Flopping a set is one of the single greatest feelings in Hold’em and one of most consistent ways to win huge pots. It’s one of the strongest hands in Hold’em but it also makes a lot of new players nervous because having an opponent fold to a small bet would be an enormous lost opportunity. What follows is a collection of tips to help maximize your value from sets.
Sets vs. Trips
First off most poker players generally designate three-of-a-kind in two different ways. The first one is trips, when the board contains two of the cards to make three-of-kind while the third is one of your hole cards. The second one way is the set, which contains both of your hole cards and one card on the board.
Sets are significantly more valuable than trips because they can be disguised more easily. Trips have the downside of potentially losing to a worse kicker if your opponent has the same the-of-a-kind (with higher card than you).
We’ll be focusing on sets in this article because they are a much more reliable way to extract profit from opponents.
The Lowdown on Sets
When you’re dealt a pocket pair your odds of improving to a set on the flop are roughly one in eight.
So you’ll be flopping a set fairly infrequently but when you do you’ve got a very good chance of winning the hand.
Sets will hold up versus a premium pair like kings or aces roughly 90% of the time, which are some of the best odds you’ll get in poker.
You also have an outside chance of improving to a full house if the board pairs giving you the ability to sometimes beat flushes and full houses. There’s also the ever-rare chance to hit quads, which pretty much wins you the hand regardless of what your opponent has.
Sets are simply a fantastic way to win huge sums of money from your opponents.
What to Do When You Flop a Set?
This may sound a little strange but generally you want to bet when you flop a set.
Most beginner players attempt to slow-play sets and trap their opponents. The problem with that strategy is that a check on the flop and a check-raise on the turn is one of the single most alarm-inducing moves that players can perform. It can indicate extreme strength.
You also want to be building a pot, not doing your opponent and keeping it small.
A great deal of your profit from sets will likely come from running into premium hands like pocket aces, kings or queens, especially when they are overcards to the board.
Think about it like this: If your opponent has pocket aces then you don’t want to let them get to the turn without pumping up the pot by at least one bet.
New poker players often worry about scaring off their opponent with a bet but if your opponent has jack-high it’s not like they were ever going to catch up. That’s fine.
If you have a set you need to start firing some chips in the middle. There’s also a slim chance that your opponent will suck out on you by hitting a backdoor straight or flush so it’s very important that you at least make them pay to hit their draws.
This strategy can be very hard for new players to get the hang of but it basically breaks down to: If you have a big hand, bet big.
Now this is a very simplistic strategy and you’ve obviously got to assess each situation independently. If your opponent is completely aggro and just loves firing off bets then it can be correct to just call down several streets and then bomb the river if it bricks.
But if you’re just starting out then there’s a good chance you can improve your win-rate with sets considerably just by betting a little more than you previously did.
What Does "Set Over Set" Mean?
Getting hit by set over set is one of the single worst situations for poker players.
Most of the time you’re not folding a set (unless the board is particularly dangerous) so that means you’re generally going to lose a very large pot or your entire stack.
It’s simply a disastrous outcome when you go set over set and you’ll often here professional players complaining about it when the recite their favorite bad beat stories.
Fortunately as a relatively new player you should worry about it too much. The odds of two players flopping a set are around 1% so it’s extremely unlikely.
In other words you probably shouldn’t be folding too many sets when you are just starting out. You can re-asses if the board is particularly dangerous (meaning flush, straight or full house possibilities) but in general don’t worry about it too much.
If you get tagged by set over set just take the beat and move on to the next hand. It's just another bad beat story you get to tell your friends.
What is “Set Mining”?
Set mining is a simplistic strategy where players would play a large number of small to medium sized pocket pairs with the express intention of flopping a set and winning a huge pot off their opponent.
The important part of the strategy was to see the flop for a relatively cheap price. If you’re only going to hit your set roughly one in eight times then it doesn’t make sense to call off 80% of your stack with pocket threes.
The same strategy can also be used for playing suited connectors when the price is right. The idea being that you’ll eventually hit a straight or a flush and be able to stack your opponent. It’s more black and white with sets, however, as you’ll definitely run into players with bigger flushes.
Set mining is a straight-forward strategy that worked quite well back in the day when Hold’em strategy was still nascent but players have largely gotten wise to the maneuver. In other words players started to get wise against opponents when they would see countless flops but all of a sudden get extremely aggressive on an unconnected board.
You should NEVER attempt to set mine when you have a short stack. You simply don’t have enough chips to fold if you miss your set. If you’ve got a pocket pair you’d be better suited to just get your chips in the middle and hope for the best.
Set mining does give you an idea of just how valuable sets are in Hold’em considering there was a strategy that was focused primarily on playing just sets.
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