A squeeze is when a player raises, at least one other player calls, and you decide to reraise. This is often a good play in general, simply because the combination of a raise and a call usually puts a lot of dead money out there that’s worth winning. However, we need to understand the nuances of the squeeze in order to manipulate it in aggressive games.
First of all, when passive players are involved, you should not squeeze without a strong hand. Essentially, value needs to be your top priority when reraising against passive or bad players, as it’s too likely you’ll get to showdown if you squeeze with a hand like Q7s. Against aggressive players, however, we don’t need to rely on getting to showdown as often because we are often collecting the dead money preflop or making our opponents fold postflop.
When a squeeze occurs, we can be in one of three positions:
- The Raiser. Our response to facing a squeeze should be to value certain hands more highly. For example, if we give a preflop squeezer a strong range, we might fold QJs or 77. However, in a squeeze spot, we may call that type of hand. Obviously, it also matters whether or not we are in position or OOP on the preflop caller. If we raised on the button, the SB called, and the BB squeezed, we might be more likely to call a wider range given that we are guaranteed the button. If we raised in the CO, the BTN called, and the BB squeezed, we’ll play tighter (once again we see the relationship between positional advantage and card advantage).
- The Caller. Our calling range against a preflop raise can include a wide variety of strong hands and weak hands. We can consider how a player who squeezes a lot affects our calling range. Squeeze frequency is actually a table dynamic issue that either increases or decreases the value of our hand. For example, calling a raise with AA on the button has increased value with a light squeezer in the blinds, but calling a raise with 65s decreases in value because we will have to fold to a squeeze.
- The Squeezer. The first thing we have to do is approximate our opponents’ ranges. Given two thinking, aggressive players, we can usually assume that a squeeze with any two cards is profitable theoretically. However, we need to again consider what’s practically optimal as opposed to what’s theoretically optimal. In general, people will continue to call 3-bets too lightly, and thus we need to be prepared in the event that someone does call our squeeze. This means playing cards that work better in 3-bet pots than ones that don’t. For example, we’re much more comfortable squeezing K4o than 74s.* We also need to consider table dynamic issues. For example, if a fishier player is involved in the pot (either as the PFR or as the caller), we should be less inclined to squeeze lightly. Similarly, if a player who is capable of trapping preflop with big hands is the caller, we should again be wary. Still, squeezing early and often is a good way to both build image and win free money.
Once we’ve called a squeeze in position, we’ll need to evaluate our opponents’ postflop game. Some people won’t be able to resist a c-bet. Against these people, we value our hands more highly—i.e., TT does much better against a range of Ax, Kxs, broadways and big pairs than it does against just broadways and big pairs. This assumes that the squeezer had a wider-than-normal range for his preflop reraise; if his preflop range is wider, and he’s c-betting his entire range, then his c-betting range is therefore wider. We’ll be inclined to raise a lot of flops more lightly as well as making bigger calls. Other opponents will be good enough to realize that their fold equity has decreased due to the squeeze scenario and thus will give up and check-fold a certain percentage of the time. Against these opponents, we can still call their squeezes lightly, but we don’t play back as aggressively against their c-bets.
Playing against a squeeze is really simple stuff, but it takes courage. If you are confident a player is squeezing with a wide range, you call with a wide range. Then, if you’re confident that he’s staying aggressive with a wide range, you either raise to collect dead money or you call to let him continue bluffing. Or, if you’re confident that he’s check-folding weaker hands in his range, you call with a wide range but play tightly to his aggression. It’s a pretty easy game.
One caveat must be made in this situation. Psychologically, we’ll be inclined to assume wider ranges for our opponents than actually exist. It’s part of the classic “put him on AK and call” mindset. Remember that, hands down, people are bluffing you less often than you think. So, if you raise, a fish calls on the button, and then a reg 3-bets from the blinds, it’s probably not a light squeeze. He’d be afraid of getting involved in a big pot with a bad hand against a bad player. If you raise, a reg calls, and then another reg 3-bets—but it’s the first time he’s 3-bet in an hour of play—he’s probably not squeezing. However, if a player who reraises a lot squeezes over the top of you and another regular, act accordingly. A squeeze simply means a wider range—all the strong hands are still there, but in this case there’s a lot more of the weak stuff. Widen your play-back range in proportion with how your opponent widens his squeeze range. Against some players, you may defend a ton of hands; against others, you may play exactly the same as if it weren’t a squeeze spot at all.
*Equity-wise, 74s probably does fine against an expected calling range, and sometimes it does better than K4o. So these, examples aren’t the best. However, the conditions for squeezing are usually more important than the actual cards you hold—using better cards helps to make for a more +EV squeeze, but cards aren’t the most important consideration.