ABC Poker: The Simple Strategy

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The concept of ABC poker is often times misunderstood.  Many players think ABC poker is playing some super exploitable and dumified strategy that makes about 0bb/100.  However, ABC poker is really just a term to describe a simple strategy that focuses on good fundamental play and veers away from FPS (fancy play syndrome).  In full disclosure I use an ABC strategy quite often, especially in live games and micro stakes online games.  But if I’m fully capable of using a LAG strategy, why would I use a simplified strategy?

Imagine playing in a brand new game.  Every player is unknown to you, you have zero information on any villain, and it folds to your T8o in middle position.  An ABC player would just fold here.  T8o isn’t a default open-raise from middle position and thus it’s an easy fold.  Now if I had information, such as everyone behind me is tight, then I’m going to break away from ABC and raise to try and steal the blinds from a non-steal spot.  This is how I would play as a default too.  With information I’m going to raise and try to pick up the pot preflop…but without information I would resort to a default strategy of just folding my weakish hand because I don’t have information on the other players.  This, in essence, is ABC poker.

ABC Poker Folding

This same concept can be applied to postflop poker.  With information you may continuation bet more, size your value bets more perfectly, and even run double barrels and overbets more often.  But without information, or even with super minimal information like a sample size of 14, you will often times have to revert back to default lines.  So what are some ABC lines that players use?

1.   Raise only good hands from EP/MP

2.  Only 3-bet value hands like QQ+ and AK preflop

3.  Don’t bluff continuation bet in a multi-way pot

4.  Keep turn/river bets for value

5.  Keep bet sizes around 2/3rd pot

These ideas, along with many others, are simply fundamental and basic starting points.  The main thought is to keep your ranges strong so you can value bet more often and be forced to bluff less often.  The issue in unknown poker games and dynamics is that you aren’t sure if a bluff will work.  Even though a 1/2 pot double barrel on the turn  only needs to work 33% of the time to breakeven…without info you can’t really know if your bluff will create that many folds.  So rather than throw out an expensive bet with no concept on the profitability, you could pass on the opportunity and just check/fold instead.  An ABC strategy is thus a good idea in unknown environments…and then once you have info on one or many players you should veer away from ABC and begin using a more exploitative strategy to maximize profit in each spot.

An ABC strategy is a good idea in unknown environments

I think this is why ABC is so misunderstood.  Players think ABC means to just use a totally dumb and overly simplistic strategy…which is true…but it’s true in situations where you don’t have the information to do something more exploitative.  If you are playing a super basic strategy when you have good sample sizes on villains or in spots where you know you could veer away from a default play (like light 3betting A7o rather than just folding it) you are passing up valuable opportunities.

So my advice would be to strength your ABC strategy so that you always have a profitable strategy to fall back on…but also to work on improving your exploitative strategy so that you know how to attack players once you gather good information on them.  A strong ABC game has its place…but keep learning and growing to ensure you can exploit poker regulars (regs) and generate more profit in the longrun!

One of the best ways to break away from ABC is to improve your hand reading skills. With better hand reading you can find more spots to bluff, more ways to generate creative value, and more. Join my FREE 5-day email course and improve your hand reading skills this week!



My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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