If you like risking a little to win a lot, adding the concept of set mining to your bag of poker tricks is a great place to start.
A set is when you have a pocket pair in Texas hold ‘em and one of the community cards gives you three-of-a-kind. It’s significantly different than needing two community cards to make three-of-a-kind because, in those situations, it is easier for an opponent to think you might have three-of-a-kind.
Sets are sneaky, and that’s why they are powerful. If an opponent doesn’t think you have a big hand you have a major advantage. Set mining, however, typically only refers to situations in which you have small or medium pocket pairs. In almost every case of set mining, you’re going to fold if you don’t flop a set.
If you have a big pocket pair you’re probably going to raise preflop, which gives you an aggressive image for that hand. It most likely puts your opponents in a defensive mindset, and that’s the opposite of what you want while set mining.
When you set mine, you want the element of surprise on your side.
Rare to flop a set
A big pocket pair has value even without flopping a set because it could be higher than all the community cards. Small to medium pocket pairs, on the other hand, are less attractive when two or three cards higher cards come on the flop.
That’s why the biggest value for lower pairs comes through set mining. It works like this:
When you get a lower pair, you either limp in pre-flop or you call a reasonable raise. The amount of money you put in matters because flopping a set does not have good odds.
The chances of flopping a set are 7.5-to-1. That means, on average, you’re going to flop a set once in every seven or eight hands when you start with a pocket pair. Holding pocket sixes doesn’t mean much when the flop is A-J-8 or K-9-2, and that is what is going to happen 88% of the time.
If you have a 12% chance of flopping a set, why would you ever do it? Easy. Because the payoff could be huge.
Implied odds matter
In addition to thinking about how much you invest in the hand pre-flop, it is important to consider how much you could win by the end of the hand.
Let’s say the blinds are $1-$2, an opponent raises to $10 in middle position, and you’re the only player to call the bet from the big blind. There is $21 in the pot. Your opponent only has $20 left in their stack, and you have $80.
You put $10 into the pot with a max profit of $31 available. Because your odds of hitting a set with your hand is so small, it is not worth it to call that pre-flop raise.
But let’s say in the same situation, there are three callers before the action gets to you and all four of your opponents have more than $100. All of a sudden your implied odds shoot through the roof. There are four opponents who could double you up if they get a piece of the same flop on which you flop a set.
Now it is more attractive to put money into the pot with your pocket sixes.
How to proceed with your set
It’s critical to understand the best times to try to set mine, but the fun starts when you do flop a set because you have a chance to win a big pot.
Let’s say you have pocket sixes and the flop comes 8-6-2. If you’re up against opponents who likely have big cards there is not as good a chance they improved their hands. In that case, you may want to remain passive because they are more likely to be scared away if you bet.
But let’s say the flop comes A-Q-6. Now you’re more likely to be in business. If an opponent raised with A-K, for instance, they are probably going to be confident in their hand and put more money in the pot. That’s where the big payoffs happen.
If you are in early position, you might bet with the hope an opponent will raise or you might check-raise. If you are in late position, you usually can safely raise the bettor. Either way, you’re increasing the size of the pot and making it more appetizing for someone with a significantly weaker hand to play with you.
Poker is a unique game in which even when you have the best hand you could lose so putting yourself in positions that give you a greater percentage to win is important.
Set mining could lead to that and is one of the most profitable tactics if performed correctly.