Poker: The Squeeze Play

Lee Markholt professional poker player

In tournaments, you should always be looking for ways to pick up chips. You can’t just sit around waiting for Aces or Kings and hope to double up when you do. One of the best and most popular ways for adding chips to your stack is by implementing what’s known as the squeeze play.

A typical squeeze play works like this: an active and aggressive player raises in late position, and he’s called by another player on the button. You’re in the blinds and you have to decide what to do.

There’s no real indication yet that anyone has a particularly strong hand. The aggressive player could be raising with a wide range of hands, and the call from the button could mean a lot of things. He may have a medium strength hand, or he may be pretty weak and just looking to play post-flop with favorable position.

At this point, a big re-raise from the blinds effectively squeezes the original raiser who is between you and the player on the button. Your aggressive re-raise gives you a great chance of taking down the pot right there.

It used to be that good players used the squeeze play occasionally. It was just one of the many tools they used from time to time. But recently, the squeeze play has become extremely popular. Sometimes it seems that pretty much any time there’s a raise and a call, there’s a player in the blinds looking to squeeze.

I prefer to be a little more selective when initiating a squeeze. I like to have a hand that can hit a flop if I run into a decent hand and get called. In my experience, suited connectors are good hands to squeeze with.

I think the squeeze is most effective when you have a tight table image. When you’ve been playing actively and aggressively the other players at the table are less likely to give you credit for a big hand and will call you down.

You can try the squeeze in ring games, but it’s really most effective in tournaments. When players have to fear for their tournament lives, they’re far more likely to fold in marginal situations.

If you haven’t been using the squeeze play, you should try working it into your tournament game. Start out by squeezing selectively and wait for opportunities where the players, cards and your table image give you the best chance of winning the pot.

Lee Markholt of Eatonville, Washington, learned how to play poker by accompanying his father to watch him play games in local cardrooms. He built his bankroll by playing live small-stakes ring games and tournaments. As his skills in Pot-Limit and No-Limit Hold ‘em improved, he moved up the levels and realized he could make a living from poker.

Lee has made 10 World Series of Poker cashes, 20 WPT cashes and amassed over $2.8 million in career tournament earnings.

Lee Markholt plays online at both BetOnline and Bookmaker Poker

Pro Poker: Managing Your Poker Bankroll

Steve Zolotow professional poker playerPeople always ask, “How much do I need to play in a certain stake game?” The usual answer to all poker questions is, “It depends.” But in this case, it is the wrong question. The question really should be, “Given my temperament and current financial situation, how much can I risk in a game?”

Let’s examine these components. First is your temperament. Years ago, Mike Caro distinguished between two types of players – plodders and adventurers. I like to put poker players into three categories. First are the plodders. They are extremely risk adverse and would rather play for pennies than take a chance of going broke. Next are the normal players. The normal players are willing to take moderate risk if they think they have a reasonable advantage. Lastly there are the plungers. They love to take extreme risk. They are the poker equivalents of mountaineers who want to reach the top of Mount Everest. The risk in question is, of course, losing a large percentage of your bankroll or, in the worst case, going broke.

There are many gradations of each of these types, and many players may go from plodders when winning to plungers when losing. Likewise, external circumstances may change a player. Losing a job, getting married, having a kid, etc. make some players eager to avoid risk and others desperate to win a fortune.

The second component to examine is your financial situation, specifically your bankroll. Some people have jobs, businesses or other outside sources of income. Some do not. I am going to divide bankroll types into three categories – small, medium and large. A small bankroll is an amount you could get in a month or less from working, from your business or from your investments. For some people this may be a few hundred and for others a few hundred thousand. A medium bankroll should take about six months to accumulate. A large bankroll takes at least a year. If you have no outside sources of income, treat your bankroll as large. Losing a small bankroll is distracting, losing a medium one is disturbing and losing a big one is disastrous.

Your temperament should not change from session to session. It is possible that you might want to adjust your risk threshold a little higher for great games and a little lower for bad ones. Before starting any session of any game, determine what your bankroll is and then refer to the chart below. This chart gives my opinion of the correct percentage of your bankroll to risk in any game. Use the appropriate percentage to calculate the amount you can risk.
Poker tips and play advice from the professionals

If you lose that amount, I’d advise you to quit for the day. If you don’t want to quit, make sure you re-calculate the amount you can lose starting from your diminished bankroll. As long as you continually recalculate the amount you can risk, you will never go broke. If you are playing in games where you have the worst of it, you will eventually end up with such a small bankroll that it is meaningless. But in general, you will be able to risk larger amounts (not larger percentages) as your winnings accumulate, and you will be forced to play smaller when you are losing.

Why can you take more risk with a small bankroll? Because it is easier to get it back. As your bankroll gets larger, it becomes harder to replace it and going broke becomes more disastrous. It is much easier to rebuild a bankroll of five thousand then to rebuild one of five million. (Yes, there are players who have built up a bankroll of five million or more, and then gone broke or even into debt.) While these guidelines are customized to provide bankroll management strategies for a variety of temperaments and bankroll sizes, they will enable a winning player to avoid disasters and steadily increase his bankroll.

American players are also welcome and safe at FullTiltPoker.comABOUT STEVE ZOLOTOW:
Steve is Nicknamed “Z” and “The Bald Eagle”, he has 2 WSOP Bracelets and is a renowned game theorist. Steve Zolotow plays online at both BetOnline and Bookmaker Poker.  Initially, he concentrated on cash games, but lately, he’s been focusing more on tournaments.  (Join him at a table sometime soon)