Poker Strategy: Set Mining and How to Play Sets

There’s a lot of things you can learn about poker strategy. Even the most niche techniques have their roles, making the game impossible to truly master. So many options are available that even the best poker players don’t know the perfect way to handle every situation.

In this poker guide, we’ll discuss a useful strategic concept to add to your repertoire: Set mining. We’ll explain what it is and why it’s useful, along with giving you general tips on how to play sets. Let’s get started!

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What are sets?

If you don’t know what sets are, they’re poker slang for a three-of-a-kind made with a pocket pair, using only one community card. In contrast, “trips” is slang for three-of-a-kinds made using only one hole card and two community cards.

Sets are usually a very powerful hand, as three-of-a-kinds beat every hand except five-card combos like flushes and straights. If the board is dry and has little potential to create those hands, you can consider having a set that is almost a guaranteed win at the showdown, so you should always value bet to capitalize on this.

What is set mining?

Set mining is an advanced technique in poker where you call with a weak pocket pair pre-flop, like 55 or 66, to make a set on the flop. It falls into the broader category of “nut camping,” where players call a raise or a big bet pre-flop with a drawing hand despite terrible odds, banking on the small chance they hit that draw and can value bet big enough to offset their potential losses.

If their draw fails on the flop, they simply fold without overcommitting any more money; the same goes for set mining. If you don’t get a set on the flop, forget about the turn and river. Your hand is unlikely to improve, so you shouldn’t waste any more money if someone makes a big bet.

Is set mining a good idea?

Every technique in poker has its place, but sadly, set mining isn’t a widely-applicable one like continuation betting or 3-betting. It’s similar to limping in that it has some niche uses but remains a bad play in most scenarios.

There are two big reasons why set mining is often discouraged. The first is that it’s unlikely for you actually to land a set. The odds of making a set on the flop are 7.5-to-one, or about 11.8%. This is a pretty low chance, especially compared to other common odds like completing a flush draw, which is 34.97%. This means that most of the time, your set mining attempt will simply be calling with a mediocre hand.

The other glaring weakness of set mining is its predictability. Your opponents can easily notice your binary “fold if I miss the flop, bet big if I hit” playstyle. Soon, they’ll be folding every time you flop a set, denying you the payout to compensate for all the times you don’t make one.

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When to set mine

The best time to set mine is when you have good implied odds, as the technique relies on them a lot. Pot odds only consider the bet’s size and the pot’s current size to decide whether you should call. Implied odds account for the pot growing over future rounds due to your opponents’ betting.

Implied odds are mostly based on experience and intuition, with no 100% reliable indicators. Still, some signs of good implied odds that make set mining a good idea include your opponent’s playstyle. Loose-aggressive players give you the best implied odds since they’re the most likely to play aggressively and build the pot on future rounds.

Another thing to look out for is multiway pots. While they are dangerously volatile and often not recommended to play in, if you’re willing to take risks to hit a set, you can get a massive payout since the pot is exponentially larger with more players. You have to be wary of the chance someone has a flush or straight if the board is wet, as that is a lot more likely in multiway pots.

Playing sets: How to choose between check-raising and betting

The key to playing with a flopped set is aggression. It’s fundamental to poker, allowing you to build the pot and increase your potential payout while at the same time denying others from seeing the next rounds and potentially outdrawing you.

The two most common ways to be aggressive are betting and check-raising. They’re both strong moves, but it can sometimes be difficult for players to understand when to use which.

The most critical thing to consider is position. Check-raises can only be done when you’re in an early position; in that scenario, they’re generally considered superior to regular betting. This is because you want to avoid betting when many players are still acting after you. You are betting without valuable information, and everyone can easily respond to it. By checking first, you negate your positional disadvantage and can see what the other players will do.

Betting should be considered when the board favors you. As check-raising relies on your opponent betting after your check, you shouldn’t do it when your opponent is scared of your range. If you’re set mining, your range will consist of many lower-ranked pairs.

If the board looks like 4-5-7, even the pre-flop aggressor will be unlikely to bet since their range is unlikely to have low-ranked cards. In this case, attempting to check-raise would just give them a free pass to see the next rounds, so betting normally is better.

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Try out set mining online!

Set mining can be a powerful technique when used at the right time. Still, it takes a bit of experience to execute, and playing sets can also be tricky when you’re not used to them. The best way to learn how to play these hands is online poker.

It offers a faster pace than live, and more poker hands per hour means you can play more sets. It also has many other benefits, like tracking software, signup bonuses, and other promotional offers.