Discover Texas Hold’em Gold with Set Mining Pocket Pairs

Some of the biggest pots I’ve won playing Texas Hold ’em happened because I flopped a set while holding a pocket pair. Set mining is very straight forward, and it can be a profitable way to boost your bankroll or accumulate chips in a poker tournament.

Peeking at your hole cards during Texas Hold’em and finding a small pocket pair is not as bad as you think because it provides you with a chance to set mine, and win a big pot against an opponent who never saw your three of a kind coming.


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Pick Spot to Set Mine

Set mining is a simple tactic in cash games. You can raise preflop or call a raise for the sole intent of seeing the flop. If you flop a set, then you have a chance to win a big pot especially if it’s a dry board. If you don’t flop a set, then you can easily fold if someone bets.

You have approximately a 12% chance to flop a set (11.8% is the exact math), or one in eight times. You’re going to miss 88% of the time and need to make eight times your money back to break even. Set mining can become costly, but the goal is to win a big enough pot to cover all your set mining spots during a session.

Ideally, you should aim to win 16 times your investment, or have implied odds of 16 to 1. If you’re playing $1-$2 NL, and you call a $10 raise with a middle pair, then your ultimate goal is to win at least $160.

If you have a strong read on the type of players at your table, and have a good grasp on their ranges, then set mining is straight forward and you can profit against opponents that you know are going to pay you off.

Pay Attention to Stack Sizes

You must pay attention to stack sizes. You won’t make money over the long run by set mining short-stacked players. If you felt them, you’ll only win a small pot. That’s why big stacks are the best players to set mine against.

Set mining tends to pay off when you flop a set and win a pot against two pair. Sometimes loose or bad players will pay off your set with top pair. Of course, there’s nothing better when you drag a massive pot with top set in a set over set situation.

To Call or Not to Call a Raise?

Pocket pairs increase in value depending on where you’re sitting at a full ring table. Beginners are taught to only play big pairs from early position, and you can gradually add medium pairs if you’re the first to enter a pot, and play baby pairs if you’re in late position and on the button.

If you’re playing shorthanded especially with five or fewer players, then any pair is a premium hand.

Calling a pre-flop raise depends on the strength of your pair, and how many players are acting behind you. You should ditch a baby pair if you’re facing an early-position raise, but you can call if you’re on the button and there’s no one else in the pot.

There are spots when you can call raise with a baby pair if you know everyone behind you is a weaker player, or a bunch of calling stations who won’t raise.

If you’re in late position and facing a raise and three-bet, then you should get the heck out of dodge with your baby pair. You can call in some spots if your opponent made a thin-sized three-bet, but avoid trying to set mine if it’s a sizable three-bet.

Waking up with any medium or small pair from the blinds is always fun. So long as you’re not facing a three-bet, you have the perfect situation to spring a trap by calling for a chance to mine a set.


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Flopped a Set, Now What?

When you flop your set, then your next goal is to extract as much money as possible from your opponents.

You want your opponent to keep betting into you, so it gets tricky if they’re chasing a flush or a straight draw. Just because you flop a set, it’s not an automatic win. You still have to avert disaster on the turn and river.

You also must be disciplined enough to fold your set if there’s a chance your opponent made a straight or flush.

Of course, monster pots happen when it’s a set over set situation. Some of the biggest wins and most disappointing beats in my life occurred in a set over set situation.

I tilted a friend of mine when he flopped a set of sixes and I rivered a set of eights. He thought he was trapping me until the eight of hearts spiked on the river and propelled me ahead. I felted him with a set over set, but that’s the risk you take if there’s any overcards on the board.

River Not My Friend

I once lost a brutal hand at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City when I flopped a set of sevens on a K-7-2 dry board in a three-way pot. A player in the small blind held pocket deuces, and the original raiser held Ace-King. I had a bad feeling when the case deuce surfaced on the river and the small blind check-raised me. Yes, foiled by a one outer and quads on the river.

One of the biggest laydowns you’ll make is when you’re convinced you’re on the losing end of a set over set situation. Flopping sets is not a common occurrence, which makes it even psychologically harder to get away from your hand.

Folding bottom set is way easier than ditching middle set. I’ve been able to fold bottom set a couple of times when my opponent was radiating with an obvious tell that they had best the hand. However, I’ve never been able to fold a middle set to a raise on the river. It’s safe to say those were among the toughest (and incorrect) calls I made in my life.

You can win a big pot by set mining, but you must know when you’re not in a favorable situation to pull off the tactic, and which of your opponents will pay you off.


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