Get your mind out of the gutter; a squeeze play is a legitimate poker strategy that is used by aggressive players in a game that has a lot of passive players. It commonly comes under the umbrella of a 3bet as it is often used preflop; when used properly, it can be a great way to pick up dead money. In this guide, we’ll cover exactly what a squeeze play is, how to use it, and why you should implement it when learning how to play poker.

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What is a Squeeze Play?

A squeeze play is commonly a 3bet when there has been a raise and at least one call. It is called such as you’re squeezing the initial raiser between yourself and the preflop caller(s)–the initial raiser needs to be concerned about your range as well as the action the preflop caller(s) may take after them. The more players there are that call, the more effective a squeeze play is, as there are a greater number of players the preflop raiser needs to be concerned about before making their action. However, if there are more players in the hand, it could become more obvious that you’re making a squeeze play if you’re perceived as an aggressive player, so keep your table image in mind when you’re making the play.

A squeeze play is also possible on postflop betting streets. For example, in a three-way pot, if Player A bets, gets called by Player B, and then gets raised by Player C, it’s precisely the same scenario as the preflop squeeze. However, these squeezes are far less common, so whenever you hear someone talk about squeezing/a squeeze play, they’re almost certainly referring to the preflop variety.

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What is a Squeeze Play?

A squeeze play is commonly a 3bet when there has been a raise and at least one call. It is called such as you’re squeezing the initial raiser between yourself and the preflop caller(s)–the initial raiser needs to be concerned about your range as well as the action the preflop caller(s) may take after them. The more players there are that call, the more effective a squeeze play is, as there are a greater number of players the preflop raiser needs to be concerned about before making their action. However, if there are more players in the hand, it could become more obvious that you’re making a squeeze play if you’re perceived as an aggressive player, so keep your table image in mind when you’re making the play.

A squeeze play is also possible on postflop betting streets. For example, in a three-way pot, if Player A bets, gets called by Player B, and then gets raised by Player C, it’s precisely the same scenario as the preflop squeeze. However, these squeezes are far less common, so whenever you hear someone talk about squeezing/a squeeze play, they’re almost certainly referring to the preflop variety.

Benefits of The Squeeze Play

Some people don’t like making a squeeze play, particularly as a bluff, because it requires a large 3bet sizing to be effective, which can be scary. Also, they’re getting an excellent price on a call, which gives them another reason to avoid squeezing. However, there are plenty of benefits to making a squeeze play, and it should be a part of your arsenal if you want to be a strong poker player.

Put Max Pressure on Preflop Raiser

When you make a squeeze play, you’re putting maximum pressure on the preflop raiser–even more so than if it were a regular 3bet. The presence of the other player means that the original raiser needs to be more cautious because if they call and the preflop caller then 4bets, they’re in another tricky situation.

Even if they call and the preflop caller calls behind them, they’re going to be in another tough situation on the flop. If you decide to c-bet, they have to decide what they want to do against that bet, not knowing what the player behind is going to do. Either way, they’re going to be in a challenging situation, so most players will overfold to avoid those spots.

Part of what makes them fold so often is the size you have to make a squeeze. A good 3bet sizing is usually 3x the raise when you’re in position and 4x the raise when you’re out of position. When you squeeze, you generally add 1x for each preflop caller, so if two people call the preflop raise and you’ll be 3betting out of position, your 3bet sizing should be 4x (for being OOP) + 2x (one for each preflop caller) = 6x the initial raise size. Most people aren’t comfortable calling such a hefty raise with a marginal hand, only to be put in a tough situation postflop, so they end up folding a lot of the time.

Pick Up Dead Money

Typically, when people call a preflop raise, they don’t have a particularly strong hand because if they did, they would have 3bet. So while some players may trap preflop, especially if there are aggressive 3bettors behind them, most of the time, the strongest hand they’ll have is TT/99/AJ.

