You’re holding a small to medium pair like 44 or 88 and, at long last, the flop brings your card. You’ve got a three-of-a-kind. Now what? How do you play your set?
A lot of players aren’t sure what to do here because they’re afraid that they won’t get paid off. They want to disguise their hand so they check, hoping that their opponents will either bluff or value bet with a worse hand like top pair. Then they spring the trap at the end.
This isn’t the best way to maximize the value of a set. Let’s go over how to get the most out of these spots.
Sets are great hands. They’re monsters. Since they’re so valuable, you want to get the most out of them—and the best way to do that is to play big pots.
Here’s the point: don't slow-play these hands. Even if you’re out of position or against many people, get aggressive and put your chips in the pot. If you don’t start building a pot early, then you won’t get a big payout later.
Sets can win other people’s stacks. So, if the stars align and we get a set against someone who has a good hand that isn’t quite as good as ours, then we can find a golden opportunity to win a big pot.
Winning these big pots sometimes is much more valuable than winning small pots more often.
Protecting Your Range
Betting your sets also protects your range. It’s a key component of balanced play. You need to be willing to bet big on your good hands to give your bluffs and draws credibility when you bet with them later.
Nobody will fold to your check-raise if you only make this play with flush and straight draws. By doing so with both your bluffs and your monster hands, your opponents won’t know which hand to put you on and it will make playing against you that much harder.
Of course, balanced play means that there are times when you need to check your sets. After all, we can’t make the same moves in the same situations all the time, or else we become predictable.
If the board is particularly dry and we don’t think our opponent is likely to have a made hand that could call our bet, then we might want to check. Otherwise, especially on wet boards, get the chips in the middle and start building that big pot!