The Squeeze Play

The squeeze play is one of the more ruthless of poker strategies – and I - for one - am all for it. This cut-throat tactic essentially involves identifying the respective runts of the litter and picking them off. It's survival of the fittest, at it's finest - and most lucrative!


The squeeze play is one of the more ruthless of poker strategies – and we’re all for it. This cut-throat tactic essentially involves identifying the respective runts of the litter and picking them off.

Yeah, we know; it sounds a little cruel, but let's face it - people who are serious about poker aren't playing to make friends, they're playing to make money. Let's also acknowledge that these more serious players are also the most successful, and that's why we're here, right? To make money doing what we love. 

While invariably effective when used properly, the squeeze play can also be a complete disaster when carelessly employed, so listen up and take note. 

How it Works

You identify a loose aggressive player raising in early position and a player calling that raise before the action's to you. You make a big re-raise and win the pot. Simple as that.

Why the Squeeze Play Works...

The early raiser won't call since his looser nature almost guarantees that he acted with a lackluster hand. Likewise, the caller won't move because he too was calling that initial raise with a bum hand. 

Or should we say "Why the squeeze play can work"...

Like continuation bettingdouble barrellingfloat playing and even slow playing, the success of the squeeze play relies on your having a situational advantage over your opponents as opposed to an advantage of cards.  When the squeeze play is used to the zenith of its potential, your cards don’t matter. At all. 

What does matter is your ability to clearly and dependably identify the first player as a loose and somewhat weaker player. Moreover, you’re going to have to know that the second player has made the same observation, making him confident in calling the first player’s raise. This second player is also going to have to be a weaker player who’s prone to going with the flow and taking passive action (i.e. checking, calling) instead of aggressive action (raising, betting). In other words, you’re going to have to know your poker playing styles and how to read table image. In fact, you’re going to have to be a pro at reading your opponents.

Unlike most poker strategies, the squeeze play involves three-way action; you’re not just up against one major variable – you’re combating two. 

You’re also going to have to know how to project table image. If, like your opponents, you’ve been playing fast and loose with marginal hands, the squeeze play just isn’t going to pan out. The squeeze play – an otherwise well-orchestrated poker strategy - will look more like an all-out bar brawl at the end of a World Cup playoff game, and you may very well get the worst of it.
Make sure you’ve played fairly studiously up to this point, focusing on choice hands and good calls. This way, when you make your big re-raise, you’ll be taken with the seriousness the squeeze play absolutely necessitates. 

Size Matters: The Big Raise

Your raise has to be daunting enough to force your opponents out of the pot. For the squeeze play to work ideally, your re-raise is going to be around 5 times the original raise - which could be all-in if you’re short-stacked. This is OK! Anything much less than that is unlikely to convince your opponents to fold since (assuming they are not total newbies) they'll realize you’re giving them good odds to call your re-raise with a good number of hands.

This said, in cases where you have a decent hand you don't need to opt for a 5x raise; the stronger your hand is, the more you can scale down the size of the squeeze – provided, of course, your opponents aren't savvy enough to be able to read through this strategy. Again, this is something you need to be able to determine for yourself. 

Size Matters, Part II: The Pot

Is the juice worth the squeeze? Nothing is guaranteed in this game, but you can set up some safety nets. We’ve already established that you don’t want to risk your stack if the conditions aren’t ideal and part of identifying these ideal conditions involves considering the pot size. It has to be worth the fight. This consideration is especially important in the fledging stages of tournament play where you will be putting your tournament life on the line for a measly pot. In situations like this, it’s best to leave the squeeze play in your pocket. 

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske | Flickr