Who doesn’t love the feeling you get when you flop a set? When it happens, all you can think about is Vegas and the f-in Mirage.
But not every flopped set is the same. There are different factors that shape the way you should play your sets. In this article, I’ll explain how to approach playing sets in 8 specific situations (assuming 100 big blind stacks and no antes).
Note: This article covers how to play sets when you flop one. If you want to learn when and when not to chase a set with a pocket pair before the flop, read our guide to set mining.
Situation #1 – You’ve raised first in and are now heads-up in position
It’s simple: ALWAYS BET!
The reasoning here is that you have a super high equity hand with which you should want to build as big of a pot as possible. Checking would typically result in smaller pots won, on average.
Example: You raise preflop from the cutoff with 7♥ 7♣ and the big blind calls. The flop comes J♣ 7♠ 4♠. When the big blind checks (as she often will), you should always bet with your set.
Situation #2 – You’ve raised first in and are now heads-up out of position
Things are a bit more complicated here. The correct strategy in this scenario depends on the positions of both players, or more precisely, what ranges are involved.
You’ll want to be more aggressive when the board has a broadway card or two. But when the board is lower and more connected, you’ll want to play more trickier and go for the check-raise.
On higher boards, you have the advantage as the preflop raiser, which allows you to bet frequently. While on the lower boards, the cold-caller usually has the upper hand, which forces you to check to them with a protected range.
Example: You raise preflop from the hijack with 5♥ 5♠ and the cutoff calls. If the flop comes K♠ T♦ 5♦, you should probably bet. If the flop comes 8♠ 5♣ 4♣, you should be more likely to check (and then raise versus a bet).
Situation #3 – You’ve called a preflop raise and are now heads-up out of position
This usually happens when you defend your big blind, and we’ll keep it simple here too: ALWAYS CHECK-RAISE!
The reasoning is the same as in scenario #1. You have a very high equity hand with which you want to put in as much money as possible into the pot.
There are some counter-arguments to this line of thought, specifically if playing against an opponent capable of exponentially building the pot himself (aka overbetting turns and rivers). But even then, it’s preferable to check-raise more often than to check-call.
Example: You defend your big blind with 2♠ 2♦ versus a raise from the player in the cutoff. The flop comes 9♠ 8♦ 2♥. Go for frequent check-raises in this spot.
Situation #4 – You’ve called a preflop raise and are now heads-up in position
If you’ve been paying attention to the explanations so far you can guess what I am about to write: ALWAYS RAISE.
You want to build the pot ASAP to take down a massive juicy pot, regardless of whether the cards get shown or not.
Example: The player in the cutoff raises and you call on the button with 6♠ 6♣. The flop comes J♠ 8♣ 6♥. If the cutoff bets, you should raise. If he checks, you should bet.
Note: Want to know how to play every hand in every common preflop situation? Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Lock your seat now!
Situation #5 – You 3-bet in position and your opponent called (heads-up)
No, no, I’m just kidding of course. You should usually bet to build the pot with your strong hand, just like before.
There are some instances, however, in which you will want to check back.
Specifically, consider checking back when the board is low and very connected — something like 865 two-tone. On these boards, the player who called the 3-bet has a pretty big advantage. For this reason, you should check back (at least some of the time) with a hand like 88 or 66.
Example: The hijack raises and you 3-bet in the cutoff with 88. If the flop comes K♥ 8♦ 7♠, you should always bet when checked to. On a flop like 8♠ 6♥ 5♦, however, you should check back at a decent frequency to protect your range and induce action from the hijack on later streets.
Situation #6 – You’ve 3-bet and you’re now playing heads-up out of position
Playing without position is always trickier. You should be mostly betting, but some boards favor the caller.
When the board favors the caller, you should lean towards a more passive approach. We’re talking about the same types of boards as previously mentioned — the low, very connected ones. You should be checking at a super-high frequency on such boards because the player in position can have sets that you cannot have (such as 66, 55, 44, etc.).
Situation #7 – You’ve called a 3-bet and you’re now playing heads-up in position
There are a couple of reasons to prefer the passive play:
- The player who 3-bet will generally have the range advantage. Just calling allows your opponent to continue leveraging his range advantage on the turn by bluffing or value betting thinly.
- The stack-to-pot ratio is pretty low, so getting all-in by the river is feasible without raising on the flop.
By just calling, you protect the weaker parts of your range and can navigate the turn more effectively. You can raise all-in versus a turn bet on wet boards, or sneakily call again when the board doesn’t look too dangerous.
Example: You raise from the button and call a 3-bet versus the small blind with 88. The flop comes J♠ 8♥ 3♠. Lean towards a check-call on this flop.
Situation #8 – You’ve called a 3-bet and you’re now playing heads-up out of position
You ought to be check-raising every single time in this final scenario.
You are out of position, which means you are at a strategic disadvantage. The in position player has much more control over what size the pot will be after each street.
For this reason, you should check-raise with your strongest hands every time, along with some semi-bluffs. You should even check-raise some middling hands to deny the in position player his equity realization with the weaker parts of his range.
Example: You raise from the hijack and call a 3-bet versus the button with 99. The flop comes Q♠ 9♣ 7♠. Go for the check-raise in this spot.
Boom! A crash course on how to play with your flopped set.
This article should help you make the correct decision in almost any spot. If you enjoyed this article or you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below!
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
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