The Gap Concept is probably the most important preflop principle that exists in poker. Despite its importance, many online poker players don’t even know it exists – but more or less all of them use it in their decision making.
The gap concept basically states that you’ll need a better hand to call an opening bet preflop then you would to open the betting yourself. The difference in hand strength required in the two scenarios is known as the gap.
How Does the Gap Concept Help Me?
The gap concept is pivotal in cash games and multi-table tournaments (MTT Strategy). It effectively helps you pick out which hands to play, and when you’ll be behind in a hand.
For instance, in an online tournament, if you’re in middle position and no one has opened the raising; then raising with AJ is a good idea.
You’re quite likely not to get called by anyone and will take the pot down there. If you’re in later position however and there has been a raise (typically 2-4 times the Big Blind); then regardless of callers you should lay the hand down because it’s not good enough to call via the gap concept.
A raise in early position tends to signify a stronger hand than in late position; so chances are if you call you’ll already be behind on the flop.
The Gap Concept and 3Betting
The gap concept is extremely useful in poker when holding premium hands or pocket pairs.
If there an opening raise in a pot gets re-raised and then raised again (3betting – a 3rd bet), than the gap concept states that the player must be holding a hand with the strength of JJ or above. This means any situation where you’re playing pocket pairs of 1010 or under you should fold preflop.
Although many players will naively disagree and call regardless of pot value to see the river; the fact that there has been so many raises and re-raises ensures a premium hand such as KK is in the mixer.
Problems with the Gap Concept
The biggest problem that presents itself in modern day poker is that too many people are aware of the gap concept. This means more players, particular in tournaments, will try to bluff players and squeeze play opponents out of the pot.
Knowing their re-raise or even opening raise carries such strong fold equity, more player players are taking advantage of this fact so the gap concept is losing its credibility.
For instance, with the increasing number of bluffs and value shoves in poker tournaments in the later stages, the gap concept can sometimes feel like a useless concept at times.
That being said however, it continues to be one of the most important principles in poker today.