Facing A Squeeze With JJ (Hand Review)

So I was playing live poker last week and this hand came up.  Facing a squeeze with JJ is never fun, and I think analyzing a hand like this is valuable for a variety of reasons.  First, you can learn how to handle this spot in the future.  Second, you can improve your basic poker math skills.  And third you may learn something about ranges.  With that said, let’s look at the hand and get to work:

Live 200NL

Opener ($320) – MP

Hero ($210) – MP1

Squeezer ($550) – Button

3 folds, Opener raises to $10, Hero calls $10 with JJ, 2 folds, Squeezer raises to $35, 3 folds, Hero ?

So in this hand the opener from MP raises to $10 (5bb) and I call.  MP is a decent player who I’ve played with before and he’s very likely to fold everything if I 3bet him.  If I flat him I keep his entire range intact and think I can make more money postflop than just 3betting him and picking the pot up preflop.  In this particular situation the squeezer is on the button and covers both of us.  The squeezer is a 20-something that I’ve seen one or twice and was probably an internet player, so I assume he can squeeze this with more than just KK+.  Once he squeezes everyone pretty quickly folds back to me.Pocket Jacks

This spot isn’t very fun, and it doesn’t matter if you were the through caller or the open-raiser.  But it will happen, and thus analyzing this kind of spot can be very beneficial.  Now we have our normal 3 options here: fold, call, or 4bet.  I don’t personally love flatting this without a bit more info for a couple reasons.  1. If we call we are OOP in a 2.3 SPR pot without initiative.  2. There will be an overcard on board a little less than 1/2 the time. 3. Because I’m OOP it will be very tough to maximize value and also minimize my loss.  4. My range is pretty face-up if I flat (as a mid-ish pair) and I assume he’ll be able to read it as that.  Due to all of this I’m more likely to either fold or 4bet.

In this hand I did decide to 4bet up to $84, which is debatable for sure.  But to 4bet this we need to make some basic assumptions…and from there it becomes a math problem:

  • What does he squeeze?
  • If we 4bet, what will he continue with?
  • If he continues what kind of equity do we have?
  • What do we rep if he hand read?
  • What is the math?

I’m going to start with the math here and sort of deconstruct the problem.  By 4betting I am calling his shove.  Not necessarily with a smile, but I wouldn’t put in about 1/2 my stack only to fold to a shove getting such a sick price.  Because of that I’m not just risking $74 (the risk of my 4bet), I am actually risking the rest of my stack ($200 total).  And if he is bluff squeezing he will probably fold sometimes when I 4bet, which I need to keep in mind.  So to calculate the EV of our play we’d use would be this:

EV = (X% * $57) + ((1-X%)(Y% * $257)) – ((1-X%)(Z% * $200))

That may look complicated, but we can explain it with words quite easily.  Starting from the left:

(X% * $57).  X% is how often we 4bet and he folds.  This part tells us how much we win the times we 4bet and he folds

(1-X%).  Since X% is how often we 4bet and he folds, 1-X% is how often we 4bet and he continues by either calling or shoving

(Y% * $275).  Y% is the equity we have when we 4bet and he continues.  This part tells us how much we win the times we 4bet and win

(Z% * 200). Z% is the equity he has when we 4bet and he continues (so Z + Y = 100).  This part tells us how much we lose the times we 4bet and lose.

See, not so bad right?  If you don’t feel comfortable with this type of basic EV math you may want to check out Qtip’s best Poker Math eBook.  So from here we essentially get start making the assumptions discussed earlier.  If we 4bet how often will he fold (aka, what X% is).  If we 4bet and he continues how much equity will we have (aka, what Y% and Z% are).  So let’s make some basic assumptions to start:

  • His squeeze range is 99+/AQ+
  • If we 4bet he’ll never fold and always shoves.
  • JJ v 99+/AQ+ is 50/50 equity

EV = (0% * $57) + ((100%)(50% * $257)) – ((100%)(50% * $200))

EV = $0 + $128.5 – $100 = +$28.5.  So if he never folds if we 4bet, always shoves, and always has 99+/AQ+ we can profitably 4bet and get it all-in with a good edge!  Well that’s a good start, but let’s not stop there.  What if he squeezed stronger and never folds?  Let’s make these assumptions:

  • His squeeze range is TT+/AK
  • If we 4bet he’ll never fold and always shoves.
  • JJ v TT+/AK is 43/57 equity

EV = (0% * $57) + ((100%)(43% * $257)) – ((100%)(57% * $200))

EV = $0 + $110.51 – $114 = -$3.49.  So given those assumptions this is going to be a -EV 4bet/call.  The lesson here?  If his squeeze range is TT+/AK (or better) and never folds if we 4bet, we should fold against his squeeze.  But in the beginning we assumed he probably wasn’t only squeezing strong, so chances are this isn’t the real EV for this hand.  This is why it’s so important that we can correctly estimate 3bet ranges.  Let’s try making another assumption:

  • He squeezes TT+/AK for value and 2% junk (5.35% squeeze range overall)
  • 2/5.25 = .37.  So 37% of the time he’ll fold to our 4bet.
  • If we 4bet he’ll fold all of his junk and always shove the TT+/AK
  • JJ v TT+/AK is 43/57 equity

EV = (37% * $57) + ((63%)(43% * $257)) – ((63%)(57% * $200))

EV = $21.09 + $69.62 – $71.82 = +$18.89.  So given these assumptions this is obviously a +EV 4bet.  What if we change it slightly and assume instead of a 2% junk range he’s doing it with a .5% junk range.  This means he’s bluffing sometimes, but is usually strong-side weighted when he squeezes.

