A set is a pocket pair that has connected with the community cards to make three-of-a-kind. For example, if you have pocket sevens and the flop is jack-seven-three, you have a set of sevens.
A set in any poker game is a very strong hand.
What Are the Odds of Flopping a Set?
The chances of hitting a set on the flop are right around 12%, but when a set comes in, they are often profitable because of how disguised they can be.
The Different Types of Sets (Texas Hold’em Example)
Let’s look at the difference between top set, middle set, and bottom set.
For example, when playing a Texas hold’em game (any version: no-limit hold’em, pot-limit hold’em, limit hold’em) pretend you were dealt two tens (in this scenario, the suits of the cards don’t matter). After the pre-flop betting has concluded, it’s time for the flop. Let’s say the flop comes 10-6-4. Congrats, you have flopped the “top” set, meaning it’s not possible for anyone remaining in the hand to have a higher set than you.
Now, using the same pocket 10’s, pretend the flop comes 10-Q-4. In this example, you would now have the “middle” set. It’s a middle set because it’s possible that if an opponent’s hole cards are two queens, they would have the best possible set, or, top set.
Once again, using your pocket 10’s, the flop comes A-K-10. Because your set is made from the lowest ranked card on the flop, it is known as the “bottom” set, because both a set of aces and kings can beat you.
Pointing out the differences in the types of sets is important because it is quite possible to lose to a set, while you also have a set. For example, a “top set” would obviously beat both a “middle” and “bottom” set. A set of any kind is generally a very strong poker hand.
The (Semantic) Difference Between a Set and Trips
What can be confusing is that while a set can be called “trips” (meaning three, because you have a three-of-a-kind hand), they are only called a set when both of your dealt cards are the same. That means if you are dealt K-7, and the flop comes K-K-4, you have “trip” kings (or, three kings), but not a set of kings. Don’t worry, if you accidently call “trip” kings a set, no one will laugh you out of the poker room.
A set can become an even more powerful and profitable hand if the board pairs. Going back to our pocket 10’s, pretend the board runs out either 10-8-7-A-10 or 10-8-8-A-7. In the first board you would have quads (four-of-a-kind) and on the second board you would now have a full house.
Sets in Omaha Poker
In Omaha games, where you are dealt four cards, the same principle applies to sets. If two of your four cards match, and one of those cards appear on the flop, turn, or river, you have a set.
What is Set Mining?
A popular poker strategy is called “set mining.” Set mining occurs when a player calls with their pocket pair, hoping to spike (i.e. make) a “set” on the flop. Remember that because the flop, turn, and river are known as community cards, it’s entirely possible for more than one player to have a set, known as set over set. Set-mining is usually best reserved for when the implied odds are strongly in your favor.
As mentioned, sets are only flopped around 12% of the time, so when they do come in, they are generally a very strong hand in both cash games and tournaments. Because it is very hard for poker players to fold a top pair or two-pair hand , when set-mining is successful, it will very often leave you with the best hand at showdown.
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