There are few things in poker that are more delightful than getting a set. These cards make up the simplest kind of poker hand, yet they can also help you win quite a few Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. They’re just nice to have.
The great thing about sets is that they make sense. The poker strategy for using sets is easy and you’ll never have to worry about the poker rules when you have two of the same card in your hand. Your poker strategy with these cards will, at least for the most part, rely on betting and then picking up your winnings. Not bad, right?
Presto! One of the most important bits of strategy that you will employ in Texas Hold’em poker is called poker set mining. Poker Set Mining is the act of playing a pocket pair with the sole purpose of getting a set, hoping to grab a set on the flop and taking your opponents for all they are worth. It’s a winning Texas Hold’em strategy and something that anyone who likes to play poker games should learn.
What we are going to focus on today isn’t playing the big pairs – we’re going to focus on the medium pairs and their little brothers. Our goal is to learn how to start set mining and how to make the game a little easier after the flop.
Poker Set Mining
So, we already know that poker set mining is a process that involves not only having a pair in your hand, but also trying to hit a set off of the community cards. It’s generally done by throwing in a little raise before the flop so that you can work on getting that next set.
The reason that poker set mining tends to work in both cash games and poker tournaments is that a three of a kind will typically be the best hand a player will be likely to see on the flop. Even better, it’s got a really good chance to win at the end of the game – something that’s important when your opponents get greedy.
The strategy of poker set mining also works because it’s easy to disguise a three-of-a-kind. Players who think they’ve got two pair or even a premium pair will go in big and you’ll take their money.
As usual, though, poker set mining is a poker strategy that can only be used in a specific time and in a specific place. The timing is easy – you want to do it when the stacks are big and you can take home the most money. The place, however, is a little more complex.
As with virtually every other type of Texas Hold’em poker strategy, poker set mining is something for which you’ll need to be in position. You will want to raise if you’re in an early position, and then call when you’re coming in later. Figuring out how to leverage your position is going to be one of the most important parts of mastering poker set mining.
The Best Way to Mine For a Set
There’s a single concept that you’re going to master if you want to move from just playing your poker hand as you see and start working on legitimate poker set mining. This concept is called implied odds, and it’s good to learn for a number of reasons.
When we look at poker mathematically, we can see that flopping that set is not actually all that likely – you’re going to do only about one out of eight times. If you do get three of the same card, you’re going to make money. When you can understand implied odds, you’ll be able to understand what you can win.
If you’ve studied pot odds already, you can look at implied odds as a simple extension of that tool. Implied odds don’t just work with what’s in the pot, though – they work with what will probably go into the pot once the game starts to get moving.
Yes, this means that you’re going to be running odds on things that haven’t happened. It’s a good idea, then to look at some of the basic mechanics to make the entire process seem a little less arcane.
The Odds of Making a Set
Let’s say that you start with a pocket pair – that’s a necessity for poker set mining. If you’ve got those cards, you’ve got roughly a one in seven and a half chance of grabbing your set. With me so far?
Now, making a set doesn’t actually mean that you’ve won a pot. It means that you’ve got a strong hand but not necessarily a winning hand. You’re still going to have to figure out if it’s worth going after the pot.
This is where implied odds come into the picture.
Dealing with Implied Odds
When you deal with implied odds, it’s important to remember that you’re absolutely not dealing with something that exists in the real world. You are dealing with a fiction, a useful tool that you will use in order to make decisions. When people talk about implied odds, they’re talking about the reasoning for why they make certain moves.
Working with implied odds means taking into account several factors. You’ll need to look at your opponent’s poker range, for example, to figure out if you have a chance of winning. Also you need to look at how much money will theoretically be in the pot if you win.
You’ll start by looking at your opponent’s range. If your opponent has a low range or a lot of bad possible hands, there’s a good chance that he or she is going to fold quite a bit when you go mining. This means that you’ll win but that you’ll make less money. Therefore, you ironically want players with a fairly good range so that you can actually get paid.
