Listen up when the ‘First Lady of Poker’ speaks

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 I always enjoy reading anything Linda Johnson writes or says about poker. She is regarded as the “First Lady of Poker” – and for very good reason! In 1993, she became the publisher of “Card Player” magazine.

I always enjoy reading anything Linda Johnson writes or says about poker.

Just to remind you, she is regarded as the “First Lady of Poker” – and for very good reason! In 1993, she became the publisher of “Card Player” magazine, and helped to spread the good word about the game of poker around the world. She played a key role in establishing the Tournament Directors Association and the World Poker Tour (WPT); and chaired the Poker Players Alliance. (Busy lady!)

Playing poker, Linda won a gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 1997; the California State Ladies Championship in 2005; and the Orleans Open women’s championship in 2006. She is a member of both the Poker Hall of Fame and the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. Currently, Linda is a partner in the pioneering of Card Player Cruises.

The other day, I was reading (perhaps for the third or fourth time) her chapter in the “Winning Women of Poker” book. Linda explains an interesting poker strategy called “squeeze play.” She suggests the squeeze play is essential in no-limit games and tournaments. (You can also use it in limit games, but it is bound to be somewhat less effective).

How it works

Identify the most aggressive player at your table. Perhaps he is a “maniac,” but not necessarily. He’s the player who likes to raise very often. Your best opportunity to pull off a squeeze play is when that player raises preflop, and is then called by one other player. Chances are the aggressive player does not have a strong hand, considering he raises so often.

Based on my Hold’em Algorithm, on average, only about one out of four or five hands is worth your investment to see the flop and only a small fraction of those merits a raise preflop.

The other player who just called him, most likely would have raised if he had a really strong hand. We can assume he has a decent drawing hand but not a big pair in the hole or even a Premium Drawing Hand. He wants to see the flop and hopes it will help his hand.

Here’s what Linda recommends in this situation: “When it’s your turn to act, you can reraise with any two cards and expect to win the pot uncontested most of the time…” (Personally, I would prefer to use the squeeze strategy with a reasonable drawing hand – one that meets the Hold’em Algorithm criteria).

In effect, you are actually trying to bluff out both of these opponents. To make the squeeze play work, Linda recommends a reraise of five or more times the original raise. That applies only to no-limit games. That’s high enough to make them think twice as to whether calling your big reraise is worth it.

I would recommend, in addition to the huge reraise, make use of the Esther Bluff. Essentially, it is a tactic to get into your opponents’ minds, convincing them your hand is very powerful).

Rules to use

Linda also offers several rules in using the squeeze play effectively:

• Don’t use it too often.

• Have enough chips to put lots of pressure on your opponents.

• It is best to use the squeeze when you are getting low on chips and need to accumulate more to stay in the tournament. In that case, you can “squeeze away” even with a terrible hand.

I would add one more rule: Just like making a bluff, don’t try it against a calling-station – a player who will not fold his cards once he has entered the pot.

The squeeze play sounds like fun! Thanks Linda.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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