Friday, July 16, 2010

Squeezing Lemons For Fun & Profit

Got an email from Flyboy yesterday. He has been playing a lot of $10NL FR Rush games on 'Tilt lately:

On another subject: the squeeze play. I had a hand today that I wasn't sure how to play. I had pocket 10's on the button. Villain 1 in early position bet .35 cents 3.5 times the big blind; V2 in M1 position called; V3 in CO called. Should I raise to $1. (squeeze) or just set mine?

A squeeze play is when a villain raises, a second (and possibly more villains) call, and then the Hero re-raises to squeeze the others out of the pot. Pressure is placed on the original raiser, because he has to either call or raise with two or more players left to act.

Squeeze plays can be effective both in cash games and tournaments. The class squeeze play that most poker players point to is "Action" Dan Harrington's famous squeeze bluff at the 2004 WSOP final table. Play was down to seven, and the table was very solid, with everyone playing very smart, very creative poker. Dan was one of the shortest stacks, and had built up a very tight, conservative image in the preceding few hours of play.

Josh Arieh started the action in the hand by raising with K9o in EP. Greg Raymer called with A2s. Harrington looked down at 6-2 offsuit on the button and raised to 5x the original raise amount, which was something like 1/3 of his stack. In other words, he was essentially pot-committed if called, and he knew the rest of the table knew that, too. David Williams in the big blind folded AQo. After some posturing, both Arieh and Raymer also folded. Harrington dragged a nice pot for his audacious RR, chipping up and finishing 4th for a cool $1.5M payout.

(BTW, there are a ton of lessons to be learned in watching these guys play hands like this. For instance, look at David Williams gap-concept fold with AQ offsuit. He was a short stack at that point in time, but evidently felt it worthwhile to pick a different battle to fight, given Dan's tight image. Must of worked, too, as Williams chipped up and then finished in second place for $3.5M....)

Anyway, back to squeeze plays. Here's how I responded to Flyboy's questions:

A [cash] squeeze is completely dependent upon the table texture and the tendencies of the original opp who raised. Your own cards almost don’t matter (but it certainly helps to have a playable hand, of course).

The trick to figuring out whether a squeeze is worth trying or not is to look at the stats and image of the original raiser. He’s the guy that you have to get past. If he folds, 9 times out of ten the others will follow him to the muck. Of course you have to look at their numbers, too, to see if there’s a loose cannon or calling station who may decide to play you.

Anyway, if the original raiser calls your squeeze, you’re probably going to see a flop multi-way. If he gets stubborn and 4-bets you, you have to look at stack sizes and see if you’re getting the right implied odds to come along. The more players who follow him in means you’re getting better and better IOs to set mine.

Generally speaking, if the original raiser is a LAG, you have a better shot of having the squeeze work than if he’s a TAG or a nit. LAG’s are like school yard bullies taking lunch money from the weaker kids. If you pop him back in the nose, he’s probably going to give up and go find someone else to pick on.

Conversely, TAGs raising UTG mean they have a real hand and probably aren’t going anywhere. In this case, you’re actually getting great IOs just to smooth any RRR and set-mine. If you hit your hand, you’re much more likely to get paid off. Therefore, you can actually reduce the 15:1 rule to 10:1 or so. (When set mining, generally you need more and more implied odds the later the position of the opening raiser. This is because you’re less and less likely to get paid off if you hit; i.e., the opp’s opening range is much wider, and therefore he’s more likely to give up post flop than an EP raiser who has a much tighter (and therefore stronger) hand.)

One other thing: the RR size Flyboy suggested was too low. I generally like to use 3x the original raiser’s bet size, plus at least one big blind for every cold caller. You want the squeeze to be painful for the opp to call. In Flyboy's example, I would have probably gone with a $1.30-1.50 if I were squeezing. Remember you also have to get past the blinds, too.

Anyway, that’s all the time I have today to post. Hopefully, I can squeeze in some time to play a little 6max later on today….

All-in for now…


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