What is “ABC Poker”?

by PokerAnon ~ June 10th, 2010. Filed under: Basics of poker, Instructional posts, Micro level poker, Poker theory.

ABC poker is basic poker.

Sounds simple, right?

But before getting too far into describing it, we should clarify the question:

When should you play ABC poker?

  • $1/$2 live poker games
  • 0.05/0.10 and lower levels of cash games
  • $2, maybe even $5 tournaments and Sit and Goes and lower

Even at slightly higher levels, ABC should still form the basis of most of your play.

Okay, then how do you play ABC poker?

  • Raise your good hands preflop.
  • Only call raises preflop with small/medium pairs when the raiser and you both have at least 50 big blinds (you need sufficient implied odds to make it worthwhile). You can also limp behind multiple limpers, or early in tournaments you might open limp from early position.
  • Only call raises preflop when you have suited connectors and there is at least one other caller, plus, you all have at least 50 big blinds (you need sufficient implied odds, plus suited connectors are more difficult to work with than medium pairs). You can also limp behind multiple limpers.
  • Don’t try to steal the blinds from late position without a decent hand.
  • Don’t call raises and don’t just complete the small blind with weak hands; just fold.
  • Don’t call raises from the big blind with weak hands, just fold.

On the flop:

  • If you raised preflop and have one caller, bet most of the time (60-80%) except when you totally miss the flop and it’s likely your opponent might have a reason to call your bet.
  • If you raised preflop and have multiple callers, only bet when you have a hand, such as an overpair or top pair with top kicker
  • If you have a strong hand (set, trips, two pair) your default action should be to bet out, especially if there is a flush or straight draw possibility. The exceptions would be when you called a preflop raise and expect the raiser to bet the flop, or you are facing an aggressive player whom you expect to bet. In these cases you can check-raise the flop bet or wait for the turn to bet or to raise. Don’t overuse the slowplay, as beginners love to do. Get some value for your hand and don’t trap yourself by slowplaying.
  • Don’t chase draws unless 1) you get odds to chase or 2) it’s close to correct odds and you think that your opponent is weak enough to pay you off big if you hit

On the turn and river:

  • Continue to bet when you think that you are ahead
  • Fold to raises from most players unless you have a big hand (minimum raises can be an exception: often they are just a test)
  • Try not to pay off loose players that call every street and then bet when a flush fills. Loose players love to play any two suited cards and then chase flushes.
  • You’ll have to call some unexpected river bets from players. If their betting throughout the hand doesn’t make sense, call them. Sometimes you’ll lose these to a weird two pair that hits on the river, sometimes the bets will come from someone who flopped a set and decided to slowplay. Most of the time when their play doesn’t make sense the bet is a bluff with nothing. Over time you’ll lose some but win most with a decent hand. Players at the lowest levels don’t know how to bluff properly and think it’s just a matter of putting out a big bet that you “can’t call”.


ABC poker is how to play when you play against people who know little about poker.

  1. Take advantage of their weakness by only playing when you have a good hand and good position at the table.
  2. Don’t try to outplay them by trying to make them fold their weak hands when that weak hand is better than yours. Instead,
  3. bet for value when you think that you’re ahead, both to charge them to chase their draws and to get paid when they call down with the second best hand.

And, have a lot of patience for the times that you re-raise your AA preflop and get called by K5 that flops a K and then rivers a 5.


When we learn or already know more about poker than the ABCs we try to apply this thinking against inexperienced beginners. This approach can work in basketball or martial arts where we can make an advanced move and fool our opponent entirely. But in poker their pair of 5s still beats our AK when we miss the board, and if all our fancy moves don’t convince them to fold, we still lose.

An experienced advanced player can apply some more advanced plays against beginners and be successful. They may even choose to play more often than usual because they know that there is 1) card advantage, 2) position advantage and 3) skill advantage and they feel that it’s +EV for them anytime that they feel that they have 2 out of 3. Most of us are not strong enough to be able to leverage our advantages consistently and will misjudge the opponent’s range or overestimate our fold equity and end up spewing chips. Stick to ABC poker and you’ll have consistent, if not spectacular, winnings.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply