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Texas Hold'em No Limit Intermediate

ABC Poker Strategy

31,029 Views on 14/10/15

ABC poker strategy is a very straightforward style that can make you a lot of money at lower stakes. Master this style and add it to your repertoire.

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What is ABC Poker Strategy?

keep it simple

No doubt you are here to find a great "ABC" strategy for no-limit-hold'em. Guess what, it doesn't exist. Or at least, if it does exist it means a whole range of different things to different people.

Essentially to play ABC means to play straightforwardly without frills....nothing fancy etc. The problem is that everyone has a completely different idea of what that looks like, depending on experience and the type of games they play.

For example, to a nano-stakes grinder the idea of playing ABC poker might be - Just play for value. Never bluff.

If a high-stakes professional adopted this approach he would get crushed. His opponents would be able to make huge laydowns every time he bet. So his idea of ABC would be completely different and involve bluffing in what he considers standard spots.
For example, he finds himself on the river with the worst possible holding he can have - it will often be a relatively straight-forward bluff for him. Yet the same bluff at micro-limit games might be considered "fancy play" by the majority.

Lower Limits ABC


So now we know that "ABC poker" is a total misnomer should we call it a day right now and all go home early? Not at all! Let's try and create an ABC poker strategy for the lower limits anyway!

ABC for value

The first step is understanding how many streets we should be betting with various value hands. Naturally the following is just a rough guide since we face a wide variety of different situations at the table. But...let's keep it ABC. 

With Initiative

  • 2 pair or better - Bet 3 streets for value
  • Top Pair Top Kicker - 3 streets for value if your pair is Q and above
  • Top Pair - Bet 2 streets, give up on the river
  • 2nd pair - Bet 1 street, or bet 2 streets for a smaller sizing. Give up on river.
  • Bottom Pair - Fire once and give up

Without Initiative – Facing Cbets

  • 2 pair or better - Raise flop and stack off
  • Top Pair Top Kicker (Qx and above) - Call flop, Call turn, Decide River
  • Top Pair - Call flop, Call turn, Fold river
  • 2nd Pair - Call flop, decide turn
  • Bottom Pair - Call flop, Fold turn
What if we Improve though? What if we call the flop with something like 2nd pair and improve on the turn?
  • Top 2 or better – Raise turn and stack off
  • 2 pair (but not top 2) – Call turn, Call river
But what about preflop? How wide can we stack for 100bbs? This depends on our position at the table.
  • UTG/MP or versus UTG/MP - Stack KK/AA
  • BB/SB/BTN/CO vs a player in those positions - Stack QQ+/AK

ABC Semi-Bluffing

Semi-bluffing isextremely profitable in hold'em and should be considered as part of a standard ABC strategy.

With Initiative

  • Flush-draws - Fire 2 streets, give up on the river (exceptions in bluffing section)
  • Open ended straight draws - Fire 2 streets, give up on river
  • Nut gutshots with overs - Fire 2 streets, give up on river
  • Gutshots - Fire 1 street, give up on the turn
  • Backdoor nut or second nut flush-draw - Fire flop, barrel turn if we pick up FD otherwise x/f

Without Initiative – Facing Cbets

  • King-High-FDs and better - Raise
  • Q-high-FD's and lower - Call
  • Nut-gutshots - Raise
  • Other gutshots - Raise
  • Nut opened ended straight draws - Raise
  • Other opened ended straight draws - call
  • Backdoor nut flush-draw - Raise, unless texture is very dry, then call
But what if our flop-raise gets called?
  • King-high-FD's and better - Fire turn
  • Nut-gutshots - Fire if it's still the nut draw otherwise x/f
  • Other gutshots - Check/fold
  • Nut OESD's - Fire turn
  • Backdoor nut flush-draw - Fire turn if we pick up the draw otherwise check/fold.
What if we just call? If we improve to a made hand we can think about raising the turn for value.
  • Top 2 or better – Raise turn and stack off
  • 2 pair (but not top 2) – Call turn, Call river
  • Any pair (with redraw) – Call turn, Fold River

ABC Bluffing

Bluffing can be used sparingly as part of our ABC strategy, but there are some awesome spots where we should nearly always bet. 

Bluffing Spots – Without Initiative

We cold-call IP and......
  • Villain skips his flop cbet - Always bet
  • Villain fires flop and skips his turn cbet - Always bet
We cold-call OOP and....
  • Villain checks back flop - Always bet turn
  • Villain cbets flop but checks back turn - Always bet river

Bluffing Spots – With Initiative

Money bagsWe will reach the river with some of our busted oesd's, flush-draws and gutshots. Should we ever fire? Depending on what you consider ABC, you don't have to, but as part of this particular ABC strategy we will say that if our showdown value on the river is 9-high or lower then we will always fire.

We should also look out for situations where the river comes 4-to-a-straight or 4-to-a-flush, in which case we should always fire.

Facing a Flop Raise

This is a tricky spot which it makes sense to have a default strategy for. We cbet and get raised, how wide should we call?
  • Top-2-and-better - 3bet/Stack
  • 2 pair - Call flop raise, call turn bet, decide river
  • Top Pair Top Kicker - Call flop, Call turn if our pair is Qx and higher and we have A or K kicker
  • Top Pair - Call flop, fold turn
  • 2nd Pair and lower - Fold Flop
  • Flush-draws and Oesd's - Call flop and play turn according to pot-odds
  • Gutshots and weaker - Fold flop

Facing a Turn Raise

Continue with top 2 and better for 100bb stacks, fold all other hands.

Adjustments to ABC Strategy

Ace King

A couple of important things to keep in mind if you are new to poker is that this guide has not touched on 2 important principles involved in making the best decisions.
Often we will decide to play our monster hands slowly on a dry texture; this has not been covered in the guide. Also, the stacking ranges are based on 100bb effective stacks. It’s important to understand that the deeper the effective stacks the tighter we must stack off, while the shallower the effective stacks the wider we can profitably stack.

abc poker strategy guideOther Situations

This is by no means an exhaustive guide to poker. It’s way too simplified to ever qualify as such. However, there is a reasonable chance there is already enough information here to generate a positive win-rate at the lowest stakes games online.

There is nothing remotely ABC about poker in general, and our decision making skills will be put to the absolute test. We will find a wide range of different scenarios where it makes sense to deviate from the above plan. There are millions of different ways a hand of poker can play out, making it impossible to have a set plan for every possible situation.
As such there will be countless situations that are not covered in the above guide; but then again, by the time we start talking about default strategy in 5 bet pots OOP with 300bb effective stacks, we are no longer talking ABC poker!

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I am of British nationality and go by the online alias w34z3l. I am considered one of the top consultants in the field for technical analysis (i.e. database work) and application of game theory concepts to various card games. I make a ... Read More


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