One of the biggest misconceptions poker players have about the game is how much your hand matters. While your hand is undoubtedly important, it’s entirely possible to win with a bad hand through bluffing.
Just as it’s possible to win with a bad poker hand, it’s entirely possible to lose with a good one. Some players may think getting a good hand is a guaranteed win, forgetting they still need to play the hand well to get the most value out of it. You need to maximize the potential of your great hands because of how rarely you get them.
One of the best examples of this is flopping a set. Some players may think this wins you the pot outright. Though a set is very strong, there are many things you should be doing to capitalize on its strength. In this poker guide, we’ll outline the various things you should do once you flop a set.
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What is a flopped set?
Flopping a set means creating a three-of-a-kind on the flop from your pocket pair. If you have 7-8 on a flop of 7-7-9, you have a three-of-a-kind but not a set since you didn’t have a pocket pair. A set would be 7-7 on a flop of 7-K-J.
The odds of flopping a set in Texas Holdem are 11.8%, or 7.5-to-one. Sets are incredibly strong hands, all but guaranteeing a win post-flop. Still, as mentioned before, you can’t relax with a good hand. You need to do everything you can to take advantage of its strength.
Flopped set strategy: Play aggressively!
Being aggressive is the best way to get the most value out of any strong hand in poker. Some players think it’s a good idea to slow play, which is playing passively with a strong hand to keep the other players in the pot. While this may sound good on paper, it often fails in practice for two significant reasons.
The first is that slow play relies on the other players betting to build the pot for you. If they are also passive, the pot will be slower on average despite having more players. When you bet, you force players to call if they want to get to the next round, which builds the pot quicker and more reliably than checking and waiting for someone else to bet first.
The second is that slow play often leads to you being outdrawn. This is admittedly less of a problem when you have a set since it’s hard to outdraw a three-of-a-kind unless the board is very conducive for straights and flushes. You have a flopped set, which is already guaranteed value. You don’t need to see how your hand improves on future rounds, so you should bet to ensure players with drawing hands don’t have the chance to see the next rounds for free.
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Flopped set strategy: When to bet and when to check-raise
The check-raise is a very potent move in poker. By checking from an early position, you feign weakness and prompt others from a later position to bet into you. Then, by raising that bet, you can “trap” your opponent’s bet in the pot. This helps you build the pot and put your opponents in a difficult situation, as now, even if they fold, they would have already invested money into the pot with their initial bet.
Check-raising is an incredibly potent strategy when you flop a set. It can be hard to tell when to check-raise and when to bet, so here are a few guidelines on when to do so.
The most significant factor for check-raising versus betting is position. Check-raises can only be done from an early position as if you check from a late position, you simply progress to the next round. Betting out of position is also not recommended, as you lack information and are betting blindly. Betting out of position represents a very strong hand, which could cause your opponents to fold and deny you value from your set. Thus, check-raises are almost always the better play from an early position.
Another time you should check-raise is when the board state favors your opponent. For example, you were the pre-flop aggressor and are now heads-up, acting first. Here, both betting and check-raising are viable, depending on the board. If the board has many high-ranked cards, it favors you since the pre-flop aggressor will likely have high cards like aces or kings. If the board has many low-ranked cards, it favors your opponent who called.
Betting will be a good idea if the board favors you. If you check when the board is in your favor, your opponent will just use that as an opportunity to see the next rounds cheaply. If the board is in your opponent’s favor, check-raising is smarter because they are more likely to bet, seeing your check as a sign of weakness.
Flopped set strategy: Check-calling
Now, you may be wondering when you should ever check-call with a set. After all, wasn’t it just established that the best way to build a pot is by playing aggressively?
While that’s true, there is one scenario where playing passively and check-calling is a better idea than betting. When you’re against a loose-passive player, slow playing your set is fantastic to keep them in the pot.
Loose-aggressive players frequently bet and bluff, so you can count on them to build the pot even if you play passively. If the board favors them, you can trick them into value-betting with a hand like two pair and building the pot for you.
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Learn how to play sets online!
The tips outlined here will help you play flopped sets, but you need to put them into practice. The best way to build experience playing these hands is to play poker online. You can get in more hands in less time and experience rare hands like flopped sets more often.