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Set Mining

Sets are my favorite hand in No Limit Holdem. They earn me my biggest pots because they’re such good trapping hands. You can slowplay them against both TAGs/LAGs/TPs and LPs who all pay you massively if they hit a piece of the flop. I guess on the other side of the fence however, I also tend to lose most of my money to sets. The reason hitting a set with pocket pairs pays offs is because it’s such a difficult hand to get away from or read. A player who hits his top pair with AK on a A-J-6 flop is going to find it incredibly difficult to fold to pocket 66s. I do think there are some ways of getting away from these pots, but at the end of the day when you have AK/AQ after a 3bet pre-flop and land into someone else’s sets, the odds are against you from the beginning.

Implied Odds
In NLHE short-handed games, you should always raise pocket pairs regardless of your table position. Remember that pocket pairs are still very good hands pre-flop, so you’ll want to narrow down the number of players in the pot and increase your equity. You still want lots of callers to build the pot pre-flop, but the increased fold equity from raising pre-flop makes it more profitable in the long term.

The odds of hitting a set on the flop with pocket pairs are 12.5%. This means you need implied odds of AT LEAST 8:1. To put this in lamen terms, in order to call a pre-flop raise your opponent needs to have a stack of at least 8x his raise. Of course, the idea of “implied” odds is just a made up term predicting how well you’ll get paid off if you actually make your site. Rather than take this as a black and white math question though, you need to judge the style of your opponent and flow of the game to see whether he’d pay you off. Against LAGs for example, you’ll probably not get paid because their calling hand range is weak. TAGs on the other hand will bet aggressively when they hit the flop which makes them more profitable to set mine against.

The best hands to call raises against are high pocket pairs like AA or KK. These guys tend to pay off massively and will happily shove their stack on the flop. Your implied odd against these is massive. The only problem however, is that you can easily run into an opponent’s bigger set! e.g. you have 55, he has KK and flops comes 5-8-K.

Calling 3bets
Calling 3bets is where most players lose control of the hand. There is another basic rule here: only call 3bets if your stack size is more than 7x the call of the 3bet. This ensures that you’re deep stacked enough to make enough money to cover the risks after you hit your set. e.g. BB raises $3, you call, MP re-raises $9, you thus need at least $120 (20×9-3) to call. Against very tight opponents, you can reduce the rule to around 15:1 because they are more likely to pay off in the long term.