You’re also going to have to figure out what the game is going to look like after the flop. If there’s not a lot left at this point, you probably won’t have to worry about going big with your stacks just to make some money.
Remember, you’re going to be in a much better position when there’s money to play with after the flop. This is where your bank lives, and it’s where you’re going to play when you’ve got a set. If you can’t get to a point where there’s money after the flop, you can’t get to a point at which you’ll get paid enough to play.
It’d be very nice if these were the only factors to worry about, but guess what? There are a few more things you’ll need to worry about with implied odds.
As always you will need to work with your own table image when you are figuring out implied odds. You can work with lower odds if you have a loose image since the other players at the table might get drawn into believing that you are trying to bluff when you have a real set.
You are also going to have to deal with the images of your opponents at the table. Poker set mining isn’t quite as successful against tight and cautious players, but it’s great against new players and those who love to call.
You also have to keep your position in mind when you are creating these imaginary odds. If you can make your bet in the right position, you can guarantee that there is more money in the pot and get yourself paid. If you are in the wrong spot, you’ll be better off check-raising so that you don’t get checked behind and lose out on a bigger pot.
As ever, your opponent’s range is also going to go into these calculations. If your opponent has a big range, set mining isn’t going to be easy. You want your opponent to have a strong range so that he or she keeps betting, but not so strong that he or she is actually going to beat your set.
Basic Rules for Poker Set Mining
One thing you need to remember is that your poker strategy is always going to change depending on what happens at the table. There are some good guidelines for poker set mining, though, and you can keep them in mind so that you can generally feel safe when you choose this strategy.
Dealing with a Three Bet
Let’s say that you three-bet on the flop and that your opponent does the same. The only way that you are going to survive in a profitable position here is if there’s at least twenty times your three-bet left behind on the table for betting.
Your job in this situation is to get good at finding your opponent’s range and figure out if it’s going to pay you off. If you can work the odds, you might be able to get down to fifteen times that bet. The more you know, the safer you are.
Calling on Preflop Raises
The big issue here is that the what you do on a preflop raise is going to rely on many different factors. If you are dealing with a multi-way pot, you don’t need to get a set too often to make money. If your opponent tends to be tight, you’re going to end up taking the pot more often, as will be the case if you are playing against someone who always calls.
Don’t, however, mine against someone who is sitting with a smaller stack. You’re not going to make very much and you’ll put yourself in a position to lose money in the long run.
The Keys to Poker Set Mining
While there are millions of variables at play, we can probably break successful set mining down into three factors. Master these, and you’ll end up taking more pots.
- Only mine when you are deep-stacked. Remember, you’re not going to grab the set every time, so you need to be in a position to actually make some money if you do hit. You’re going to have to pay in order to play here.
- Only set mine against opponents who are loose and aggressive. If you are playing against one of these players, he or she is going to pay into the pot that you win even without a perfect range. This means that your odds are better both of winning and of making money.
- Set mine when you are in position. As always, poker position matters. Try to make sure that you are in the right position to make this move and don’t just do it every time that you have a pocket pair. You need to decide if mining is actually going to make you more money.
See you on the WSOP Circuit!
Poker Set Mining – FAQs
A: A set is when you have a pair in your hand and the same card hits the board. This is different than trips, which means you hold one of the three cards of the same value and two are on the board.
A: You will flop a set 1 in 7.5 attempts. These aren’t good odds, but you have to base your decision on the situation, including stack sizes.
A: See answer above in this section. I will add here that while they technically have the same value, a set is more valuable because they are much more difficult for your opponent(s) to detect.
A: Top set means you flopped the highest possible set. For example, if you have QQ and the flop is QJ2, you flopped top set. If you had JJ, you would have flopped middle set, and if you held 22, it would be bottom set.
Subscribe to Poker Journal on YouTube