Set Mining 101

Set mining plays a big role in full ring poker. It is basically the act of calling a raise with a small or middle pair in the hopes of flopping a set. You will be doing it a lot because it is very profitable.

I have seen countless times in HEM and other database programs over the years that pairs make up around 90% of my profit. Just think about that for a second, 90%! And non-premium pairs make up nearly half of those profits. So it is very important to play these hands correctly.

You need to keep a couple of things in mind when set mining in order to maximize your profitability. I see a lot of mistakes being made, especially by regulars in this area. Here are the two main things.

–> If your intention is to set mine then you need to do exactly that. If you miss your set, it’s time to fold.

–> You need to have the correct odds to set mine profitably.

The first one is a big area of spew for some people. It is very important to have a plan for a hand. And when set mining this should be a very simple one. Most of the time in full ring, regardless of your opponent’s player type, when you call with a small or medium pocket pair and don’t either flop a set or an open ended straight draw, you should fold.

This seems simple enough, but a lot of people like to get themselves into all sorts of awful situations by throwing the plan out the window and doing some silly stuff on the fly. Make a plan and stick with it.

And the second point requires some more discussion as well. Hitting a set does not happen anywhere near as much as we would like it to. It will happen roughly 1 in 8.5 times. So your pocket pair will be unimproved after the flop the vast majority of the time. That’s a lot of 3x or 4x bb’s to be giving up if you are going to be folding to a cbet most of the time when you miss. So you need to know that you are going to get adequately paid off when you finally do hit.

Look for players who are very tight and who you think might have a hard time folding an overpair. But more importantly look at the stack sizes. I like to have at least 15 to 1 on my opponent’s stack and even more if I am OOP.

By 15 to 1 I mean that my opponents stack size represents at least 15 times the size of the raise that I am calling. As a rough rule of thumb this equates to them having 50bb or more to start the hand. Most raises are 3bb or 4bb so let’s just use an average raise size of 3.5bb. 3.5bb x 15 = 52.5bb.

There are several reasons for this. At a first glance one would think that we only need about 8.5 to 1 to profitably set-mine. After all, those are our odds against flopping a set right? This is wrong. And there are several reasons why.

Firstly, you aren’t going to get paid off every single time you hit your set even if your opponent started with a premium hand. For instance,

Example:

You have,

The flop comes,

You hit your set, awesome! But if your opponent has,

he may grudgingly make the fold at some point in the hand figuring you for an ace.

Also, there will be many times when you will flop a set on a raggedy low board and your opponent has an unpaired hand like,

or,

and won’t pay you off either. In fact, this will happen a lot. It is always important to remember that there are many more combinations of unpaired off-suit hands than paired hands. You can actually see this in HEM by going to the “Preflop Cards” tab and choosing “All Cards” in the Quick Filters.

As you can see above, you will get dealt AKo for instance about twice as often as AA or KK. So even if your opponent started with a premium range, you must remember that AK or AQ will show up much more often than big pairs. And since the odds of flopping a pair or better with two unpaired hole cards are only around 1 in 3, plenty of the time your opponent will have just ace high when you finally hit your set.

Also, it is always important to remember that even if your opponent has an overpair and you have a set, he will hit his 2 outer or a running flush a small amount of the time to win the pot as well. An overpair is never drawing dead.

Finally, there are a couple more situations that will happen from time to time that will freeze both of you such as a 4 or 5 card straight on the board or a 4 or 5 card flush which neither of you have a piece of.

So with all of these factors combined it should be pretty clear why you need your opponent to have a much bigger stack size than you may think in order to profitably set mine. As I said, 50bb or more is probably a decent rule of thumb. Remember that it is perfectly fine however to simply fold your pair preflop if you don’t think it will show a positive expectation in the long run.

When you are OOP you need to be even more conservative with your set mining attempts. This is because the whole point of hitting your set is being able to extract the maximum value with it. And as we know, one of the biggest reasons why playing IP is so much more profitable that playing OOP is that it is a lot easier to bet and get called.

When you hit your set OOP your opponent is always going to get to see what you do first and make his decision from there. He can foil your check/raise attempt by simply checking behind himself. If you miss a betting round it is going to be much harder to get all the money in by the river. Conversely if you lead he can also dash your plans for a big pot by choosing to pot control or even just fold. So as a rule of thumb for set mining OOP, you should make sure your opponent has an even bigger stack size, 60bb or more.

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