how to play sets

Texas Hold em Starting Hands » How to Play a Set

Understanding how to play sets in Texas Holdem is one of the very most important parts of any Holdem strategy. Sets are big money in this game. And yet, it's shocking how many players don't understand how to play set and may take many long years before they do.

(For those of you who are newer to the game of Holdem and are more used to standard poker terminology, a "set" is simply three-of-a-kind.)


Well, if a pair flops or otherwise shows up on the flop texture, there may be more than one of you who has flopped a set, so in such times you'll probably want to be aggressive but tight and don't hesitate to fold if you know you are up against a great bluffer who keeps checking or if someone who you know is tight suddenly is re-raising you. Here is where you need to know your position well, other players, and be able to calculate outs. If the board texture gives high cards like Kings or Aces as a pair and that trips up you, be aggressive for sure but if someone else won't fold and keeps re-raising, you really need to consider folding because they likely have a monster of a hand.

But, the best time to play for big money with sets in Holdem is when you start the game with a pocket pair.


It's always good to get dealt a pair, even if it's just deuces, because you already have a made hand to start the game and can possibly build to a very strong hand or a monster with the board texture. But many players get flustered when it comes to trying to play a small or even a medium pocket pair. If it's not JJ, QQ, KK, or AA that they get dealt they fall apart at the seams. They don't realize the opportunity that awaits them for tripping up to a set.

Sets are not as common in Holdem as many believe, so even if you trip up with a small or middling pair you've suddenly increased your odds of winning the pot by a couple orders of magnitude.

It's wondrous to get dealt pocket Aces to start the game, but 2-2-2 beats it! Of course, if you start the game with AA, KK, etc then you can take a different opening approach and be a little more aggressive so see who you can get to help you sweeten "your" pot and weed out some of the opponents. But, if you are dealt 7-7 or 2-2, don't let yourself feel flustered and don't fold. You may want to limp in, in fact, because if you flop to a trip-up or get it on the turn if you stay in to see it, you can use deception to win a big pot.


Needless to say, the strategic points I'll make here can be applied to having a high pocket pair, too, but ironically you will sometimes be even better off with the medium or small one and then flop the trip-up to a set.

What you want to do when you flop a set is start using the strategy behind implied odds. Forget about pot odds now. Using implied odds strategically can enable to you to take an opponent's entire bankroll!

Whether you limped in or opened aggressively, when you see that flopped set and you've got an opponent with a big stack sitting across from you, try to take as much of it as you can. He has no indication that you flopped the set (assuming there's not a flopped pair) and he won't know which of the three different cards makes your set even if he is smart enough to suspect. Go ahead and try to draw him in with sizable raises and re-raises. If he was dealt a high pair while the board shows 8-5-3 and you tripped up on the 3, he may never suspect anything and could be distracted by cock-sureness about his KK or AA.

Even though your bets are expensive, draw him in as much as you possibly can. Now--is there the danger that he, too, flopped into a set that beats yours? Yes, there is. But, again, the set is uncommon enough, especially to flop into a trip-up to get it, that you can play the odds and take your chances to capitalize on this possibly golden opportunity. Now's not the time for caution. If you limped in at first, you could also use the strategy of only re/raising slightly--at first--to make your opponent believe you've decided to try to bluff him with junk...then, hook him with a large re-raise as if you think HE is bluffing. Mmmwahahahaha!

However, if you have been using the strategy of drawing toward a trip-up for the flop or the turn and you don't hit it on the turn, fold immediately even if you have a high pocket pair. Someone almost assuredly has something that crushes your high pair if they are still in the game by then. If you're playing a tight game and don't hit the set on the flop, you may want to just fold then and there if you had your heart set on going for that.

But while playing with situational respect, absolutely never fail to bet/raise when you hit a set on the flop with pocket pairs. Play sets right as part of your Holdem strategy and you may end up in Vegas at the WSOP!

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