Tuesday, 12 October 2010

ABC Poker

I wrote this up yesterday in what appeared to be a bit of a trainwreck of a thread on 2+2. The OP of the thread was questioning whether "ABC" poker was still applicable in today's games. I was decently surprised at the way it came out so I thought I might as well post it here for everyone, too.


ABC poker is not nitting it up waiting to easy-bake a fish with TPTK+. Sure, a lot of advice on 2+2 is a hold-over from the boom where people c/c down 3 streets with J high at 25nl. It's all advice about how to stack people that are literally throwing money at you faster than you can pick it up. It's the most LDO advice out there, but it certainly doesn't mean you apply it to everyone at x stake. It used to make up a huge portion of ABC strategy because that's the type of player that made up a good portion of the player pool and was, and is, still the easiest money to take.

ABC poker is simply (imo):
  • Playing your hand in a straightforward, optimal, exploitative way based on your opponents' tendencies.
  • Maximize EV for this hand.
  • Not getting sucked into the FPS bluff vortex.

Conversely for comparison, ABC poker is not:
  • Playing hands in a sub-optimal, balanced way.
  • Maximize EV for future hands.
  • Being overly creative.

The worse your opponents are -- and by 'worse' I mean in a hand reading sense because this is what everything boils down to -- the closer you need to play to ABC. The better your opponents are, the closer you need to play to non-ABC. Optimal ABC strategies for playing K9s on J95r against a 40/5 are going to be vastly different than optimal ABC strategies for playing the same hand against a 10/9. There is no single ABC strategy.

Yes games are tighter. Yes games have a lower fish:shark ratio. Yes, not everyone stacks bottom pair anymore. None of that has anything to do with ABC poker. The fact is, all that has happened is that your average card advantage has decreased due to the above circumstances. Despite that, I really don't think the level of hand reading has increased that much, which means that solid ABC poker still wins money in the micros. The majority of the pool is still level 1 thinking, they're just playing their hand. It's just that they've decreased their disadvantage by tightening up and show up with showdown value more often than they used to.


  1. At the micro stakes, most of the multi tabling regulars I run into are nitty tag-fish.

    Playing ABC poker against them seems to be pretty profitable since they tend to play their cards face up. Their not polarizing their ranges or thinking about their meta-game.

    You don't have to worry about being unexploitable because most players aren't going to try and exploit you.

    At these stakes you have to play each hand individually, like you mentioned.

    After studying more about the metagame and polarizing ranges I realized it's not a bad idea to think about these things at these stakes and implement different plays but it's best to assume that opponents aren't doing this.

  2. I've always understood "ABC poker" to mean a style of play wherein you have no reads (stats) on your opponents, FWIW.