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Set-Mining — Part III

Tips, and combating set-miners

by Matthew Hilger |  Published: Jul 13, 2011


Matthew Hilger
_This column includes excerpts from the book The Math of Hold’em, by Collin Moshman and Douglas Zare. _
This is Part III of a three-part series on set-mining. In Part I, we looked at what could go wrong when set-mining. You could be three-bet behind you, forcing you to fold, you might lose a set-over-set scenario, you could be outdrawn, and in those cases that you hit a set, your opponent will often fold in a big pot. In Part II, we looked at the conditions that enable you to set-mine profitably. In this final part, I will 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 or not 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 more than about 6.5 percent only in highly favorable conditions.
• Don’t call for set value against a player with wide ranges unless he is wild enough to likely 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 flop a set, usually aim for your opponent’s stack instead of trying to save your stack in case you are behind to a higher set, or to 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 medium pairs than low pairs, since medium 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 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 players who are 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 with 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, reraise with a wide range. A common mistake is to call reraises 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 don’t do well against a tight range.

Squeeze more often when a set-miner has called a raise, and limp-reraise more often, too. When players call raises with speculative hands, they are betting that no one will reraise. As long as the initial raiser is not too tight, you should be able to reraise 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 or not you have hit, but you do. When someone has a bluff-catcher with multiple streets of betting and a significant amount of chips behind, he loses most of the value of his hand. If he occasionally catches some bluffs, he will also sometimes pay off a big pair, and will get outdrawn often, even when he was 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 or not to call a raise. A mixed strategy of calling sometimes and folding sometimes can significantly reduce the implied odds that 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 that is weighted toward pocket pairs, he has fewer hands than normal with no showdown value on the river, so he tends to bluff much less often on the river than a typical opponent would.
Don’t think that 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 the A♠ 5♠, Q♥ 10♥, 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 two 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 that you’ll get more value from an unimproved low pair, and you’ll give that pair a chance to improve to a losing set. ♠

_Matthew is the owner of Dimat Enterprises, “Publishing Today’s Best Poker Books.” The latest Dimat release, The Math of Hold’em by Collin Moshman and Douglas Zare, is available now at _