't know against how many opponents he has to play his hand out of position in the end. So twice as much pressure is put on him, since he is heckled by a player, who has only called at first and therefore hasn't revealed much about the real strength of his hand and a player that has already made clear that he is probably holding a strong hand and prepared to play a big pot against them.
The squeezed player therefore already has to decide before the flop, whether he wants to commit himself or not. His playable hand range is therefore limited to the few premium hands such as AKs, AA and KK. Even QQ is quite difficult to play in this spot, since a coinflip is often the best thing we can hope for. This is precisely what makes this move so interesting as a bluff.
As we can often force the initial raiser as well as the weak callers behind him to fold, regardless of our own hand. So we're not only emphasise our aggressive image at the table, but can also more frequently induce situations, where we get paid off with squeezed premium hands such as or by weaker hands, since they suspect that we are bluffing.
Squeeze Play Implementation
In this section we will introduce in order examples for a squeeze play under the above mentioned aspects and explain the procedure as well as the associated flop and turn play.
- Example 1: „Squeeze for Value"
We squeeze a MP raiser and a caller on the button with . The big blind, a very loose, aggressive player, who is apparently drunk, cold calls our squeeze raise and we see a perfect flop for our overpair, on which we want to commit us. Before the flop the ratio of our remaining stack to the pot is:
(Remaining stack big blind) : (pot preflop) = 76.45BB : 36.5BB ≈ 2
We also have a little bit more than a pot size bet left, until we are all-in. Thus, perfect prerequisites to win an entire stack.
The player in the blinds tries a desperate bluff and pays us off completely with just ace high. By the way it doesn't make any difference whether the big blind has outflopped us (in other words he now has a better hand such as a set of sevens, threes or deuces), our commitment plan was already made before the flop in form of our value squeeze.
We certainly won't find a better flop and a better opponent. On such a board we can definitely stack a number of other overpairs from to , thus our squeeze aims at maximising the value of our hand.
- Example 2a: „Squeeze" to facilitate decisions
After a raise of 4BB and a call we squeeze to 18BBs holding . The initial raiser folds, but the caller also calls our reraise.
In this situation his hand is certainly weak compared to ours: A weak ace up to at most , rarely , pretty likely a small pair or even a suited connector.
Before the flop comes we decide to commit us to the pot holding an overpair, if no ace appears. After the flop we again only have a little bit more left than the size of the pot, so that we are all-in on the flop or turn, since the ratio of our remaining stack to the pot is:
(Remaining stack caller) : (pot preflop) = 82BB : 41.5BB = 2
Indeed we are check-raised all-in by our opponent, but this actually supports our plan, as we have created a very simple scenario by the preflop squeeze: Commit us or not.
In addition to that, our opponent has prooved by constantly calling, that his hand is weaker than ours (unless he is slow playing aces, but this scenario can be neglected at the moment, since almost always both stacks would find their way into the middle), and we are behind against any conceivable or probable hand with the exception of , , and .
Due to our simple preflop plan we have managed to get paid off by a weaker hand without having to make a difficult decision. Let's compare a similar scanario with the same hand, where the same flop and action provides a difficult decision:
Provided that the players in front of us limped and Hero raises to 5,5BB with and the effective stack size is 100BB. Our opponent calls the raise. The ratio of our remaining stack to the pot is:
(Remaining stack limper) : (pot preflop) = 94.5BB : 13.5BB = 7
We have two pot size bets in front of us. In case our opponent raises our continuation bet on the flop, we are confronted with a very difficult decision. Namely to push our remaining stack into the middle or to fold.
Because: We are still far from being commited with our overpair!
Moreover, we haven't defined our hand and the opponent isn't playing for a big pot yet, which would be worthwile to fight for by making a big raise.
In fact he will raise us more often with a hand that beats us at that point (Set, Two Pair), because he also had a more inexpensive opportunity to see a flop at all.
No player is committed and the decision at this point is: Are we getting bluffed by a weaker hand or not?
Example 2a completely takes over this decision, since we can commit ourselves. Thus, with a squeeze play preflop we protect ourselves against any possibility of getting bluffed by a weaker hand.
