Playing Pre-flop: The Gap Concept

According to the Gap Concept, formulated by David Sklansky, one needs a more decent hand to call a raise then to open the pot oneself. It might sound pretty simple, but it is usually underrated or treated with less care that it deserves because of its seemingly self-evident nature.

In fact, this concept is still extremely important and deserves more attention from poker players of any experience level, especially tight aggressive players. Most beginners and a few professional players often disregard the Gap Concept without any solid reasons. The violation of this concept brings about more leaks in their game.

By mastering the Gap Concept, players can avoid three dangerous situations that frequentlyoccur before the flop:

  • Failing to win your first in rakeoff – Let’s assume that you are the first player who enters a pot with a raise. In this situation you can win the hand in the following two ways. 1- if your cards don’t get outdrawn and prove to be unbeatable when the players reveal their holdings, 2- you might get more suitable hands to fold in response to your manifestation of strength. As soon as a pot has been raised in front of you, you fail to become the first threat. Thus, the cards that would usually be right for opening raise in your position in an unentered pot now might not be good enough.
  • Domination - Most players you play against at the low/micro stakes might be aware of their positional advantage or disadvantage, and the hands that they decide to raise with from earlier positions are likely to be more solid than the hands they would raise with from a later position. Let’s assume that you’ve got AJo in middle position2 in a Full Ring NLHE and no one has yet entered the pot; you would think that this is a decent hand for making an open raise. However, if UTG is a tight player and made a raise to 4x bb, you need to analyze his standards for raising from early position before you dare to call. Let’s assume he has a typical range of sevens-aces, ace-queen and ace-king. In this case you will either get into coin-flip confrontation or strongly dominated, considerably decreasing your positional advantage.
  • Getting Sandwiched – The Sandwich Effect takes place when your opponent raises a bet in front of in response you call with a marginal hand, and then a player behind you re-raises (which is also known as a squeeze). Now you are caught right between two aggressive opponents who hold massive hands, and you start to realize that it was a bad idea to call that with your marginal hand in the first place. If you fold, you lose the money you have committed into the pot. If you invest more chips with such an unreliable hand, you risk losing a larger sum of money. There seems to be no viable solution.

Applying the Gap Concept Pre-Flopi<

By admitting the problems that arise when you violate the Gap Concept, you get the chance to use this concept effectively before the flop. Just make your requirements to the starting hand more rigid when you are dealing with an aggressive player and analyze the tendencies of players who haven’t acted yet.

The needed level of your hand’s strength will depend partially on your read on the pre-flop raiser. If you are up against a loose-aggressive opponent or a maniac, the concept in question wouldn’t be so effective because they often play garbage and their raise can be a bluff. However, if you see a raise from a tight opponent or someone you deal with for the first time, your hand must be stronger than the bottom range of the hand you would be ready to open raise with. If there is a raise and a re-raise from other players, you should fold without any hesitation unless you have a monster hand.