Once the preflop raiser has folded, you’ll find that the preflop callers will often fold to the squeeze. This is because the range of hands they’ll call a 2.5bb preflop raise with aren’t the hands they’d like to call a 15bb 3bet with, even if they’re getting a good price. And this is why we consider the preflop callers “dead money,” as most of the time, once we get through the preflop raiser, they won’t defend the money they’ve invested, allowing us to win a decent-sized pot without ever having to see a flop.

Isolate Weaker Players

The kinds of players that will call a preflop raise and then call a squeeze are generally going to be recreational players. They’ve decided they want to see a flop with their hand, and they will do so no matter the price. So if you have players like this at your table, you can squeeze a wider range for value to isolate these weaker players.

Scenarios like this are what make squeeze plays such a powerful tool. Instead of going multi-way to the flop without the betting lead, we get to play a much bigger pot, head up against the recreational player, and get the betting lead into the flop. It turns a slightly tricky spot into a highly favorable scenario where we stand to make a lot of money.

Punish Loose Players

On average, players in low-stakes live games and micro-stakes online games play far too many hands preflop–both as the preflop raiser and preflop caller. When we squeeze, we take advantage of that by forcing them into a decision with their marginal hands. Most of the time, due to their overly-wide ranges, we can expect them to fold, giving us a decent-sized pot without seeing a flop.

When Should You Use The Squeeze Play?

Using the squeeze play will often be player dependent unless you have a very strong hand, as you should be tailoring your 3bet strategy based on the player profiles of the people involved in the hand.

It goes without saying that if you have the opportunity to squeeze with a hand like AA/KK/QQ/JJ/AK/AQ etc., then you should be doing it at 100% frequency, as these hands make much more money by being 3bet rather than playing a multi-way pot. The nuance comes when we have the opportunity to squeeze but don’t have a premium hand.

When we’re squeezing as a bluff, we want to target players who are either opening too wide or players who play very passively against a 3bet. These players will fold most of the time because of their wide preflop range or because they don’t like to play big 3bet pots. Either way, our net result is the same–we get to take the pot down preflop.

However, there’s more than one player in the equation, and we also need to think about the preflop caller before we squeeze. What kind of player are they:

  • Are they the kind of player that likes to trap preflop?
  • Do they get sticky with a marginal hand even against a big raise?

If the answer is yes to either of these questions, then these aren’t good candidates to squeeze as a bluff, as we can’t rely on it getting through often enough to be profitable.

Instead, we can squeeze a wider range for value if we think either the preflop raiser or the preflop caller will call our raise with marginal hands. By widening our value range and narrowing our bluffing range, we can take advantage of their tendency to play too many hands preflop–both to the initial raise and to our squeeze.

Squeezing Ranges

As with 3betting, we have two choices for our squeezing ranges: we can either choose a linear or a polarized range. We have a lot more information about that on our 3betting page, but we’ll cover the key points here:

Polarized

A polarized range is a range made up of very good hands and very bad hands– hands from opposite ends (poles) of your range. This range is used when you don’t expect your opponent to call very often and will either 4bet or fold the majority of the time. In these cases, 3betting a hand like AJs would be a waste of the hand because your opponent will fold all worse hands and will 4bet if they have you beat.

The best hands you include in your range for value will consist of hands like AA/KK/QQ/AK/JJ, etc. The hands you should include in a polarized 3betting range as a bluff are the hands that don’t quite make it into your calling range preflop. For example, if you’re on the BTN and would call KTs to an open but would fold K9s, then K9s should go into your 3betting range if you decide to use a polarized range.

You will use this range to squeeze if you believe that your opponents will play very tight against your raise. For example, if you expect the preflop raiser to either 4bet or fold, and you don’t think the preflop caller(s) will call your squeeze very often, then it makes sense to use a polarized squeezing strategy that will best exploit those tendencies.

Linear

Conversely, a linear range is a range that isn’t strictly split between “bluffs” and “value” but instead has a wide value range of varying strengths. We use this range when we expect our opponent will call a wide range against our 3bet. In this kind of range, hands like JTs, 98s, AJs, etc., are 3bet for their value, as we expect our opponent to have a wide calling range.

