Squeeze up

The ‘squeeze’ play is an effective way to pick up chips with absolute rags

Fancy plays are not designed to be used against beginners, who do not understand enough about the game to be predictable

Years before I was even born, one of poker’s most influential authors, Mike Caro, invented a term for an illness that is something of an epidemic in the poker world these days. The term is ‘Fancy Play Syndrome’, or FPS.

It currently infects a massive number of what I like to call ‘blue belt players’ – people who have some experience in the game, but are not experts. A player suffering from Fancy Play Syndrome thinks things like this:

  • If I push all-in, she’ll have to put me on Aces, and she’ll fold her top pair.
  • If I limp with Aces, I might win a really big pot here.
  • I’m sure he’s got the nut flush. I’m going to fold my King-high flush.

In themselves, these are all things that a good player might think. However, players suffering from FPS think these thoughts every single hand. Instead of making the standard, profitable play, they look for ways to deviate from that strategy so they can ‘mix things up’, or worse, look clever.

Fancy plays have their place – which is usually against intermediate opponents who you can read well. They are not designed to be used against beginners, who do not understand enough about the game to be predictable. Against a beginner who you read to have top pair, you should not push all-in with nothing, thinking they will fold, because they won’t. They’ll think, ‘I have top pair, which is a good hand. I call.’

Likewise, you don’t limp in with strong hands, because there is no need to deceive a player as to what you’re holding when they’re not thinking about your hand in the first place. And don’t even think about folding the second nuts!

Fancy plays are also not designed for very advanced players. They’ve seen them before, and they know how to counter your moves. Advanced players can see right through your fancy plays and make the right decision regardless.

Most importantly of all, fancy plays are supposed to be used sparingly. If you’re constantly thinking about how to deceive your opponents, you won’t be making the most profitable play in many situations. If you’re not careful, you’ll turn into one of the easiest types of poker player to read – the person who bets and raises when they have a bad hand, but slow plays when they have a good hand. There are very few types of opponent that are easier to beat!

Over the past year or so I’ve written about many fancy plays, from limping with pocket Aces to betting into dry side pots. All of these strategies are meant to be used sparingly and with the caveats I’ve just mentioned in mind. So with that said, let’s discuss another fancy move – the squeeze play.


The squeeze play is both a bluffing technique and a collusion technique. Here we’ll be discussing the bluff, but both techniques have the same goal, which is to represent great strength and force your opponents out of the pot after they’ve already committed chips.

A perfectly executed squeeze play goes like this: player A opens for a raise. Player B calls, and you put in a big re-raise (perhaps all-in), with absolute rags. Player A folds, worrying about both your raise and player B, who is still to act behind him. Player B also folds. In effect, by re- raising big, you are ‘squeezing’ player A out of the pot. He’s trapped between you, who is representing great strength, and player B, who could be slow-playing a big hand. He feels his only option is to fold.

It’s obviously a very risky move, as you’re putting a lot of chips at risk with a very weak hand. When you do get called, you will usually be a significant underdog, so I recommend that you only try it when you’re really confident it will work.

Squeeze plays work best in the late stages of a multi-table tournament. In cash games and the early stages of a tournament, the stacks are often so deep that the technique isn’t worth the risk relative to your potential winnings. In sit&gos, the stacks are often too short for this technique to be effective, as you’ll often offer excellent pot odds to player B when you move all-in.

The squeeze play is a powerful technique when used correctly, and it can completely baffle your opponents. It’s an excellent way to loosen up your game if you have a tight reputation. But use it carefully, or it could be you walking to the rail instead of your opponents.


The success of the squeeze play relies on a number of factors: you need a tight image, your opponents must understand enough (but not too much) about the game and the opening raiser has to be fairly loose


The 1995 World Series of Poker main event champion Dan Harrington wrote about the squeeze play in his book Harrington on Hold’em Volume II:The Endgame. In it, he discusses a hand which truly amazed the poker world when it was broadcast as part of the 2004 World Series of Poker coverage. Up to this point, Harrington was widely regarded as a tight and predictable player, and had even been given the sarcastic nickname ‘Action Dan’. But all that was about to change…

At the final table of the 2004 WSOP, the blinds are 40,000 and 80,000 with a 10,000 ante. The play is seven-handed so there’s 190,000 in the pot.

Josh Arieh, who has been playing quite aggressively up to this point, opens with a raise to 225,000, holding the K-9. Al Krux folds, and Greg Raymer, the chip leader by far, calls with the A-2.

Notice that already we’ve satisfied conditions 1 through 4 from our boxout (see abpve right). We know Harrington’s image is tight, and back in 2004 nobody would have described either Josh Arieh or Greg Raymer as an expert player (although both are now stronger players than ever).

We know Josh is open-raising with lots of hands, and we know that Greg knows this when he calls. As the chip leader, he can afford to call with lots of hands to try to bust Arieh on the right flop.

Matt Dean folds, and Dan Harrington looks down at 6-2. With 2,320,000 in chips, he decides to make an unusually large re-raise, to 1,200,000. This satisfies condition 5 – Raymer won’t be getting good pot odds to call this raise, which is around twice the size of the pot.

Glenn Hughes folds, and David Williams picks up the A-Q. He thinks for barely a second before discarding the hand, so convinced is he that Harrington is strong. Arieh of course folds his hand, probably thinking he was unlucky to run into Harrington’s monster. Raymer also folds quickly, not interested in taking such a gamble to eliminate Harrington.

Harrington adds 640,000 to his stack – a victory which helps to propel him to a fourth-place finish and a tidy $1,500,000 in prize money.

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