The squeeze play is a great way to take advantage of the table dynamics at the right time and boost your win rate, while making you more difficult to play against. Typically, the squeeze works as follows: A loose player opens the pot for a raise, and then one or more players call this raise. You, in late position or the blinds then make a bluff re-raise in order to take down the dead money in the pot.

The theory in its most basic sense is that the initial opener isn’t likely to have much of hand because he is a loose player, and secondly even if he does want to continue, he still has to worry about being out of position to the player who initially called his raise, and also possibly to you as well. The callers also aren’t likely to have anything very good because, wouldn’t they have 3-bet themselves if they had a really strong hand?

The squeeze play was popularized by Dan Harrington’s iconic Harrington on Hold’em series, but is now an essential weapon in the arsenal of everyone from the live tournaments player to the online cash grinder.

Math of the Squeeze Play

Imagine we are playing $1/$2 6-max and a loose player opens to $6 in middle position and the cut-off calls. You, sitting on the button, decide to squeeze. A pot sized raise in this situation is a good sizing to use, which in this case would be to $27. In this case you are risking $27 to win $15, meaning that for your squeeze to show a profit, your opponents need to fold a touch under 65% of the time.

If you have the middle position player pinned as loose, he might be opening 25% of his hands in this spot, and without extensive history, will only be continuing with let’s say QQ+ and AK, which is only 2.5% of hands meaning that he should fold 90% of the time.

The caller has shown very little strength thus far, and will usually just have some speculative hand like small pairs, suited connectors or medium strength high-card hands (which make up a range of about 13%) which he wanted to see the flop with and should also be folding almost his entire range. If each is folding 90% of the time, then both will fold a combined ~80% of the time. Even when you factor in the possibility of the blinds having a big hand, you can see clearly how profitable this play is, given that you only need to get folds 65% of the time to make it immediately profitable.

Squeezing from the Big Blind

Another very good spot to squeeze is when you are the big blind and the cut-off or button attempts to steal, and the small blinds defends by calling. In this spot both players again have very weak ranges. The stealer could be opening anything up to 50% of hands in this spot, and the small blind would certainly be 3-betting a wide range of hands for value and to discourage steals in future.

One thing to note in this situation is that the stealer will call much more often in this spot as he has position and in many cases will be aware of what you are attempting. Regardless, if you have a good image and not much history with the player, the combination of the frequency with which he folds and the fact that you have the betting initiative post flop should overcome his positional advantage and make it a profitable play.

What Hands Should I Squeeze With?

Generally when performing the squeeze play in the absence of very strong reads on your opponents, it is best to have a polarized range. This means only squeezing very good hands, like AA and KK, and poor hands like 75s or 65o. The advantage to doing this is that your opponent’s range for calling is a squeeze is likely to include a lot of broadway hands like AQ and KQ and so squeezing with hands like AT and K9 can get you in a lot of tricky spots post flop when hit a pair.

Protecting Against Being Squeezed

To protect your cold-calling range pre-flop, you need to balance it such that players can’t just squeeze every time and know that you are folding because your range is comprised entirely of medium strength or speculative hands. For this reason it’s a very good idea to occasionally cold call raises with very strong hands such as premium pocket pairs such and AK when a serial squeezer is yet to act, with the intention of backraising when the action gets back around to you.