ABC Poker Strategy: As Easy as 1-2-3

Bethany Jones
by Bethany Jones  |  Last Updated: February 8, 2024

abc poker strategy

If you’re relatively new to the poker world, you might have heard the term “ABC poker”. But if you don’t really know what it means, you’ll want to read this article.

Why? Because I’ll not only define the term for you, but you’ll discover exactly when it’s suitable to use such tactics. I’ll also walk you through the six key steps needed to adopt an ABC poker strategy.

What Does ABC Poker Really Mean?

For most players, this style of play is their first introduction to poker strategy. Some of the earliest advice we all received was to stick to ABC poker strategy. But what does that mean?

Well, in short, it’s a bit like that famous old design principle, KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The poker equivalent is to play in an ABC manner. In other words, a rudimentary, basic fashion. Don’t get ahead of yourself with fancy plays that you might not yet be good enough to pull off. And whatever you do, don’t over-analyze everything and make things harder than they need to be.

This particular style, as you’re about to learn, requires discipline and patience. It’s not about creative lines or flamboyant plays, and it’s not very exciting to watch. Instead, the focus is on sound fundamentals and employing them consistently.

How To Play ABC Poker

Okay, so that much is crystal clear. Let’s now run through the six fundamental areas that make up what most people consider an ABC strategy.

1. Starting Hand Ranges

The most important part of ABC poker is undoubtedly your hand selection. Since the whole premise revolves around simplicity, there’s no room for wildly inventive plays. Stick to playing only the very best cards that have plenty of postflop equity.

2. Understand Position

That leads me nicely into the second most important element of ABC poker. There can be no doubt that this is a game of positional awareness.

ABC poker position
The later you act in a hand, the more information you have to work with. Your position simply has to inform your playing strategy.

3. Don’t Bluff Often

Another neat segue, there. As a rule, avoid bluffing, or indeed any unconventional plays at all. This aspect of ABC poker doesn’t only apply to early positions, though. Just reduce this type of play across the board.

4. Be Aggressive With Good Hands

That said, when you do find a hand, you’ll want to go to town. Aggression is always the correct play when you’ve got the goods. Slowplaying often leads to opponents catching up and outdrawing you. Even when you win, if they check behind you, you’ve missed the opportunity to get more chips into the pot.

5. Bet for Value

In fairness, this is hardly something that’s unique to ABC poker play. Everyone should understand the concept of value betting. It’s all about ensuring you get your opponent to call when you read them for an inferior hand.

You’ll need to figure out the correct bet sizing in order to tempt them in and pay you off.

6. Know Your Math

Finally, it’s vital that you understand pot odds. We don’t need to get too much into implied odds, since that’s veering slightly away from the whole ABC poker ethos. But you definitely have to know whether you’re getting the right price to call with your open-ended straight draw, for example.

Who Should Adopt an ABC Poker Strategy?

Playing an ABC style is most suitable for players who are quite new to poker. They have probably mastered the rules already and want to start thinking about the strategic side of the game.

At the same time, if you’re already a fairly skilled player, but you’re sitting in games against total beginners, playing an ABC style can help.

Since these opponents aren’t advanced enough to understand high-level concepts, there’s no point trying to outfox them with bluffs and complex maneuvers. Just make sure you get the basics right.

abc poker tilt
If you find yourself against a player who’s really on tilt, ABC poker is also the best way to confront them. They’re probably going to raise and call too frequently, so betting for value, while folding bad and borderline hands, makes a lot of sense.

Finally, this type of poker works very well in the micro-stakes games. Here, you’ll be up against a lot of relatively weak players, plus others playing an ABCpoker strategy.

Keep It Simple

As I’ve demonstrated in this article, ABC poker is all about simplicity. Play only the strongest of hands and muck the rest. Enter the pot with a raise, bet for value and make sure you’re getting the correct price to draw. Bluff rarely, except to pick up the blinds in position, or betting the occasional draw as a semi-bluff.

Once you’re comfortable with your poker ABCs, and you begin to get some results, then you can consider graduating to a more advanced style. But for now, keep it simple!

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