ABC Poker Player

Definition of an ABC Player

by Jesse Knight


ABC Poker
1. An ABC player is somebody who plays solid starting hands and is usually predictable.
2. A holding of A23 in high-low or Lowball games.

There are two main factors which determine how many hands a poker player will incorporate into their game. The first factor is playing ability. The second is playing style. Both of these factors will affect how many hand a player chooses to play before the flop. For instance, poor players tend to play more hands than good players. This is primarily because they are not good at accurately valuing their hand preflop. Since these players are not able to differentiate between subtle differences in hand values, they tend to play anything that is close to playable, including many hands which should be thrown away. This is very different from able players who choose to expand their preflop hand selection based upon playing style. Many of the best players in the world will have vastly different starting hand requirements, and some will play significantly more hands than others, and will even take the worst of it before the flop.

On the surface, this may seem somewhat contradictory: Poor players play badly, because they play too many hands, but some of the best players in the world also play a lot of hands preflop. In actuality, good players can sometimes take a little bit of the worst of it before the flop, because they can make up for it, and regain their edge with superior play after the flop. It is actually correct for them to take the worst of it preflop and it increases their return in the long run. Bad players do not have this ability. They tend to play badly both before and after the flop. So, a great deal of the handís preflop value is determined by the playerís postflop playing ability.

This brings us to a critical point. Good players can play either tightly or loosely, and this is often a matter of playing style, rather than playing ability. An A-B-C player is a player who has a tight style of play. Their hand selection is based upon actual preflop hand values, rather than on their perceived ability to make up ground after the flop. In other words, they mostly stick to the fundamentals (or ABCís) of the game, which are the premium preflop hands. Of course, the three strongest hands before the flop are Aces, Kings and Queens. These are sometimes referred to as the A, B, and C hands. For these reasons, a player who makes tight solid preflop hand selection the cornerstone of their game, is often called an ABC player.

While good fundamentals are as important in poker as in any other sport, what is most important is that you choose a style of play that fits your personality. An ABC player does not have any natural edge over a looser player of equal ability. ABC players tend to be risk adverse grinders, and much of their profit is derived from superior holdings preflop. They also tend to be predictable to some degree, and the tighter they play preflop, the more potential hands you can discount after the flop. On the other hand, loose players may take the worst of it preflop more often than tight players, but they are much more unpredictable, and can be very difficult to put on a hand, so you will have to give them more action than you would give to and ABC player. ABC players will have smaller, but more consistent wins, whereas loose players will have much bigger swings, both on the upside and the down side. When developing your style, focus on what feels right to you and fits you naturally. The important thing is that you choose a style which maximizes your long term total win, be it loose or tight.

The term ABC is also used in Lowball and Hi/Lo Split games. In this context, an ABC hand is a hand which contains A-2-3. Just as Aces, Kings, and Queens are the top starting hands in a holdem game, A-2-3 is a premium starting hand in low-oriented games. Therefore, in games where it is important to have a strong low holding, A-2-3 is often referred to a A-B-C.

In Omaha Hi/Lo, a hand containing A-2-3 is a much stronger low oriented starting hand than a hand containing only A-2. This is because there are many more ways to make a strong low hand when you are holding A-2-3 preflop, as opposed to an A-2 holding. If you are holding only A-2, and an ace or deuce flops, counterfeiting you, your low holding will often be no good. If you are holding A-2-3, you can counterfeit any card and still have a good possibility of drawing to the nut low.

In California Lowball, strong low hands are built from the bottom up. The winning and losing hand are often separated by a difference of one or two points. For instance, it is not uncommon for a 6-5-4-2-A to lose to a 6-5-3-2-A or a 6-4-3-2-A. You can see why starting with the A-2-3 is a huge advantage in this game also (although depending upon the action, A-2-3 without another low card may not be strong enough to draw to in a single draw game, as it is often a bad idea to draw two or more cards).

See also: Rock

Previous Poker Term: Wild Card
Next Poker Term: Ace


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