- Example 3: The „bluff squeeze"
We're holding in the big blind. A tight aggressive, competent player opens the pot with a raise from the cut-off to 4BB. Another tight aggressive player on the button and a relatively loose, fishy player in the small blind both call. Here the characterisation of the players is vital for our squeeze play!
We squeeze as a bluff to 22BB and force all of our opponents to fold. Why should we make such a move at all when we can characterise our opponents so precisely? Let's collect some facts and figures and draw conclusions:
- The tight aggressive, competent player opens the pot from the cut-off with a very wide range of hands - weak aces, suited aces, suited connectors, any pair. Please don't forget that we are playing 6-handed in this example!
- The tight aggressive player on the button normally calls with a small pair for set value, at most with a suited connector and only in the rarest cases with a hand such as Kx or even to (he would usually reraise with these kinds of hands).
- The fishy player in the small blind can have any two cards and simply call due to the favourable pot odds. In principle, his hand will be on average significantly worse compared to the hand of the tight aggressive player.
- Theoretically, we get sufficient pot odds preflop, in order to be able to justify a call, but suited connectors are very difficult to play when we are out of position.
All these points speak in favour of a bluff squeeze at this point. The hands we are up against on average, can rarely stand a reraise and if so we have only invested 22BB and can therefore easily fold against a 4-bet or push.
We have also negatived our positional disadvantage. If we are called in the remaining rare cases we are holding a hand with that does well against the top range of hands such as to and the highest pairs: Preflop we still have a winning probability of almost 35%.
Since we gain a lot of fold equity against the single ranges of the players we are up against, it is definitely worthwile to make this move. In addition to that, our hand is better suited for this kind of bluff and also well disguised. If we get a lot of players to fold this time, we will benefit from that the next time we make a squeeze play while we are holding and get paid off by hands we wouldn't have got action from.
To conclude let's look at a situation where our bluff is called by stronger hands.
Due to the size of the preflop reraise, we have an easy decision with our hand postflop: We either commit us or not. We now only need a flop where we have maximum equity for a hand such as . In our example it would look as follows:
Here we can not only force hands like to to fold by betting, but aren't also unhappy if all chips go into the midlle on the flop, since we are, with the exception of a set, ahead against any other one pair hand.
The other way around we can, in case we have missed the flop or only have a weak hand against the estimated range of our opponent, easily play check/fold.
We had maximum fold equity preflop and we should abandon the idea of bluffing as long as we haven't invested a big part of our stack.
We can therefore realise that a squeeze play is suited especially well for bluffing, when the hand ranges of the opponents are predictable and probable. In this case we should choose hands like suited connectors or pairs, with which you can always flop monster hands or monster draws if an opponent decides to call the bluff raise.
It's important that we don't overestimate and fold a hand, with which we are semi-bluffing by making a squeeze play, if it is clear that we are beaten.
When we e.g. squeeze with a speculative hand, it is our aim to flop a solid draw with which we always have a certain equity left, even if we are currently beaten. If we, however, only flop a weak top pair hand with a suited connector after a squeeze and get action, we should despite of the dead money (the chips of the many callers preflop and the blinds) be able to fold our hand, because normally our opponents on average defend against a big reraise only when they have a strong hand.
An example of a failed squeeze play, where we have a clear fold:
We have in the big blind and are up against a tight aggressive player in the cut-off, who open raises from this position with a lot of hands.
Another tight aggressive player on the button calls the raise to see a cheap flop in position with a hand such as a small to medium pair or a speculative hand.
We decide to make a squeeze play, because the stack sizes as well as the positional conditions are favourable. After the call of the initial raiser it's clear that we are playing against a relatively strong hand such as to or to , maybe also or .
Unfortunaltely, we don't flop any of the desired draws, but a weak middle pair on a draw heavy board. In principle, this is a board, where we can check and fold without hesitation, since our semi-bluff failed and we didn't get any help from the board, in order to continue our play. Since our hand still has small value and the possibility exists that our opponent folds a hand like , , , or and we can't give any more free cards, we bet two thirds of the pot with the intention of folding to a raise.
The bet size can be a little bit smaller here, since we don't want to invest an unnecessary big amount of money in a pot we will probably lose. The board makes it very difficult for us to make the right postflop decisions and doesn't encourage us to continue the bluff, we started before the flop.