Winning at poker isn’t all about proper fundamental strategy (although make no mistake - that helps a lot).
There are a handful of special moves that, when mastered, can make the difference between winning a little and winning a lot.
Today we’re talking about set-mining, one of the most straight-forward ways to make money in Texas Hold’em.
By playing low and medium pocket pairs with the sole goal of flopping a set, you can take a ton of guesswork out of your post-flop game.
How to Set Mine in Poker
The What: Set-mining is the practice of playing pocket pairs solely for the purpose of hitting a set. By calling a small raise before the flop you can win big pots from players when you flop three of a kind.
The Why: Set-mining is effective because three of a kind is usually the best hand on the flop and stands a good chance of being the best hand at showdown. Sets are also very well disguised so you’ll win big pots against premium pocket pairs and strong top-pair and two-pair hands.
The When: Set-mining can be used in any deep-stacked Texas Hold’em game, cash or tournament but it’s most commonly used in cash games since stacks are generally much deeper than tournaments.
The Where: Like most poker moves, set-mining works best when you’re in position. Look for early position opening raises and just call pre-flop with your small and medium pocket pairs. By taking advantage of your position you’ll be able to make more profitable decisions post-flop.
Set-Mining Done Right
The single most important concept you need to understand in order to set-mine effectively is “implied odds.”
Because you’re only going to flop a set one in eight times it’s critical that when you do hit three of a kind, you get paid off. Implied odds are a way of understanding what you stand to win if you hit your hand.
An extension of pot odds, implied odds take into account money that’s not yet in the pot, but can be expected to be put in on later streets.
Let's take a closer look at the mechanics of implied odds and how they relate to set-mining.
The Math of Set-Mining and Implied Odds
To illustrate the concept of implied odds, let's look at a simple example:
You’re in the big blind in a $1/$2 game and the player under the gun raises to $10. It folds to you and you look down at pocket deuces. Both you and the initial raiser have stacks of $300.
We can use implied pot-odds to help figure out whether we should call the raise and try to flop a set.
Because you’re out of position and unlikely to get to showdown unimproved let’s assume you’re only going to win the pot when you flop three of a kind.
You have to call $8 to win $21. That means that in terms of direct pot odds, you’re getting less than 3 to 1 on the call. Since you only flop a set one in eight times it’s clearly not a profitable call, unless you take implied odds into account.
Because your opponent raised from under the gun it’s likely he has premium cards, and because he’ll be in position for the rest of the hand it’s very likely he’ll be putting more money into the pot on later streets.
That means that when you do flop a set you’ll almost certainly be winning more than the $21 that went into the pot preflop.
That extra money that will be added on later streets represents your implied odds and if it outweighs the 8 to 1 odds you’ve got on hitting your set then the call will be profitable in the long run.
So in order to profitably call $8 pre flop, you have to win, on average, $64 from your opponent. The deeper the stacks the more likely you'll be able to get the implied odds you need to call.
Watch Set-Mining 101 - Poker Strategy Power Moves
Learn all the basics you need to set-mine in poker in our 3-minute instructional video below!
Takeaways: Three Keys to Successful Set-Mining
Just like every poker move there’s an endless list of variables that can affect the outcome of a hand. But if you can master these three bullet points you’ll be well on your way to making money by playing your pocket pairs for set value.
- You Have to be Deep-Stacked to Set-Mine: Because you’re only going to flop a set about one out of eight times, you have to make sure you’re making enough money when you hit.
- Set-Mining Works Best against Loose and Aggressive Opponents: A loose and/or aggressive player is more likely to put money in the pot with a wider range, giving you better implied odds for paying preflop to give your pocket pairs a chance to flop a set.
- It’s Better to Set-Mine in Position: Just like most poker moves, set-mining works best when you’re in position. When you get to see what your opponent does before you make a decision you’ll be able to extract more money when you hit a set.
Set-Mining in Action
If you're still unconvinced about the power of set-mining check out the clip below. In this hand the great Tony G wins a $206,000 pot from Hoyt Corkins by just calling with pocket sixes preflop and hitting three of a kind on the flop.
More Essential Texas Hold'em Moves: