The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual  Volume 2  Programming Guide
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group Paperback (6"x9"), 478 pages ISBN 9781906966065 RRP £14.95 ($19.95) Sales of this book support the PostgreSQL project! Get a printed copy>>> 
5.14.2 Index Method Strategies
The operators associated with an operator class are identified by
“strategy numbers”, which serve to identify the semantics of
each operator within the context of its operator class.
For example, Btrees impose a strict ordering on keys, lesser to greater,
and so operators like “less than” and “greater than or equal
to” are interesting with respect to a Btree.
Because
PostgreSQL allows the user to define operators,
PostgreSQL cannot look at the name of an operator
(e.g., <
or >=
) and tell what kind of
comparison it is. Instead, the index method defines a set of
“strategies”, which can be thought of as generalized operators.
Each operator class specifies which actual operator corresponds to each
strategy for a particular data type and interpretation of the index
semantics.
The Btree index method defines five strategies, shown in Table 52.
Operation  Strategy Number

less than  1

less than or equal  2

equal  3

greater than or equal  4

greater than  5 
Hash indexes support only equality comparisons, and so they use only one strategy, shown in Table 53.
GiST indexes are more flexible: they do not have a fixed set of strategies at all. Instead, the “consistency” support routine of each particular GiST operator class interprets the strategy numbers however it likes. As an example, several of the builtin GiST index operator classes index twodimensional geometric objects, providing the “Rtree” strategies shown in Table 54. Four of these are true twodimensional tests (overlaps, same, contains, contained by); four of them consider only the X direction; and the other four provide the same tests in the Y direction.
Operation  Strategy Number

strictly left of  1

does not extend to right of  2

overlaps  3

does not extend to left of  4

strictly right of  5

same  6

contains  7

contained by  8

does not extend above  9

strictly below  10

strictly above  11

does not extend below  12 
GIN indexes are similar to GiST indexes in flexibility: they don't have a fixed set of strategies. Instead the support routines of each operator class interpret the strategy numbers according to the operator class's definition. As an example, the strategy numbers used by the builtin operator classes for arrays are shown in Table 55.
Notice that all strategy operators return Boolean values. In
practice, all operators defined as index method strategies must
return type boolean
, since they must appear at the top
level of a WHERE
clause to be used with an index.
ISBN 9781906966065  The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual  Volume 2  Programming Guide  See the print edition 