Set Mining in Poker
What is Set Mining?
Set mining is a poker term that describes a strategy where a player calls with a pocket pair pre-flop with the hope of flopping a set and extracting value from their opponents overpair or top pair type hand.
A few years ago there were many players who did little else and it wasn’t too bad of a strategy as people would stack off frequently with overpairs and hands like top pair top kicker.
Nowadays, good players are looser in general pre-flop, but are much more cautious when stacking off versus someone who plays so tight, so the situations where set mining is profitable have changed somewhat.
Set mining and implied odds
The main idea behind set mining in poker is that you are taking advantage of implied odds to get paid off when you hit your set, which is usually going to be the best hand. If you make no assumptions about your opponents holding, the odds of hitting your set are very close to 7.5 to 1 (which is 1 time in 8.5).
For practical purposes and speed at the tables using 8 to 1 is a good approximation. So what implications does this have?
Well, if you are playing your hand solely for set value then both you and your opponent must have at least 8 times the pre-flop bet for your call to be profitable. For example, if you are playing a game with $1/$2 blinds and your opponent raises to $6, you both need to have at least $48 (six times eight) for your call to be profitable.
This of course assumes that you will always win your opponents whole stack when you hit which is not realistic. Your opponent will not always pay you off and very occasionally you will hit your set and still lose.
For these reasons you need to have more than eight times the raise. The exact number will depend on how often you expect your opponent to pay you off based on his range and tendencies.
When to set mine
When you are facing just one opponent you need your opponent to have a range that will be comfortable calling several bets post flop. Usually this will be when a player has a very tight range which includes premium pocket pairs and hands like ace king.
When there are several callers or limpers pre-flop it is often correct to set mine as you will only need to make one or two more bets after the flop to make the play profitable. This becomes especially true when you are closing the pre-flop action meaning there is no chance someone else can raise, and when you are in the big blind giving you a discount and therefore better odds.
When not to set mine
There are several situations where set mining has lost some value in the last few years. Many players no longer stack off as easily when they flop an overpair or top pair top kicker. A lot of players have started opening wider ranges, especially in later position, meaning that when you do flop a set you are more likely to be up against a marginal hand that will not pay you off enough to make set mining profitable.
On the flip side of this, your pair will be the best hand more often so you can sometimes win the pot unimproved and if you have position on your opponent you will have more wiggle room to outplay your them when you fail to hit your set.
Set over set
Every now and then you will hit a set but run into a bigger set. After getting all the money in and praying for your one outer you will be hating life. In Hold’Em this is just a cooler in most circumstances but in Omaha the chances of someone hitting a bigger set are increased significantly, diminishing the value of set mining with smaller pocket pairs.
Set mining summary
In today’s games there are still situations where calling with pocket pairs solely for set value is still a valuable strategy. However it is usually necessary to win some pots when you fail to hit a set as well.
Pay attention to your opponents ranges and tendencies in different spots and what sort of implied odds you are getting and you should be able to extract the most value out of your small pocket pairs.
For more strategy tips, check out the rest of our Online Poker Strategy articles.