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The Gap Concept

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The Gap Concept is an idea that was first formally introduced by respected poker author David Sklansky.  The basic concept is:

It takes a stronger hand to call than it does to raise.

If this sounds simple, that's because it is.  Like many simple ideas, the gap concept is often undervalued although it remains highly relevant and worthy of consideration by all players, regardless of playing style.  When players frequently violate the Gap Concept without clearly thought out reasons for doing so, this causes leaks in their game.  As with most poker strategies and theory, understanding the concept can only improve your game, even if you choose to disregard it in select situations.  

By learning how to use the Gap Concept, you can easily avoid common (and troublesome) pre-flop situations:

•   When you are the first to enter an unopened pot with a raise, you give yourself two ways to win the hand.  You can win by having your cards hold up in a showdown or you can get other (possibly better) hands to fold in response to your show of strength.  When a pot has already been raised in front of you, you have lost the opportunity to be the first aggressor so the cards that would normally be okay for you to open raise with from your position may now be unplayable.  You're basically relying on the showdown value of your hand to win the pot, unless you can somehow outplay your opponent.

•   Most players have positional awareness and the hole cards they raise with from earlier position will be stronger than the cards they'd raise with from later position.  Let's look at an example of how this relates to the Gap Concept:  You are in middle position holding an AJ off and no one has entered the pot yet.  Normally from this position with those hole cards, you would want to make an open raise.  But if the player "under-the-gun" has raised to four times the big blind, you must take a moment to consider the range of hands that he would raise from early position with.  Although your AJ off looks good, this tight player is the type of guy who only raises with premium cards (AK-AQ suited and mid to high pocket pairs).  With this in mind, you're probably already behind in the hand and this diminishes your positional advantage.

•   The Sandwich Effect (also coined by David Sklansky) occurs when you call a raise from a player before you and then get stuck between that player and another behind you who chooses to squeeze with a reraise, trapping you right in between them (and in all likelihood making you wish that you had never called in the first place).  Depending on the play style and hand range of these two players, you may need to cut your losses and duck out of the hand.

By appreciating these common problems that may occur when you ignore the Gap Concept, you're more likely to apply the concept successfully pre-flop.  Tighten up your starting hand requirements when facing aggression and give consideration to the tendencies of players left to act behind you.  When deciding whether or not to call a raise from a player in early position, you must consider the observations you've made on the pre-flop raiser.  The Gap Concept will not necessarily be relevant against a loose-aggressive player in this situation since their raise does not necessarily mean a show of strength, but against a raise from a tight or unknown player, your hand should be stronger than the bottom range of what you'd lead in with if you were in the raiser's position.  With a raise/re-raise on the table before you act, you should only play your premium hands.

As with nearly every facet of poker, the strength of your cards and table position are only a part of the decision making process when deciding whether or not to enter a pot.  The action in front of you and the potential action that will follow in combination with the types of players making those actions are definite factors and should never be ignored.  Understanding and applying the Gap Concept will help you to make informed choices in these tough situations and will help you to keep losses at a minimum.

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Great info. Probably well beyond that of the casual players here except at the really high stakes. I've only played a 10k buy in ring games as my highest stakes, but that's just because I am aware of bankroll management rules. Games are so fishy at these stakes that I'm progressing quickly. GG on the post.

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On Wednesday, October 12, 2016 at 0:54 PM, BedsideFungus89 said:

Thank you.

Whenever I find myself in the middle of a squeeze play, I literally hear DMX's "Move Bitch, Get out the Way" play on a loop  in my mind.

I believe that was Ludacris.

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