How wide your range gets will depend on how loose the player you’re playing against is, as well as the positions you’re in preflop. Against players opening from late positions or players who raise and call far too wide preflop, you want to 3bet a wide range for value–somewhere around 15%. However, against players opening from early position or players who aren’t quite as loose preflop, a more standard 5-14% is recommended.

You want to use a linear range to squeeze with when you believe that your opponents will be playing a call-heavy strategy against your raise and won’t do a lot of 4betting. If you think you’re going to see the flop a lot of the time, you want to have a range that is good against your opponent’s calling range, so a linear strategy is best.

No matter which range we decide is appropriate, we should be changing our squeezing frequencies based on the position of the other players in the hand.

If the preflop raiser has raised from early position, we can expect that the preflop caller has noticed that and has called with a tighter range. This means that whether we’re squeezing for value or as a bluff, our range should be tighter than average to account for the strength of both players’ ranges. The opposite is true if both players are in late position; we’ll know that their ranges are going to be wider, which means that our squeezing ranges can be wider.

Of course, this is assuming that the players at your table are positionally aware. If they don’t adjust their ranges based on position, you don’t need to either.

Strategy Adjustments

Now that we know the theoretical way to approach squeezing, let’s see what adjustments we can make to best exploit the players we’re likely to face at the table.

Don’t Bluff If They Won’t Fold

This one is as easy as it sounds. If you’re playing against players who aren’t going to fold to your squeeze, then don’t bluff! Picking weak hands to squeeze against these players is lighting money on fire, as we’re forcing ourselves to play a weak hand in a postflop scenario when there’s really no need to. Instead, you should be raising a wider value range to exploit the fact that they play too many hands. Doing this will put you in a much more favorable position postflop and allow you to extract more value from the recreational players.

If You Do Bluff, Choose Hands With Blockers

If we think our opponents will only continue against our squeeze when they have a strong hand, then we want to limit as many of those hands as we possibly can. By choosing bluffs that contain high cards (ace, king, queen, etc.), we can severely limit the number of good hands our opponent can have in their range, meaning that our squeeze will work more often.

Let’s look at the hand combinations our opponent can have, based on the hand that we squeeze with:

 

76s As5s   KcQd
AA – 6 Combos AA – 3 Combos AA – 6 Combos
AK – 16 Combos AK – 12 Combos AK – 12 Combos
KK – 6 Combos KK – 6 Combos KK – 3 Combos
QQ – 6 Combos QQ – 6 Combos QQ – 3 Combos
Total – 34 Combos Total – 27 Combos Total – 24 Combos

We can see that just by having one ace in our hand, we can remove half of our opponent’s AA combos and a quarter of their AK combos.

Playing Against a Squeeze

What if the shoe is on the other foot, and we’re the ones who have been squeezed? What is the best way to play against it? As with everything in poker, the answer is… it depends. It will depend on whether we’re the preflop aggressor or the preflop caller, the size of the squeeze, the type of player who made the squeeze play, and the positions of the players involved.

As the Preflop Raiser

If we’ve been squeezed when we’re the preflop raise, we also need to consider how many players have called our raise and the types of players they are–do they trap preflop, do they call too wide preflop, etc. It’s impossible to cover every single permutation, so we’ll give you some general rules to follow:

  • The smaller the squeeze, the more you should call
  • The tighter the squeezer, the more you should fold/the looser the squeezer, the more you should call or 4bet.
  • The better your hand, the more you should 4bet.
  • If the preflop callers play too wide, the more you should call/4bet.
  • The earlier position you’re squeezed from, the more you should fold.

