The Essence of Set Mining – Playing Low Pairs in Hold’em Poker IDN

Low pocket pairs. Easy to muck yet the key to a goldmine. Most books rightly put them on the list of unplayable, or marginal hands. Yet time and again you will find people playing them, raising them, and making somehow money from them. Admittedly, some of those players are getting lucky, but some have a very specific goal: set mining. That is, a flop on a low pair and a kind of three for playing. If done right it can be lucrative. If done wrong it’s an easy way to lose money.

The Surprise Poker IDN.
Imagine you are Chris Ferguson, it is late 2008 and you are holding pocket aces. To your right Phil Helmuth has raised and Phil Ivey has called. You put in a solid reraise. Helmuth folds and Ivey calls. The flop comes with 5 ♥ 3 ♠ 9 ♣ and Ivey checks. You put in a 2/3 pot bet and Ivey reraises pot. You call and the turn comes 9 ♠, to which Ivey announces all-in.

The problem in such a situation is that Chris has to decide whether Phil has a set or is playing a high pocket pair, queens or kings, aggressively. It’s the most likely Phil has a nine, but it’s possible that he was just making a bluff on the flop. It’d be a rather risky play, but it’s not the player of this caliber for the impossible. In this case Chris is called and lost, but with the pocket aces that the board could not have done wrong.

Small pairs playing in the potential value of this course. If the flop turns up a set there is a huge amount of money to be made. How the flop is played is vitally important, and how it hinges on so much pre-flop action played out. Making this play can be hazardous.

Leading Preflop
In preflop action a small bet with a player may lead a small bet. Maybe 2-3BB. Should they only get callers the flop becomes difficult on the situation. Their opponent could be playing some other small pair or any ace. If the flop does not hit, the low pair is now quite a weak hand. It should be folded versus any reasonable bet. A player who is checked to the last position may make a bluff. That is of course the added position from any hand playing in the added value.

Suppose however that the flop does a show, how should it be played. Consider first that this occurs only 11% of the time. This is important for odds. Pushing too aggressively at this point and knocking out other players will make poor odds. A player putting in a 3BB preflop will need at least 30BB in the pot to be worthwhile long-term. Given a very light action preflop, however, even a modest bet would likely send other players to the muck. Slow-playing is required in this case to make money, but it has free cards giving you the risk of inherent risk.

In this situation a player with a player making a high ace is the best chance of getting paid off. Given the low preflop action they are likely to be a top pairing top kicker. Thought it would be good enough to slow down so they could be betting. A player who flopped a set would rather let their opponent build the pot.

A missed flop, or low preflop action, is a common situation with low pairs. This is the primary reason why most books advise against playing them. If the flop doesn’t make the set then the low pair is likely dominated. If the pair does a set to improve, there is a good chance that the weak pre-flop callers will simply fold any bet.

Raising Preflop
In contrast to a single bet, a reraise preflop relative strength in the player’s hand. Sometimes it may win the pot outright, which in small pairs is a good outcome. The raise also gives you a few more options on the flop. In particular, if the flop is showing only low cards it is possible the other player has improved their hand. Anything less than a high pair and they will fold another bet. Strangely apply these tends to whoever made the raise. A player who calls the reraise is also the announcing strength and flop on similar options.

A player who owns a raised pair of fluffs will likely have a lower pair. In particular if the board is showing any high cards, or even a couple of overcards, the likelihood is simply that the lower pair has lost. In addition to high pairs, the other player could easily have raised or called a medium pair, such as tens or jacks, or a high ace and made pair. Calling a bet is a small pair with a losing proposition.

The most lucrative situation is a high pair of other player holds when set. Again, if they have less than one high pair they will likely fold. But a player who repeatedly folds high pairs will be labeled a coward and often outmanuevered. Thus they are almost compiled to call a bet with a high pair. It is also possible to play against one high community card if the other player has paired up with AQ or AK. Thoughts Caution is advised there are three kings or queens of a reasonable chance.

Courage is also required.

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