How to Play ABC Poker

By Randy Ray
Published on February 17, 2018
Simple Sign and ABC Poker

Poker strategy has become more complex over the years, with many players learning and using advanced techniques.

Obviously, it’s good to learn these concepts and take your game to the next level. But it’s also important to know the fundamentals before you try mastering poker’s toughest strategy elements.

This is where ABC poker comes into play because it helps you develop a strong base. You can then expand your game from here and become a tougher player.

If you’re still trying to learn the fundamentals of poker strategy, keep reading as I cover more on ABC poker and how it’ll help you win.

What Is ABC Poker?

The term “ABC poker” sounds like strategy on training wheels. Furthermore, it seems like anybody who uses this strategy will be crushed by skilled pros.

But the reality is that ABC poker has uses beyond just serving new players. In fact, experienced players can employ this strategy in specific situations, which I’ll cover later.

Basically, ABC poker requires a tight style that’s void of constant adjustments and fancy play. And this can be very effective in the micro stakes and low limits, against opponents who never bothered learning the fundamentals.

7 Keys to ABC Poker Strategy

Knowing the basis of ABC poker strategy is a good place to start. But it’s also important to understand specific elements of this concept.

Below, you can see 7 keys that help you play strong fundamental poker.

1 – Hand Selection

You may have heard that folding is the best play in poker. And the reason why is because successful players don’t play the majority of their cards at a 6-max table or larger.

An ABC player is never afraid to fold marginal hands. Instead, they focus on playing good cards that have strong post-flop value.

If you’re sketchy on pre-flop hand selection, the quickest way to familiarize yourself with this concept is by looking at hand charts.

You can find hand selection charts all over the internet. All you need to do is google “starting hand selection chart” to find countless results.

You’ll notice that the recommendations are broken down based on where you’re sitting at the table, which I’ll cover in the next point.

The key with hand selection is to play strong cards that you’re comfortable with, while not leaking out chips by trying to see the flop with bad cards.

2 – Table Position

The type of hands you play will also be greatly affected by where you’re sitting at the table. This is because acting later in the hand gives you more information on opponents.

Here’s a look at how a 9-player table breaks down in terms of position:

  • Early position = Small blind, big blind, under the gun (seat to left of big blind)
  • Middle position = Three seats to left of under the gun
  • Late position = Last three seats (dealer is called “button”)

The button is the best place to sit because you act last in a hand. Therefore, you can see how other players are betting and react accordingly.

Early position is the worst spot to be in since you’re acting on less information than anybody else.

The big and small blinds play last during pre-flop play. But they’re the first to act after the flop, which is why they’re considered early position.

An ABC player should only bet with premium hands (AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK) in early position. They can open their range up as they act later in the hand.

Again, starting hand selection charts are your friends when deciding what cards to play in each table position.

3 – Rarely Bluff

Hollywood likes to portray poker as a game full of daring bluffs. For example, the hero might bluff their rival out of a hand with 2 – 7 off-suit.

In reality, making plays like this will lose you money the vast majority of the time. You especially want to avoid risky plays when employing an ABC strategy.

This isn’t to say that an ABC player should completely remove bluffing from their arsenal. But it’s important to understand the entire concept behind this play.

The only goal when bluffing is to make your opponent fold. After all, you’re betting with a hand that you don’t think has much showdown value.

Therefore, you don’t want to be careless with bluffs. Instead, you need to have a solid plan that includes targeting opponents who are likely to fold.

4 – Bet Big with Great Hands

Obviously, you want to extract maximum value from a big hand. And certain situations warrant checking or calling in order to fake weakness and trick your opponents (a.k.a. trapping).

But you also risk seeing opponents check or call as well. And this ruins one street when trying to get more value out of great cards.

This is why ABC players normally bet with monster hands.

If you have pocket aces pre-flop, make a larger bet to limit the field size and isolate an opponent. If you know you’re in the lead with a set on a weak flop, make your opponent pay to see the next card or fold.

Trying to be cute with strong hands can have one of two consequences:

  • You give your opponent a cheap chance to improve their hand
  • You fail to increase the pot early and miss out on a lot of value

Slow playing definitely has its time and place in poker. But ABC strategy recommends that you bet hands in relation to their value.

5 – Value Betting

Regardless of whether you’re playing ABC poker or a more advanced strategy, you should definitely understand value betting.

This refers to the practice of betting in a way that helps you get the most value when you’re in the lead. It also helps you in the situation described above, where you have a really strong hand and are deciding how much to wager.

