Set Mining With Small and Medium Pairs

Learn everything you need to know about set mining in hold'em games

Everyone loves looking down at their cards and finding a pocket pair staring back at them. A pair in the hole is much easier to play than unpaired cards. You either have a powerful pair like aces, kings, and queens, or can go set mining with smaller pairs.

Set mining is something you do every session without even knowing about it. It’s the term used for playing a smaller pair in the hope of flopping a set. Sets, as we know, are extremely strong hands in Hold’em. They don’t guarantee a victory, but they vastly increase your chances.

What is a set? A set is the poker terminology for three-of-a-kind made up a pair in the hole and another card on the board. Trips are also three-of-a-kind, but with the pair being part of the community cards. Sets are preferred due to the fact they better disguised. This makes it easier to set, pardon the pun, traps for your opponents.

An Example of Set Mining

The following example shows how strong set mining is when it works. Your opponent raises with Ad-Kd and you call in the big blind with 6c-6s. The flop falls Ah-6d-4c gifting you middle set.

A set in this scenario is exceptionally strong. The player with ace-king, regardless of how good they are at poker, is going to invest more money into the pot. They have top pair top kicker and have a second-best hand that is going to turn expensive. There are very few turn cards that will slow them down. Imagine the turn is a king. They’re never folding top two pair; you’re getting their entire stack.

How Often Does Set Mining Work?

Poker math remains static regardless of the stakes you play. The odds and probabilities of being dealt a pocket pair in Hold’em is always once in every 17 hands. You can work this out by dividing the total number of possible combinations (1,326) by the total combinations of pocket pairs (78). This comes to exactly 17.

The chance of flopping a set also remains constant. More complex arithmetic is required to work this out, but trust me when I say it’s a little over 7.5-to-1. That’s the equivalent to a little under 12% of the time you’re dealt a pocket pair you’ll flop a set.

How profitable flopping a set is is the only thing that alters as it’s player and situation dependent.

Should You Always Set Mine?

You shouldn’t always try set mining despite sets being extremely powerful hands. Everything bet or call you make in poker is determined by pot odds and implied pot odds. You want greater 7.5-to-1 odds to mine a set, ideally.

Think of it this way, you only hit a set once in every 8.5 hands. You need to make more than 8.5-to-1 on your investment to justify set mining. Several other factors need consideration too.

Your opponent won’t always pay you off when you flop a set. The board may be draw-heavy, for example. Your opponent may be unwilling to put any further money in the pot. A hand such as Jc-Js isn’t going to bet many chips on an As-Kd-4c board when you have pocket fours.

Don’t forget that your set isn’t invincible either. They do lose. These losses tend to be costly, particularly in a set-over-set that will often cost you a stack.

With all that in mind, you need a much greater possible return than 7.5-to-1 on your investment. Most players use the rule of 10 when it comes to set mining. This means you need pot odds or implied pot odds of at least 10-times your bet or call.

Always pay attention to the effective stack sizes when considering set mining for the reasons above. Someone raising 250 from a 1,000 short stack doesn’t have enough chips to justify trying to flop a set, for example.

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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