  • He squeezes TT+/AK for value and .5% junk (3.85% squeeze range overall)
  • .5/3.85 = .13.  So 13% of the time he’ll fold to our 4bet.
  • If we 4bet he’ll fold all of his junk and always shove the TT+/AK
  • JJ v TT+/AK is 43/57 equity

EV = (13% * $57) + ((87%)(43% * $257)) – ((87%)(57% * $200))

EV = $7.41 + $96.14 – $99.18 = +$4.37.  So this is also positive, although not super profitable.  Let’s do two more possibilities though, just to be sure we are being thorough.  First, let’s assume the value part of his range is a bit stronger, say QQ+/AK.  This will influence our equity.  We’ll also assume he has a 1% bluff range.  Now things look like this:

  • He squeezes QQ+/AK for value and 1% junk (3.78% squeeze range overall)
  • 1/3.78 = .26.  So 26% of the time he’ll fold to our 4bet.
  • If we 4bet he’ll fold all of his junk and always shove the QQ+/AK
  • JJ v QQ+/AK is 36/64 equity

EV = (26% * $57) + ((74%)(36% * $257)) – ((74%)(64% * $200))

EV = $14.82 + $68.46 – $94.72 = -$11.44.  If the value part of his range is QQ+/AK then we need him to have a larger than 1% bluff range.  Try running the math yourself to see if you can figure out how much junk he has to squeeze/fold before your 4bet is +EV.  And the last set of assumptions I want to test are the times he squeezes QQ+/AK for value, but then 5bets some of his bluffs.  So let’s assume he has a 2% bluff range and that he’d 5bet shove bluffs 1/4 of the time.  That will influence our equity and also how often he’ll fold to our 4bet.

  • He squeezes QQ+/AK for value and 2% junk (4.78% squeeze range overall)
  • 1.5/4.78 = .31.  So 31% of the time he’ll fold to our 4bet.
  • If we 4bet he’ll fold 75% of his junk and always shove the QQ+/AK and 25% of his junk
  • JJ v QQ+/AK and some junk is 41/59 equity (it depends on the junk he would use of course.  our equity is different if he uses A2o, 44, or 65s)

EV = (31% * $57) + ((69%)(41% * $257)) – ((69%)(59% * $200))

EV = $17.67 + $72.71 – $81.42 = +$8.96.  So now we are back to making a profitable 4bet.  These obviously aren’t all the assumptions we could make in this situation.  Maybe he squeezes with hands like 88 and if you 4bet he’ll shove.  Maybe he’s actually bluffing a lot more in which case you are picking up $57 uncontested dollars a lot of the time.  Maybe he 5bets his bluffs a lot more often than you’d assume.  Maybe he squeezes and folds to your 4bet with AK.  In the end though, each assumption really only changes our equity against his commitment range or it changes how often he folds v continues against our 4bet.

So what assumptions did I make in real-time?  I assumed that he was squeezing TT+/AQ+ for value, had about 2% bluffs, and would occasionally ship a bluff hand.  It was tough to pick a size that would encourage a lot of light 5betting (I don’t expect a great player to light 5bet ship once I put in nearly 1/2 my stack), and in the end I think my size here was too large (albeit any size was relatively huge due to the 5bb open-raise size and subsequent 17.5bb squeeze size).  He folded and I won a decent sized pot, but I think a 4bet to about $73 would have been slightly better…

The goal of this work was first and foremost to make sure my play was +EV.  Sometimes we make plays in real-time and aren’t 100% sure if they were good or not, which is why we save poker hands and study them later.  Secondly, I wanted to show you some basic math and how to apply it to a real hand.  Thirdly, I wanted to show how mathematical this and other 4bet spots usually are.  Notice that we made the assumption that our 4bet was effectively a shove, which is mostly due to the fact that it’s so large and if it gets any action we are essentially committed to the pot.  Try doing some of this work yourself and plug in your own assumptions to see if this is a good 4bet or possibly an awful one.  And if you are feeling really adventurous try doing the same work with TT, QQ, and AQ to see how things change!

2 thoughts on “Facing A Squeeze With JJ (Hand Review)”

  1. Probably the best article out of the recent ones. The Key to this hand is that your assumptions are correct. Versus a 20-something year old opponent who may be an internet player, I think the assumptions are fairly intact. One thing that is important that you didn’t speak about is “Gameflow”. This can change certain things.

    I agree that 4bet>Call and Fold>Call..

    I’m interested to know what you would have done with effective stacks at 300.

    Overall, I think this is great article. Just hope your readers dont go punting stacks with JJ now. lol. As I think certain things had to align for this to occur.

    I believe partially, his squeeze size (smaller size) left the door open for this play to occur. Interested in what you would have done versus a 45-50 dollar 3bet there. This may o may not have effected your decision. Curious.
    Should be noted that the squeeze came from the BU, where his bluff potential is higher. Sure this crossed your mind in real time as well.

    The math here is also very important here and you broke it down beautifully since we are not just pushing live buttons on a hunch.

  2. Thanks Christian. The math changes a lot if we have $300 effective, and can also change the way he would perceive your back-raise. Run some math and consider if flatting would be better…

    If he squeezed larger here it makes the (X * $A) more attractive as we win a larger uncontested pot the times he squeeze/folds. If you think it changes his squeeze range as well, then just recalculate appropriately.

    And pushing random buttons only gets you into trouble =)

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