I have heard many people down the years discuss ABC in poker and the definition of ABC is good solid play without getting out of line. However in all my years in the game then I have still to find any generic type of ABC that is being universally used. So the bottom line in all of this is that most poker players have their own versions of ABC. Each version is different to everybody else’s but in full ring then this difference is reduced. The reasons are obvious because in this form of poker then you need to fold more.
The next question is if you have a solid ABC game then how far will this take you? Well in my experience then having a solid ABC game will take you to around the NL50 levels but no higher. It is possible that on some sites and networks that are softer then you can take that a level further to NL100. However certainly by the time you reach NL200 then ABC and nothing more will just recycle money. In games like full ring then it is the ABC that forms the bedrock of your play sort of like basic strategy does in blackjack.
However in a game like blackjack then the way to get an edge is to card count but card counting only reveals advantageous opportunities when they arise. Quite often a counter may have to play through shoe after shoe without any advantage whatsoever and do nothing more than keep on counting and betting table minimums. All successful gamblers like poker players, blackjack players, sports bettors or whatever need to become comfortable by large amounts of inaction. This is one of the things that you need to absorb to become a better poker player.
When you read poker books then the books condense the material that you need to know to become better at playing the hands when you get them. However it doesn’t alter the fact that the gaps in between these situations can be quite large. It is all of the folding that you do that make the bedrock of your ABC and in fact probably 85% of your ABC play actually involves folding. So where do the better players make up that difference if 100% ABC play isn’t enough at higher levels?
Well you need to look for spots where doing something that is non-standard is actually correct. Only the other night for example then the following hand cropped up in one of my games. It was folded around to the cut-off who made it 3.5bb to go. I was in the big blind and called with the Ad-7d after the button and small blind had folded. I estimated their range could be as wide as 35% which gives me 52% equity against that range and as narrow as 20% which reduces my hot and cold equity to around 46%. Either extreme is a call and so my call made it 7.5bb in the pot and we both started with 100bb and I knew very little about villain.
The flop came 10d-6d-3s giving me the nut flush draw, ace overcard and backdoor straight draw. I checked and my opponent bet 5bb. I still think that they are c-betting with nearly all of their range here and I have 58% equity against the 35% range. So I check-raise to 15bb and they min-raise me to 30bb! Here they have around 33.5bb invested in the pot and so they have enough big blinds left for me to have substantial fold equity here. If they have a big pair then my equity is around 46% as long as they don’t have aces. A really tight player could even fold a big pair here if I shove which I did. They almost used up their entire time bank before calling and they did indeed show pocket kings.
The good news was that I spiked another diamond on the turn and won the pot. However when the cards were turned over then my equity on the flop was 46%. To have so much equity on a semi-bluff even when you get called is a good reason to make the semi-bluff in the first place.
I would gladly make the play again in full ring because many players would leave behind 33bb in the pot and then fold which hurts their red lines immensely. However the point of the hand wasn’t to show me getting lucky against an overpair with a flush draw but to highlight the reasons why I made a non-standard play that wasn’t ABC. The fact that my opponent almost folded a hand at the very apex of his range justified the play. The next step was to make sure that I didn’t make the same play again during the session.
Carl Sampson is a poker player who plays online at 888poker.com