by Lou Krieger
A squeeze play is one of the simplest maneuvers to execute at the poker table. It’s easily understood, yet fraught with risk, and your success depends almost entirely on how well you are able to read your opponents. The time to squeeze is when a loose-aggressive player raises from early position, and another player calls the raise before the action gets around to you.
The squeezer now makes a large reraise, banking on the fact that no players acting after him will call and the initial raiser and the caller will both fold, allowing him to take down the pot.
A squeeze play is a parlay of sorts, and works because:
• The initial raiser, a loose-aggressive player, was on a steal, and raised with a weak hand.
• The guy who called the raise also did so with a vulnerable hand.
• No one who acts after you is willing to cold-call a reraise.
Squeeze Late, Not Early. Not only do you have to be able to read the initial raiser as well as the guy who called his raise, you also have to be very cognizant of players who act after you. If you squeeze from late position, you won’t have to worry about players who act after you. Squeezing is tough enough, but when you don’t have position on your side, it’s just asking for trouble.
Table Image. The image you project to your opponents is critically important to successfully squeezing. When you’re viewed as the kind of guy only raises if he has the goods, you stand a much better chance of pulling off a squeeze play successfully. In other words, when your opponents think you’ll never squeeze them, your squeeze play will succeed unless one of your opponents actually does have a very big hand.
Theory in Practice: A Successful—and Very Famous—Squeeze Play. One of poker’s most well-known squeeze plays was executed by poker Hall of Famer, “Action” Dan Harrington—a tongue-incheek nickname referring to his image as an extremely tight player—during the final table of the 2004 World Series of Poker’s main event.
Harrington’s image gave him license to steal. In this hand, Josh Arieh raised under the gun with K-9 offsuit, and Greg Raymer called in early-middle position with Ac-2c. Harrington put both players on weak hands because Arieh and Raymer had each played a lot of pots with marginal hands. Harrington made a very large reraise with 6-2, both men folded, and Harrington won a large pot.
He knew Josh Arieh’s raise didn’t necessarily represent a strong hand. He had been raising far too many pots, and Harrington realized that he was raising with weak hands much of the time. While there was no way Harrington could have been absolutely certain that Josh Arieh didn’t have a strong hand, reasonable doubt prevailed, and “Action” Dan put him on a weak holding.
Greg Raymer, who went on to win that year’s WSOP main event, had been involved in a large number of hands too, and Harrington was willing to make the assumption that Raymer didn’t necessarily have a big hand either.
But because Harrington had been playing a style that more than lived up to his nickname, both his adversaries figured that he had to be sitting there with a huge hand when he reraised.
Squeezing When the Stacks Are Deep. Most experts advise saving squeeze plays for later stages of tournaments, but you can still make one early with a raise of four to six times the initial raise. But don’t squeeze with 6-2 offsuit, as Harrington did. Instead, look for a situation when you can squeeze with hands like suited connectors, so you have some playing potential just in case you are called.
If you want to see more squeeze play material, here’s a link to a video by the affable Canadian pro, Gavin Smith: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
Visit Lou Krieger online at www.loukrieger.com, where you can read his blog, and check out all of his books. Write directly to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.