What does under the gun mean in poker?
Don’t worry it doesn’t mean there’s a rifle above your head. Under the gun is a phrase in poker referred to the position when acting first before the flop in Texas Holdem. From a strategic point of view, it is the worst position to be in as you have the least information available at that point. You have 8 players to act behind you before the potential to see the flop. For this reason, it is usually identified as a position that requires playing fewer and stronger hands. Even the loosest of of loose aggressive (LAG) players know that it is unprofitable to play a wide range of hands from under the gun.
Why do I need to play tighter from under the gun?
It is not just about having less information before the flop. One must remember that Texas Holdem is played across multiple rounds of betting and by playing from under the gun, you will often be the first to act on each street or sandwiched between players. This makes it very challenging to play hands and pot control how you wish. Look at the example hand below to illustrate this.
You have A (clubs) 10 (diamonds) and decide to raise from under the gun, you are called by 1 player in mid position (loose), a tight aggressive player on the button and the big blind too. Everyone has deep stacks. The flop is Jc 10c 6s. The big blind checks, what do you do? You are in a tricky position as you have 2 people behind you but you also have 2nd pair and a good kicker. Betting and check- deciding both seem reasonable but what about the turn and river too? What is your plan? You are prone to getting bluffed out as your hand can’t take much resistance and you can’t expect to value bet with impunity. In short, unless you make a very strong hand that is easy to play or you are heads up against one of the blinds, it is not an appealing option to be playing weak or medium strength hands from under the gun, unless you play post flop excellently and have a weak table.
Strong players are opening their range of raising hands when in early position as they have correctly read that players will fold reasonable hands when facing an open raise. There is also deception in open raising the suited connectors and suited aces from early position but a word of caution of to you. This is only profitable to the most experienced of players who are confident in awkward post flop scenarios. By playing a wide range of hands from under the gun, you are going to find yourself in a lot of tricky scenarios that can cost you a lot of chips.
Next time you play and find a King Ten or Ace 8 suited under the gun, think twice before you enter the pot!