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Introduction to the Squeeze Play

01/02/2018 by Steve Blay

The Squeeze Play should be a crucial part of your pre-flop strategy. Qui Nguyen used it on Hand #70 in From Vietnam to Vegas! The Final Table was six-handed at that point, and the blinds were $400K/$800K with a $100K ante. Second to act, Michael Ruane opened for $1.8M. Kenny Hallaert called on the button. Qui was the big blind with Qs-6c. We had seen Michael Ruane opening light from early position – he had already opened with Kc-5c and 9h-7h earlier that day. Qui decided to re-raise to $5.9M, and took it down.

Simply put, a squeeze play is when you 3-bet pre-flop against an open-raiser and at least one caller. Some books define it more rigidly, as only a 3-bet out of position (e.g. from the blinds), or a 3-bet with the sole intentions of picking up the pot (e.g. a 3-bet bluff). But for my purposes, it will be any 3-bet against an open-raiser and at least one caller.

Many typical players are out of their comfort zone when playing a 3-bet pot pre-flop, which is always a good thing for us. If you asked most players what hands they will open-raise with from which positions, they could tell you. They might even have a starting hand chart at home. But once the pot gets 3-bet, they make it up as they go along, and are often way off-balance. For example, some players open-raise with a wide variety of hands from middle position, but when they get 3-bet they get cold feet and fold nearly 70% of them, like this:

On the other side of the spectrum, some call with virtually 100% of the hands with which they initially raised. These are huge exploitable flaws.

The trick to using the squeeze play effectively is to understand our opponent’s weaknesses and attack them. (We’re mainly interested in the personality type of the original raiser, but of course the callers can become a factor as well.)

Against weak raisers

We can squeeze with a wide range of “semi-bluff” hands against weak players who fold too much. Medium suited one-gappers like Js-9s and 10h-8h are perfect. Even when we get called, these hands can flop interesting combo draws that we’ll play aggressively on the flop.

Against nits that really don’t defend their raises enough, we can even squeeze with A-x hands we would normally fold, like Ah-5s. While this hand will certainly be hard to play on the flop, our Ace blocker makes it even less likely we’ll get called.

We don’t want to squeeze against tight players when holding value hands like Ac-Qc and 10s-10c. These hands are fine to play multi-way, so we’ll just call and take a flop with them.

Against calling stations

Against players that will call 3-bets with all kinds of junk hoping to get lucky, we can squeeze for value with hands as weak as Ah-10h and 8d-8h. (Normally we would just call with these.)

We don’t want to try a squeeze play with hands like 9s-8s or 5d-5h. It’s more profitable to take a flop with these against players that call too much, and let them make mistakes on later streets.

Marginal squeezing hands

Although As-Jh and Kh-Qd are tricky to play multi-way, they play well heads-up. My advice would be to 3-bet these from the button against a middle position opener and one caller, hoping to get heads-up (or win the pot right there). When we do get called, the additional bets will lower our stack-to-pot ratio (SPR), which is an advantage when playing hands that generally flop one pair or less.

But against a decent UTG or UTG+1 opener and a caller, we might be dominated. There’s no shame in just folding these, say, from the small blind. Our hand is too weak to 3-bet, and calling is dicey – it’s going to be tough to show a long-term profit playing these out of position in a multi-way pot.

Squeeze play sizing

As a general rule for 3-bet sizing, most players use 2.5 to 3 times the initial raise. When trying a squeeze play, we also have at least one caller to contend with, so I prefer to use 3.5 to 4 times the initial raise – even more if I’m in the blinds, since I really want to discourage callers.

That’s about all you need to know to get started with the squeeze play. Don’t be afraid to give it a shot!

There are numerous other examples of fun plays in From Vegas to Vietnam! demonstrating Qui Nguyen taking advantage of his opponents. Check it out!