How Not to Suck at Poker Examples: ABC Poker

Cunningham makes a raise
Get your chips in when you have it, fold when you don't. Easy game.

One of the biggest leaks low- to mid-stakes poker players have is letting creative plays get in the way of profits.

Unless you’re playing against a table of opponents who have watched, studied and remembered every hand you’ve played that session, chances are that getting creative is simply costing you money.

In the article How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing from our How Not to Suck at Poker beginner strategy series we  went into this concept in detail. Today we’ll give you a few specific examples to show you exactly how you can apply it in action.

Scenario 1:

Here’s a scenario from a live $1/$2 game where being creative on the button ends up being an expensive choice.

Our Hero has been at the table for a couple of hours and has been splashing around, raising a lot, and showing down dubious hands. His image is loose-aggressive and that he’s prone to bluff.

He’s sitting behind a stack of around $500.

On the other end of the table is a nitty lady who likes to call the Hero’s bets and always seems to assume he’s bluffing. She’s raised three of the last four hands and got folds pre-flop or on the flop to all of them.

From early position the lady raises to $15. The player to her left calls and so does the player to the right of the Hero.

The lady says “No one believes me!” before the Hero looks down at A A and calls. The next player, a half-senile old man, calls, and so does one more.

The flop comes 4 6 3. The lady bets out $35 and the first caller is the guy on the right of the Hero. The hero again just calls, as does the old man.

The turn comes 9.

The lady checks as does the guy on the right of the Hero. The Hero bets $130. The old man thinks about it, says a bunch of random crazy old man things, and then calls for his last $76.

The lady insta-calls and the guy on the right of the Hero folds.

The river comes 5.

The lady checks. The Hero checks behind. The guy on the left of the hero yells “send it all!” and shows 7 3 for the straight.

Paola Martin
Unfortunately, Paola Martin is not the lady from my story.


As you can see, about everything that could have gone wrong in that hand did. The lady, it turns out, held K K and the guy on Hero’s right held Q Q.

The Hero lost about $100 on the hand simply because he didn’t play ABC poker – both pre-flop and post-flop. If the Hero had three bet pre-flop, the lady (who always believes he’s bluffing and would never fold KK pre-flop) would have four-bet.

Chances are the queens would have folded. But after the Hero ships it all in, the lady would call. So instead of losing $100, the Hero would have (likely) shipped a $1,000 pot.

Scenario 2:

You’re sitting on a $.50/$1 online full ring game, you have $120 in your stack and have been playing regular TAG poker. You’re sitting on the button and get dealt 8 8.

A player with a $245 stack raises to $4 from middle position. You call on the button and head to the flop heads up.

The flop comes 6 8 9, you flopped middle set and are sure that you’re ahead of your opponent. He’s not the type of player to have raised with anything that could have flopped a straight.

Your opponent bets $7, you just call.

The turn comes Q

Your opponent bets $18, again you just call.

The river comes 10

Your opponent checks and you check behind. Your opponent turns over 8 9 for two pair. You win the $58 pot with your set.


You won the pot, but you lost as much as $182 because you tried to get fancy and trap.  You also left yourself wide open to get rocked by a straight or flush.

Your opponent flopped a monster hand. Most likely he was making the same assumptions you were, that it was highly unlikely you could have flopped the straight. He puts you on an overpair, or a flush draw. Either way, chances are he’s not getting away from top two cheaply.

By pumping the flop (which ABC poker would dictate), you will create a much larger pot, and help eliminate the possibility of your opponent drawing out on you (in case he does have the flush draw).

By slow-playing your hand, you kept the pot small in a scenario where you had heaps of equity, and let the board get too dangerous to value bet.

Getting fancy cost you a lot of money.

Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey
Only at a table like this should you consider some XYZ poker.


Yes. Poker is not results based – it’s decision-based. Both examples show you how getting fancy and playing your hand incorrectly for the situation can end up costing you money.

The fact the old man hit a gutshot in the first example is irrelevant. Even if the river hadn’t given him the straight, the Hero still would have made less money than if had played it by the book.

If you have aces pre-flop and are up against an opponent who you think holds a big hand and who is more than willing to stack off to you, you’re making a mistake by doing anything but raising.

Players still developing their game often start to have thoughts like “If I re-raise here they’ll know for sure I have aces,” when in reality your three-bet could mean anything your opponent wants it to mean.

When playing low-to-medium stakes your opponents will make plenty of mistakes and will typically have no idea what you’re doing at any time.

Especially when you’re in an action pot, stick to the ABCs and your long-run results will thank you.

The How Not to Suck at Poker series:

  1. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
  2. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
  3. How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
  4. How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
  5. How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
  6. How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Bankroll
  7. How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
  8. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Your Mouth Shut
  9. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Records
  10. How Not to Suck at Poker: Discuss the Game

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