The goal with value betting is to get the most out of your opponent without forcing them to fold. Here’s an example:

  • You have J J on a flop of J 5 T rainbow
  • You have the nuts here
  • You feel that your opponent might have middle pair, or even a set of 10s
  • You believe that they’ll call a pot-sized raise if this is the case

Value betting isn’t an exact science. But you can get a lot better at it just by studying your opponents and what they’re willing to play in each situation.

6 – Know Poker Odds

Pot odds and hand equity are two important concepts when trying to figure out when to call with a drawing hand. Hand equity refers to what share of the pot you have based on your chances of winning the hand.

ABC poker players use these factors to guide their decisions in a drawing situation.

Here’s an example on pot odds:

  • The pot is worth $60
  • Your opponent bets $10
  • This makes the pot $70
  • You must call $10 to remain in the hand
  • You divide 10 by 70 to find out what percentage you’re supplying
  • Your pot odds are 14.3%

Now you must figure out your hand equity. And this starts with deciding your “outs,” or how many cards will make your hand.

With an open-ended straight draw, four cards on each end of the straight will complete your hand. This means you have 8 outs.

The next step is to multiple your outs by 2, then add 1 to determine hand equity. Here’s an example:

  • [8 outs x 2] + 1 = 17
  • Hand equity = 17%

The hand equity is higher than the pot odds, meaning you should call in this instance.

Similar concepts that you should learn include implied odds and reverse implied odds. But I suggest studying these concepts after you master pot odds and ABC poker in general.

7 – Bankroll Management

ABC players and beyond should come into poker with a solid bankroll management (BRM) plan. Otherwise, you risk busting your bankroll when luck turns against you.

Your BRM requirements will vary based on whether you’re playing cash games or tournaments.

Cash game players are advised to have enough to cover 30 buy-ins at their respective no-limit stakes. Here’s an example:

  • You have $3,000
  • $3,000/30 = 100
  • Cash game buy-in = 100 big blinds
  • $100/100 big blinds = $1
  • You should play $0.50/$1 no-limit stakes

The 30 buy-ins gives you a nice cushion for when you hit a downswing.

Tournament players should have 100 buy-ins to feel comfortable in their respective limits. Check out the example below:

  • You have $2,200
  • $2,200/100 = $22
  • You can play tournaments with $20+$2 buy-ins.

The idea behind poker BRM is to lower your risk of ruin, or chances that you’ll lose everything. Of course, you also need to have an edge over the game to avoid losing your money long term.

The best way to do this is by studying strategy and being able to switch out of ABC poker when the need arises. Some of the different tools that you can use to study strategy include books, online articles, training sites, Twitch streams, and YouTube videos.

Downsides to ABC Poker

The biggest problem with ABC poker is that it’s predictable. Experienced players will eventually figure out your hand range and start playing more aggressively against you to steal small pots and blinds.

The good news is that you’ll be playing tight enough to where you won’t lose a bunch of money by playing marginal hands. But the downside is that skilled players will have a good idea of when you hold strong cards.

Another problem is that your game won’t evolve if you only play ABC poker.

Understanding the fundamentals is very important with regard to becoming a better player. But you also need the ability to adapt to the table.

This doesn’t happen when you’re only focused on playing premium hands in position. I recommend learning ABC poker well, while also knowing how to switch things up as needed.

When to Use ABC Poker

The best times to employ ABC poker include the following:

  • When you’re new to poker
  • When you’re on a new table
  • When the situation dictates doing so (e.g., you’re playing maniacs)

New poker players definitely want to avoid bluffing too much and doing anything outside the realm of ABC poker. Trying to play like the pros right away only leads to new players outsmarting themselves.

Experienced players can benefit from ABC poker on new tables. The reason why is because you don’t have any information on opponents when you first sit down at a table.

ABC poker lets you learn other players’ tendencies while mitigating your risk. And when you do start getting more aggressive, opponents may have a tough time figuring you out since they just witnessed your fundamental strategy.

Finally, an ABC strategy works well in situations where you’re dealing with one or more maniacs.

You’ll commonly find players in the micro stakes who make big raises or even go all-in on a regular basis. By sticking with good cards and sound strategy, you can easily win these players’ stacks.


Learning ABC strategy isn’t going to take you to the top of the poker world. Nevertheless, this is still highly important for both learning the game and adapting to different situations.

I recommend playing ABC poker for a while when you first start out with the game. You can then increase your aggression level as you become more comfortable and continue learning poker strategy.

Even skilled players can benefit from ABC strategy under the right circumstances. This is especially the case when you’ve joined a new table and need time to learn your opponents.

In summary, every player can benefit from ABC poker. If you don’t already know the fundamentals well, then I suggest that you start learning them.

How to Play ABC Poker
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How to Play ABC Poker
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