Understanding the Basics of Set Mining


We are pleased to present you with another one of our poker strategies and tutorials blog pieces. Set mining refers to playing a small to medium pocket pair passively preflop in the hope of making a ‘three of a kind’ (set) on the flop.

By small to medium we mean from pocket pairs like 22 to JJ and everything in between. Here, we don’t take the preflop initiative and open raise, rather we choose to play it slow and call so that we can see  the flop as cheaply as possible.

While playing small pocket pairs, we’re applying the same rule of thumb we used while discussing how to play suited connectors in our last strategy blog. We want to be in a position where we’re risking a little to win a lot.

Hitting your set on the flop can be really strong in No Limit Hold’em because most of the time your opponent won’t suspect you to have such a monster hand and also your hand will be ‘hidden’. Imagine that you have a pair of Deuces in the big blind. A player from UTG opens, the button calls and you come along as well.

The flop comes Q♠️A♥️2♣️.This is a great spot for you to win a big pot. It is most likely that either one, if not both, have hit their A’s or Q’s on this flop. They’ll have little chance to improve against your set. First things first, let’s talk a little about how likely it is that you will hit your set on the flop.

In fact, when considering the fundamentals of set mining, it’s worth committing to memory a few facts about getting pocket pairs and making sets to help you figure out whether or not it’s going to be worth your while to attempt the set mining strategy.

How Likely Is It To Get A Pocket Pair?

Anyone who plays No Limit Hold’em on the regular knows that pocket pairs do not come your way too often. It is said that you have a once in every 17 or 18 hands to get a pocket pair. Whether it is 22 or AA.

In a nine-handed game, you can expect a pocket pair every 2 rounds. This means that you’re going to be using this strategy even less that every 2 rounds because you can still get QQ, KK, or AA. Knowing the fact that you can win huge pots with set mining makes this an interesting topic to learn more about.

Hitting A Set

There is an 11.8% chance that you hit your set on the flop. If you see the turn and/or river, those odds increase but not by much.

The important bit to remember is that you do not make a lot of sets. That is why it is unlikely for opponents to put  you on such a hand and hence, these hands win a lot of huge pots. Most of the time your pocket pair is going to remain unimproved.

Considering Stack Sizes

Imagine that you are on the button with 4♦️4♠️. A player raises from the middle position. Flat calling might seem like a good idea but there are a few questions you might want to think about before making that call. One of the most important is ‘what are the stack sizes?’

Keep in mind the ‘effective stacks’ when going into such hands. Effective stack refers to the player with the smallest stack amongst those who are involved in the hand. You get 4♦️4♠️ and have a comfortable stack of 70,000 with the blinds at 1000/2000. The player in middle position has a stack of about 20,000. He raises 5000.

Is flat calling/set mining in this case a good strategy? Even if you make the call, you’ll win a relatively small pot. You’re calling 5,000 in the hopes of winning 8000 which are already in the pot plus potentially another 20,000. The chances of hitting your set is once every eight times.

The total pot will be six times the amount of your call where you’re only going to be flopping your set one out of 8 times. Making the call in the hope of flopping a set is most certainly the incorrect play here. It’s about 7-to-1 against flopping a set, and even if things go perfectly for you — that is, you flop a set and stack the guy — you’re risking 5,000 to win 28,000 total.

This means your implied pot odds (including what you can potentially win besides what is already in the pot) are 5.6-to-1, which are less than the odds against hitting your set. In this case, it might be better for you to either shove with your pocket fours or simply fold because set mining is not a recommended strategy when the effective stack is too low.

We recommend that you should only try set mining if the effective stacks are at least 10 times the amount you have to call, i.e, if you have to call 5000, make sure that you have the potential to win around 50,000 chips.

Do not try set mining if the effective stacks are too low. Always look at the smallest stack in the hand before making the call with your pockets. This will be easier to do when you play poker online. While playing live, look at the opponents stack and make a count.

Set Mining Postflop Play

Flopping the set is going to be the ideal situation while playing pocket pairs as you get all three postflop streets to build the pot. Making one on the turn is also great but is not always worth it to spend too much money to see the turn because you’ll have only 2 outs. That is a 4% chance to hit your set and the same goes for on the river.

Pocket nines might be good on a flop like 6♣️2♠️7♦️ but continuing with pocket sevens on a board like K♦️10♣️Q♠️ will be a very bad play. Do not be stubborn with your pocket pairs when the flop is unfavourable and you do not have a good idea about what your opponent might have.

Slow playing is the best option when you hit your set on a flop that your opponent was likely to miss. Although you can choose to bet your small pocket pair turned set on the flop if you think your opponent has most likely hit his over cards.

We recommend you not to make the hand too complicated and try to be unnecessarily creative. When set mining, the payoff is going to be big but only if you do the postflop work properly.

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