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Threee Poker “plays” you should know about for live players

When you are playing poker if you are the first player in you mostly are entering the pot so that you can raise with the intention to win the blinds. This is not really a “play,” it is really just the game. However there are situations that occur frequently at the table which have a recognizable pattern and get named. We are here to discuss those spots. Notice that absent from this list is “slowplaying” because it is so infrequent.

Blind Steal:

If you raise in middle position as the first person in, this is just an open. Not really a play. However, if you were to make that same raise as the first person into the pot from the last two positions, you would be “stealing the blinds” and that is a play. What are the characteristics of this “play?” Well the opener is in one of the two last positions and tend to have a very wide range because they expect to get folds from the blinds and just take the money. This works because it is difficult for the blinds to defend from out of position.
How do you defend against this in the blinds? That is the difficult part and why this play works. When playing on-line this play is very common because the players are frequently tight and aggressive. This means that in a 6-max game the button and cut-off will frequently be folded to and have the opportunity to make this move.
If you are playing live, there are going to be a lot more limpers and this play will not be available in its pure form. Because live pre-flop raise sizes are so much larger, defending the blinds is not nearly as important, the risk to reward is poor and that means you can defend infrequently and still do fine.

Squeeze:

The squeeze play is far more important in live games. The reason for this is that even after a raise players will frequently call behind. This exactly the set-up for a squeeze play. This poker squeeze play article gives you many exploits when you have that opportunity.
A squeeze play opportunity is defined by someone opening, preferably with a loose raise. Then one or more players call behind them. By calling instead of raising these callers have indicated that they are not particularly strong. By coming over the top with an appropriately big raise the original opener realizes that by calling they will be out of position to at least one, maybe more players. If we choose our victim correctly, they will tend to fold.
The other players in the middle already showed they are weak by simply calling. When this raise comes in, they will be faced with playing out of position to aggression with a known weak hand. This hand is often speculative in a nature. The raise changes the expected SPR to be lower and that is also unfavorable to the potential caller.
All this means that the squeezer will often take down the pot immediately and we like that! How often do we need to take it down? Well, the Poker Work Book for math geeks will help with that.

Light re-raise:

Both of the above plays are thwarted the same way: aggression. It will happen that I am on the button and a squeeze play situation arises. I am happily calculating me squeeze size, but before I do the cut-off will make that same raise. If this happens a few times in a night, I start to recognize this is not a coincidence, it is an enemy action.
If this player is making the plays that we were about to make, then we can reasonably assume that they are making these raises more based on their situation rather than their cards. If that is the case, you will be able to re-raise them and frequently take the pot down immediately. Instead of the three $23 pots (blinds plus $10 and a caller that fold to the squeeze) that we might have gotten by making three squeezes we instead will win one pot where there was the $23 in the pot plus the $45 squeeze bet. It ends up being about the same money and it is pretty exciting. Think of it as safari adventure where one predator steals the kill from another predator. Be that biggest aggressor and take what is theirs, or should I say take what is yours!

Doug Hull
Doug Hull
I am a poker player and author of the book "Poker Plays You Can Use". Contact me if you are looking to improve your live poker game.
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