One of the most profitable plays available to you in a game where preflop raises tend to get one or more callers is the squeeze. Done correctly, squeezing can pick up lots of uncontested pots preflop, even when you have marginal hands.
But squeeze in the wrong spots, and you will bleed chips quickly.
So let’s explore this together.
What Is A Squeeze In Poker?
A squeeze is a specific kind of preflop 3bet where you re-raise against a raiser who got called by one or more players. Squeezing applies extra pressure to the caller(s), the original raiser, and even the players who have yet to act since a well-sized squeeze is larger than a traditional 3bet.
When Does Squeezing Work?
Most players make the mistake of only squeezing with strong hands. And while it’s simple enough to just squeeze with QQ+ and Ace King, there are plenty of opportunities to add hands like A5s and K9s into your preflop range.
To see how this works, let’s go through an example together. Squeezing situations are very technical, so understanding your numbers and doing some practice between sessions is going to make it easier to find profitable opportunities at the table. So doing this kind of work is not just helpful, but mandatory
This exercise is from page #206 of The Preflop & Math Poker Workbook.
In a $5/$10 cash game, MP1 opens to $30, the CO calls and you decide to squeeze on the button.
The raise to $30 is the first raise. Your 3bet is the first re-raise and then what makes it a squeeze is that there’s at least one caller after the original raise. So because there is at least 1 caller, this is officially a squeeze.
Let’s assume that the original raiser has an open raising range of 18% and the caller has a calling range of 13%. We’ll also explore you squeezing to $120 total.
We start with the original raiser who open raises with 18% of their hands. And they’re going to have a continuance range of 5%. So essentially what we’re saying is, they’ll continue with a 5/18 when we squeeze, and fold 13/18.
Of course, of the 5/18 that continues, some percentage of that continuance will 4bet and the other part will just call your squeeze. Just note that good players are less likely to call lots of squeezes out of position (OOP) since they do not close action preflop and they get less enticing pot odds given the larger squeeze size.
One thing I think that’s helpful is if you plug in an 18% range of hands in your poker software like Flopzilla Pro and then plug it in for the top 5% of hands also. This visually shows you what they would open raise with and what they continue with against the squeeze. That’s how you can start going from raw theoretical numbers to looking at it in terms of a real range of hands.
Will This Squeeze Be +EV?
So, what we’re primarily looking for here is how often they’re going to fold against that squeeze. When we are holding weaker starting hands, we are very happy when everyone folds, and thus that’s our focus at the moment.
In this situation, we take 5/18 = 28 % which is how often they’ll continue.
And then if we take 100% minus that number we have how often they’re going to fold.
If this number is higher than our breakeven percentage, we should be ramping up the aggression and throwing in plenty of bluff combos. If not, we want to be more selective with our bluff combos.
You can use a calculator to make these calculations or use my free squeezing spreadsheet. You can download it now and follow along by plugging in all the numbers from here.
The current pot right this moment is $75. And we can factor in the numbers that we just looked at so the open rate is 18% of their hands. They continue with 5%, which means that they fold 72%.
You could do this same thing with the caller. You take the percentages 4%/13% gives us how often they continue. 100% minus that number gets us how often they fold.
Again, we can go back to the squeezing spreadsheet. They call the original raise with 13% of their range, they continue with 4%, which means that they fold 69% of the time.
And then the last variable here is looking at the blinds since the small blind and big blind have yet to act. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that they’re going to continue with 5% of hands when we squeeze to $120.
So, 100% – 5% = 95% folding percentage.
When it comes to squeezing, it’s helpful to use the 3x + 1x/caller formula. So if the raiser opens to 3bb and there is 1 caller, you would squeeze to 12bb (3+1 = 4 and 4*3bb = 12bb total). If the raiser opens to 4bb and there are 2 callers, you would squeeze to 20bb.
This is a starting point and should be calibrated to the skill levels of your opponents, position, what your hand is trying to accomplish, etc. But the 3x + 1x/caller rule is a fine place to start if you ever aren’t sure.
Back to the example from earlier, it’s helpful to discern what is the breakeven percentage of your squeeze for the $120 size?
The current pot is $75. At the squeeze size of $120 notice that is a 62% breakeven percentage.
The more you do this kind of stuff, the more you can start understanding the patterns. Even if you’re able to say okay for a normal squeeze size I’m in the ballpark of 60% for a general squeeze breakeven percentage. That’s useful because you can find people or spots where people are folding way more than 60%.
If they fold 75% of the time and your breakeven percentage is 62%, you should be looking to throw in heaps of extra bluffs in that spot. And that’s why, and you should be looking to do this kind of stuff.
But if you never got to do this kind of work and explore what are the breakeven percentages that’s going to put you at a disadvantage. You’re not going to know where the starting point is for throwing in heaps of extra bluffs.
Now, the next question is how often both the raiser and caller fold in the situation. We notice that we thought that the original raiser is going to fold 72% of the time the caller is going to fold 69%. We can plug this into the spreadsheet.
And then what this does is says how often is everyone going to fold. You get there by multiplying the folding percentages so 72% x 69% = 50% folding frequency from both of those players.
And then the final question is how often everyone folds so this is not only factoring in the raiser and caller but also the blinds. So 79% 69% 95% and 95% gets us a total of 45%. That’s how often we can expect everyone to find the fold button.
Why Practice Squeezes?
Some of the biggest takeaways from doing this kind of work is going from a raw percentage form into realistic ranges. You’re able to visually see the range of hands your opponents could have. It also helps us identify where players are folding a tremendous amount.
These factors that people overlook come into play and start creating some nice spots. As long as you can get your opponents to fold more often than your breakeven percentage you can do a squeeze play profitably.
You only really understand this by doing this kind of work, when you start looking at the technical side of the game. Rather than, in real-time saying “oh I don’t have the right hand here” or “I don’t have the perfect spot here” or “I have no idea how often they’re going to fold here.” This forces you to work through that and start understanding the patterns again.
Even if you don’t take the squeeze spots in real-time all that often. This will keep you focused on looking for the right spots, so that when profitable opportunities arise you’re able to take them with confidence.