Well the name of the game is getting your money in when you`re a big favorite

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Playing Sets

Why do we, or why should we, love sets so much? Well the name of the game is getting your money in when you`re a big favorite, and when you have a set you are usually a huge favorite. How big a favorite? Well, if you hit a set against an overpair and get all your money in on flop, you`re about a 9-1 favorite. If someone is willing to put all their money in with AdKc on a Ah-5s-6s flop against your set of sixes, they will be about a 49-1 dog. Think about that, how often can you get your money in as a 49-to-1 favorite?

When I hit the set of sixes in the above example and someone bets into me. I?m going to put in a stiff raise most of the time. I think most players slowplay their sets way too often. Start to think about things this way: if you can, even occasionally, get your opponents to put in all their money on the flop when they are a monstrous dog, you can make up for a hell of a lot of ?mistakes? — times when you get your money in as a small to modest dog.

It somehow feels right to hold off until the turn to raise with a set, but it?s often a terrible mistake. Of course, you need to take this line sometimes to mix things up, but in general there are a few problems with it. First, many times, your decision to just call your opponents bet on the flop opens you open to a scenario where you can?t possibly win more money but you could lose your whole stack. If I bet the flop with 99 and you call with a set of sixes on the Ah-5s-6s flop, you`re in a world of trouble if a nine hits on the turn. The same is true if I bet out with 7h9c and the 8 hits the turn. I wasn?t going to call your raise with a gutshot, but when the 8 hits the turn, I?m happy to take all your money.

Second. there will of course be times when your opponent flops a strong hand (this includes big draws) and you want to extract maximum value. In general, if you have a strong hand and you put your opponent on a strong hand, the flop is the best place to extract value. Especially on a board that has strong drawing potential, your opponent will assign a much wider range of hands to a flop raise than to a turn raise. If you call your opponents flop bet and then pop him on the turn, alarm bells will go off and he might well muck AK.

If I raise the flop, my opponents will put me on a wide range of hands, or at least they should — if they don?t, then they?re going to be losing a lot of money because I?m frequently going to be putting in a stiff raise with nothing (9c10h, say) or with a draw of some kind. This brings out the third reason why you should be fast-playing your sets — you`re opponents need to know that your flop raises are credible, meaning that your flop raise should often mean that you are ready and willing to put your whole stack in. In general, you should be raising flops when a) you have every intention of putting all your money in if your opponent pops you or b) you have no doubt at all that you will be mucking if your opponent pops you. You want to avoid scenarios where you raise and then have to puzzle for half a minute about what to do when your opponent pops you. I`ve discussed how I like to play sets once I`ve hit them. A separate issue is determining when it makes sense to play a small- or mid-pair in attempt to hit a set. I have two strong views on this. First, the idea of limping in early position with small pairs to mid-pairs is usually sheer idiocy. Second, even when you have position, you can?t call too often with small- to mid- pars in an attempt to hit a set unless you are occasionally going to play your hand strongly when you miss the flop. If you, for instance, call a pre-flop raise from John Phan with 33 on the button, your strategy on the flop better not be ?hit a set or fold?. If it is, John will very much like playing with you because seven times in eight he?ll bet and you?ll fold, and the most of the times you hit, he won?t have anything and won?t pay you with more than a flop bet. What if you hit a set and you are behind? Most of the time, the answer is: you lose all your money. There are, of course, going to be cases where it?s obvious that your set is no good. If the flop comes 9-T-J rainbow in a four-way raised pot, and there is a bet and two raises before it gets to you, then you can go ahead and muck your set of nines. They?re no good. At the Foxwoods $10k tournament last March, I was at a table with Erik Seidel and two of the tournament chip leaders. It was day two and there were maybe seventy players left. I won?t get the action precisely right here, but pre-flop one of the chip leaders raises in mid-position and the other re-raises from the button. The flop comes T-J-6 rainbow and the mid-position player bets out for 20000 (roughly the size of the pot). The player on the button called the flop bet and then the turn brought a Q. The mid-position player bet 65,000 to put himself all-in and the other player went into the tank. He thought for literally five minutes and then he announced that he was going to make a big laydown. He then mucked a set of queens! During the break, Erik Seidel excitedly told blank blank about what must have been one of the worst laydowns he?d ever seen. Tournaments generally aren?t the place for fancy laydowns.



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