What is the Gap Concept

If you were sitting at a 10 handed table and looked down at A-9 off suit in middle position that could be a decent hand to open with, right? It sure could be but what if someone in an earlier position decided to raise before you had to act? Would your hand be worth playing in that scenario? To answer that question, no, it would not be worth playing according to the Gap Concept.

What is the Gap Concept?

David Sklansky developed the Gap Concept and it states that you must have a stronger hand to call a raise, then if you were to make the first raise yourself. To put this into perspective, a good example of that would be playing pocket 9’s in middle position. If no one acted before you then this hand would be worth opening the betting round, not to mention even throwing in a raise. But if someone was to put in a raise before it was your turn to act, then you would need a much stronger hand due to your opponents likely starting hand range. Meaning, 9’s are good when they are first to enter a pot, but your opponent would need a strong hand to play in early position so therefore it must be better than yours.

Of course, this is based off the fact that players have similar playing styles. You would imagine that a player in early position would only play the top 3 pairs and maybe A-K. Using this mindset, you would need a stronger hand then that playing range to continue in the hand. In a nutshell, the Gap Concept is a conservative approach, especially in this day and age. But for a beginning player it may be worth a shot. It will at least keep you from wasting needless chips with less than par hands.

Does the Gap Concept Always Work?

Quite simply, no, it does not always work. It may have worked prior to the big “poker boom.” But ever since then, players have been getting much looser in their starting hand ranges. So in other words, the “gap” is much larger and is very difficult to even know if your hand is ahead or behind when it is your turn to act. If you happen to have “ABC” players sitting on your right, then it may be possible to implement the Gap Concept there.

For you to properly utilize the Gap Concept, especially for looser players, it is important for you to pay attention and try to figure out what hands they are willing to play pre flop. It is also important to figure out which of these hands they are willing to limp in with, put in a raise, and maybe hands they like to try to be overly aggressive or sneaky with. In short, you are actually justified in many cases to call pre flop with weaker hands such as A-10 or A-9 in middle position with a raise in front of you, simply because their playing hand is so wide that you may be holding plenty of cards that can beat theirs.

Is the Gap Concept Gone?

While the Gap Concept is still around, it is hard to really utilize it. Many players stress the fact that you are playing the players and not the cards, so now player’s skills really need to be focused on post flop play. You may find that the Gap Concept is implemented more with the old school players then the current “young guns.” Short of that, you will more than likely not see it often. But it is a great strategy to study even if you use it rarely as it can save you a bunch of chips if used correctly.