Poker Strategy: Playing Sets

Posted at 17:20 2009-01-30
Flopping a set is one of the most powerful and enjoyable situations for players in No Limit Texas Hold'em. It is the most heavily disguised hand and as such it is the most feared holding of an opponent. It is generally expected that if your opponent has flopped top pair with a good kicker, overpair or two pair, then they are going to lose a lot of chips against a set, so it is very important to keep it disguised whilst using it to make the highest extraction of chips from your unknowing opponent.
A player will flop a set roughly one in eight times when holding a pocket pair so it is often the most profitable to limp in or see the flop cheap early in tournaments when chip stacks are still deep. The implied odds are huge when a set flops.
Flopping A Set
When a set does flop it is important to analyse what your opponents have first before deciding how to start with your extraction. If the flop has come all low cards and rainbow against a tight aggressive opponent, it is highly likely that they have missed the flop unless they are playing an overpair. Being in position means that you have the advantage of waiting for your opponent’s reaction to the flop. If they bet they may have connected and it is best to just call to give your opponent a free card and to not signal any strength.
Protecting A Set
If you happen to flop a set but it is against a flush draw or a high carded straight draw, things get a little more dangerous for you and the best thing to do here is to make pot sized bets to give your opponent the wrong sized odds to hit their draw. Be prepared to lay down the set if the third flush card or the straight card does actually come if you are faced with an all in bet from your opponent. Depending on the odds and the street which the hand is at, you may still have the correct odds to call to see the river card. A set has three to one odds to improve on the river by hoping the board pairs or the case fourth card happens to fall giving you the nuts over a flush or straight.
Fearing An Overset
When you flop a set there is a strong argument to suggest there is no point in worrying about somebody else flopping an overset. The situation occurs only one in a hundred times and folding because you sense an overset shows a bad long term expectation since you are profitable the other ninety-nine other times that it is not an overset. Always play like there is no overset, and if it does happen, well live to play another day, that is serious bad luck!


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