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The Squeeze

Using the squeeze in big-bet games such as no limit, pot limit Omaha and Texas hold ‘em.

By Jim Feist


Springtime in Las Vegas is heating up and that means the dog days of baseball are in full swing, one of the most profitable sports to wager on. As the weather heats up in Vegas and around the country, so do sluggers as we anticipate higher scoring MLB games, with pitchers beginning to wear down and bats heating up.

One strategy that managers use is the squeeze play with a man on third base. It’s a tricky maneuver to try and catch the other team napping by “squeezing” a run from third by having the batter drop down a bunt as the guy on third races home. It requires speed, timing and perfect coordination—otherwise it can blow up with the runner getting tagged out at home.  The purpose is to get an all-important single run in a close game, perhaps being the difference between winning and losing.

In Texas hold ‘em poker, there is also a squeeze play, and the point is the same: squeezing out a victory in a tight game. The squeeze play is a bluffing opportunity coming about when an aggressive player raises before the flop and another, similar loose player calls behind him. That “squeeze” comes in when another player puts in a big three-bet and pound the other two off the pot.

Essentially that third player is sitting back anticipating the squeeze opportunity, waiting in the woods like a crouching tiger for the unsuspecting prey. You can easily tell that aggressive player, one who is often opening with a wide range of hands, while the next loose player will be calling with a very wide range hoping to get a cheap flop. But being loose players, the chances are that neither has a hand that can stand up to a big three-bet. And that’s where you come in, heading for home plate—and the bank! At least for that one hand, which is the main point—searching for spots and slowly building your bankroll.

Yes, accruing a bankroll in poker is not about one big hit like you see on TV or winning the lottery. Like all successful gambling, it is about playing the percentages, learning your craft and slowing winning more than you lose.

It’s easier than you think to search for these situations. One must watch the other players at the table carefully and size them up. Look for those loose players during the opening raise who are consistently playing big.

In baseball the squeeze play on the diamond is a chess match between three players: the pitcher, the batter and the man on third. In poker, it’s also between three players: the two aggressive players who are trying to one-up each other, and the third (you) who identifies those two and waits for the opportunity to jump in with a good hand and a haul of chips.

Keep in mind your squeeze play has to be big enough to force your opponents to fold mediocre hands, expanding roughly five times the initial raise. And you want to squeeze when you have as few as possible players still to act behind you. The more players that can jump in, the higher the odds against you that someone will top you with a better hand.

Ideally the players behind you are more timid and not likely to call light. Again, this is why it’s essential to observe and categorize all the players at the table. Squeeze plays can be used in tournaments and cash games but they’re only effective in big-bet games such as no-limit, pot-limit Omaha and Texas hold ’em. That’s because in limit games you can’t raise enough to force your opponents to fold.

One of the places this move pops up often is when players squeeze all-in during a tournament. All-in tournament squeezes rely on aggressive raisers and callers, but there are key factors you must be aware of. One is the size of your chip stack. When squeezing you need to have enough chips to force your opponents to fold and your opponents’ stacks and the blinds all have to line up to make the squeeze effective.

The other is in tournaments where your decision to go all-in has to make sense in relation to the blinds. Look for spots where you have roughly 15 big blinds. In most situations any less than that and you’ll be giving your opponents too good a price on a call. In baseball and poker, the squeeze is about picking your spots carefully, which means the difference between victory, defeat and turning a profit—or not.




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