Poker Strategy – Set Mining Part 3

This article includes excerpts from the latest Dimat release, The Math of Hold’em, by Collin Moshman and Douglas Zare.

This is the Part Three of a three-part series looking at set-mining. In Part One, we looked at what could go wrong when set-mining. You could be three-bet behind you forcing you to fold, you might lose set-over-set, you could be outdrawn, and in those cases when you do hit a set, your opponent will often fold in a big pot. In Part Two, we looked at the conditions which allow you to set-mine profitably. In this final part, we summarize with some tips for set-mining and then look at how to combat set-miners.

Set-Mining Tips

Here are a few helpful guidelines to remember about set-mining:

  • Don’t overestimate the value of set-mining. Don’t confuse fun with profit.
  • Determine whether you can profitably semibluff with your draws.
  • Don’t call more than about 8 percent of the effective stack depth for set value alone, and only more than about 6.5 percent in highly favorable conditions.
  • Don’t call for set value against a player with wide ranges unless they are wild enough that they are likely to bluff all-in.
  • Do overcall more frequently for set value than you would call. In multiway pots, it is harder for a player with one good pair to avoid losing a lot to a set, and there are more players who might pay you off.
  • When you do flop a set, usually aim for your opponent’s stack instead of trying to save your stack in case you are behind a higher set, or induce bluffs. A set is usually too strong to play as a bluff-catcher.
  • Try to have other ways to win than flopping a set. Consider which flops are favorable enough that you can try to catch continuation bets made with unimproved overcards, and when you will have profitable opportunities to take the pot away unimproved.
  • Play more middle pairs than low pairs, since middle pairs make more straights and straight draws, and much more frequently win unimproved.
  • Try to play in position. This helps you to win more when you flop a set, and it helps you to win a few more pots unimproved.

Combating Set-Miners

If your opponents are set-mining, how do you defeat them? In general, you don’t have to change your strategy to exploit someone using a losing strategy, such as set-mining when they shouldn’t. You can let them continue to execute this strategy and lose. However, set-miners are often good targets for active exploitation.

Raise a wide range after a set-miner limps in. Remember that a set-miner has an information disadvantage, and will often fold the best hand to a continuation bet.

If someone is known to raise with low pairs, re-raise with a wide range. A common mistake is to call re-raises with low pairs. Usually, the implied odds are not good enough even against a tight three-betting range. On the other hand, low pairs are usually not great candidates for four-betting, since they don’t have much blocking power, and they don’t do well against a tight range.

Squeeze more often when a set-miner has called a raise and limp-re-raise more often, too. When someone calls raises with speculative hands, they are betting that no one will re-raise. As long as the initial raiser is not too tight, you should be able to re-raise profitably with a wider range.

Make more continuation bets. Low and medium pocket pairs suffer from an information disadvantage in most pots. They don’t know whether you have hit, but you do. When someone has a bluff-catcher with multiple streets of betting and a significant amount of chips behind, they lose most of the value of their hand. If they occasionally catch some bluffs, they will also sometimes pay off a big pair, and they will get outdrawn often even when they were ahead on the flop.

You shouldn’t make as many continuation bets in three-way pots with air as you do in heads-up pots. However, when a set-miner is in the pot, this will tend to make your continuation bets more profitable, since you know the set-miner will rarely want to contest a multiway pot unimproved. The third player in the pot will tend to respect your continuation bets more because you bet into multiple players.

Don’t play as many large pots with draws or one pair. Sets are disguised, and it is possible to represent a set on most flops. However, you can use game theory to decide whether to call a raise. A mixed strategy of calling some of the time and folding some of the time can significantly reduce the implied odds you offer while not leaving yourself vulnerable to being bluffed profitably.

Avoid calling large river bets from set-miners. Many players bluff infrequently when they have showdown value. Someone with a low pocket pair will often try to show it down against missed overcards, sometimes by checking, and sometimes with a small blocking bet. When someone starts with a range which is weighted toward pocket pairs, they have fewer hands than normal with no showdown value on the river, so they tend to bluff much less often on the river than a typical opponent.

Don’t think you have to protect your hand from every draw. Pocket pairs rarely flop big draws. On a flop of J 9 6, someone whose range includes hands like A 5 or Q T or 6 5 can be behind a good pair, but can have a lot of outs. A player whose range is only low pocket pairs either has one pair crushed, or has only 2 outs (sometimes with a weak backdoor draw).

Be more inclined to slow-play a high set. If you flop top set, it rarely hurts to give a set-miner a free card. This will often mean you get more value from an unimproved low pair, and you give that pair a chance to improve to a losing set.