As the preflop caller

If you’re the preflop caller, the hand will play out differently depending on the action of the preflop raiser and any player that called before you. If someone makes a 4bet, you have an easy fold with pretty much your entire range unless you were trapping preflop. However, if the players in front of you fold or call, then you have a much trickier decision. Again, it’s impossible to go over all the different scenarios and outcomes, so here are some general rules you should follow:

  • The more players that have called before you, the more you should call.
  • Fold hands that are more likely to be dominated by other players’ ranges (KT, Q9s, A8s, etc.)
  • The looser the squeezer, the more you should call.
  • The looser the preflop raiser is perceived to be, the more you should call.
  • The later position the preflop raiser is, the more you should call.

Squeezing Examples

  1. Example 1

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    In a $1/$2 live cash game, a player who has raised around 75% of hands so far and has yet to fold to a preflop 3bet raises from the HJ to $6 and is called by the CO and BTN, who are both weaker players. We’re in the SB with Ks5s and decide to squeeze to $36. Was this a good squeeze?

    First of all, let’s cover what’s good about this hand. If we decide to use a polarized range, squeezing a hand like K5s is loose but has a decent blocker to our opponent’s strong hands. Our sizing is good and knowing that the CO and BTN are weaker players and are likely to fold is also good. However, all of that is overshadowed by the big mistake we made in choosing to squeeze with a bad hand against the player in the HJ that never folds. We’re forcing ourselves to play a bloated pot out of position with K5s, which isn’t good for us even if the HJ is a maniac player. We’re going to find ourselves in too many tough spots postflop, and we’re going to be burning money with this squeeze.

    Remember to consider all variables before deciding to squeeze; you need more than one or two of them to be right if you want to be squeezing profitably.

  2. Example 2

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    In a $0.25/$0.50 online cash game, a player opens to $1.25 from the CO and is called by the player on the BTN who we suspect to be a recreational player. We have Ah2h in the SB and decide to squeeze to $6.25. Is this a good squeeze?

    Yes! This is a great spot to squeeze. We have a very good hand for it given its blocker properties, the preflop raiser has raised from late position, so we can expect their range to be wide, a recreational player called on the BTN, so we can assume their range will also be wide, and we’ve chosen a large enough sizing that it puts pressure on the weak parts of both players’ ranges. Overall, a perfect squeeze play.

  3. Example 3

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    In a $1/$2 live cash game, the UTG player raises to $6 and is called by the LJ, HJ, and CO. We’re on the BTN with AdAs, and we squeeze to $18. Is this a good squeeze?

    This is a common mistake that recreational players will make. They have a very good hand and want to raise, but at the same time, they don’t want to scare anyone away, so they make a small raise that builds the pot but keeps everyone in. It sounds great in theory, but in reality, you’re going to be playing a 4way pot with AA where you haven’t defined anyone’s range. As a result, you’ll be put in some very tricky situations postflop, and you shouldn’t be surprised if your aces get cracked often. So instead, we should be raising to a much larger sizing. Given the size of the raise and the three callers, we should raise to at least $30, if not more. This way, most of the time, we get to play the pot heads up against a much better-defined range, and we can win the pot more often.

  4. Example 4

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    In a $5/$10 cash game, Player A raises to $30 from the HJ, Player B calls from the CO, and Player C calls from the BTN. You’re in the SB with Ah5h and decide to raise to $180. Player A, Player B, and Player C all fold, and you win the pot.

    That $180 raise was a squeeze play–there was a preflop raise as well as at least one preflop call before you made your 3bet, which meets all the necessary requirements for a squeeze play. The squeeze play can be done as a value bet or as a bluff. When people think about the move, they often think of it as a bluff to pick up the dead money in the pot, but if you had AA in that scenario, the raise would still be a squeeze play but for value.

Summary

While squeezing as a bluff can seem scary, it’s necessary to include bluffs in your range if you ever want to get paid off with your value hands. It’s important that when you’re considering making a squeeze play as a bluff, you think about the ranges of the players who have raised and called and how they’ll react against your squeeze. If you’re able to process all of that information before making your decision, you’ll be squeezing like a true pro.