Set Mining Poker Explained – Online Poker Sets

  • Avatar for WSOP Winner Chris 'Fox' WallaceReviewed by  WSOP Winner Chris ‘Fox’ Wallace

Set mining is a poker term used for calling a raise preflop with a pocket pair, in order to try and hit a set on the flop and win a large pot (a set is a term for three-of-a-kind using both hole cards and a single board card). There are various considerations one needs to make before calling a preflop raise or preflop re-raise.

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Although it’s about 12% to flop a set there may be nothing sweeter in poker. To be in a deep stacked cash game and hit a set on a magical flop like K-5-2 rainbow, in position after calling an early position raise, is as good as it gets. The quote from ‘Rounders’ comes to mind: “All I could think about was Vegas and the f****** Mirage!” This is literally what it is like. When your opponent holds AA or AK in this spot it’s so beautiful and so disguised, you quickly forget about the other 88% of the time when you don’t flop a set! That one time is so worth it and why so many players will discount correct odds, justifying implied odds to the max for the shot at that perfect flop.

Jeff Gross
Professional Poker Player with over $4.5 million in online and live winnings

Direct Odds of Making a Set

You need to be aware that with any pocket pair going to the flop, the odds of flopping a set are roughly 7.5/1. So for every 7 and a half times you see a flop with a pocket pair and fail to hit a set, you will make a set once.

A set is usually a very strong hand, but there’s no guarantee you will win a large pot from your opponent, or even that you’ll win the hand at all. That’s why implied odds is such an important factor.

Implied Odds

Pot odds describe the relationship between the amount there is to potentially win, and the amount needed to call. If pot odds are greater than the odds of hitting your winning card, the call makes mathematical sense.

Implied odds take this a step further: the term still describes the relationship between the amount one can win and the amount one must pay to call, but this time the amount that may still be added to the pot is also considered.

Therefore your implied odds are affected by how strong your opponent’s hand range is, and how many chips they have left behind. When set mining it’s beneficial for your opponent to have a strong hand range, along with plenty of chips in reserve, so that they can and will pay you off when you make your set.

The more chips they have left for postflop play, the less often you have to stack your opponent for set mining to be profitable. For example, if your opponent has 75 big blinds one hand, and 150 big blinds another hand, assuming the spot is exactly the same, you only have to stack your opponent half as many times playing 150 big blinds deep compared to playing 75 big blinds deep. The more chips your opponent has left behind for postflop play, the more profitable it is to set mine.

Other factors that influence your implied odds include:

Your image

The looser your table image, the less implied odds you need to profitably set mine. This is because when you hit your hand, you’re much more likely to get paid off than a tight, nitty player who is less likely to bluff.

Your opponent’s image

Calling stations and loose-passive players will pay you off more often than solid winning players. Postflop nits and tight players will pay you off less frequently, especially if you have a tight image yourself. The less likely your opponents are to believe your bets and raises, the more profitable it will be for you to set mine.

Your position

Position makes all hands more profitable. The reason why making sets in late position is more profitable is because you know that chips will go in the pot on every street; if everyone checks to you, you can bet. When you flop a set out of position, you will often want to go for the check raise; if your opponent elects to check behind in position, however, the chances of you winning a huge pot are greatly diminished.

Your opponent’s range

The wider your opponent’s range, the worse it is to set mine, as weak hands won’t pay you off. Ideally you want your opponent to have a strong range so they will fold to your bets and raises less often.

Conclusion: What Are The Guidelines?

Very few things in poker are black and white, and you may be all too used to seeing the answer “It depends” come up a lot. That being said, the following guidelines give a general view of the implied odds you need in order to profitably set mine.

Calling a 3-bet Preflop: 20-1 on the Call

If you raise to $3 preflop and your opponent 3-bets to $10, to call profitably in any situation you each need 20x the call amount ($7) in chips behind, i.e. 20x$7 = $140. If you can pinpoint your opponent’s range as strong, and likely to pay you off very often when you make a set, you can reduce this amount to around 15-1, i.e. $105 left behind. Remember, everything is in flux and is dependent on the various factors mentioned above.

Calling a Standard Preflop Raise

In multi-way pots you don’t need to make a set as often for set mining to be profitable. If your opponent is tight preflop, they will have a stronger hand range and you will probably get paid off more often, while if your opponent is a calling station, you will also get paid off more often.

Ideally you want your opponent to have more than 75 big blinds behind, but there are certain occasions, for example against a poor opponent, when it’s perfectly acceptable to set mine against shorter stacks.

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