Playing Sets on the Flop in No Limit Hold'em

The best hope for strengthening a small pocket pair on the flop is to make a set. This only happens once out of every seven times, and players often run into difficulties even when they do flop a set. There are quite a few situations where a set is very tricky to play, and we plan on covering each of them in this article.

Some tough spots with a set include flopping a set when the board is dangerous, and disguising a set so you can actually get paid off. This article will cover both of those topics, and more.

Flopping a Set on a Dangerous Board

Flopping a set can be pretty bitter-sweet when the board also contains three to a straight or three to a flush. You would like to slow play your set and lull your opponents into a trap, but you have to also protect your hand from suck-outs on the turn or river.

If You Act First

If you are first to act on the flop, we recommend firing out a pot-sized bet. This will deter your opponents from chasing a straight or flush draw, and will also establish you as the aggressor in the hand. If your opponents flat call, watch out on the turn and river if the draw card hits. A flat call is a pretty clear indication that the player has a marginal hand and is chasing a better one.

If one of your opponents raises your pot-sized bet, you have a decision to make: If you think your opponent has a made hand, such as top pair or two pair, you should call then fire out again on the river. If you think your opponent is drawing to a flush or a straight, we recommend pushing all-in to force them out of the hand. A re-raise is rarely a bad play here - and if you run into a straight or flush, there isn't much you can do except hope the board pairs.

If You Act Last

If you aren't first to act, there are two situations that can arise: either your opponents check to you, or someone bets into you. If the other players check to you, fire out a pot-sized bet just like before. If someone bets into you, we recommend making a pot-sized raise to discourage them from drawing, and to induce action if they have a lesser made hand (such as top pair or two pair).

To make ourselves clear, we never recommend folding a set on the flop. Even if you have a slight suspicion that the other player has the made hand, you are still better off getting your money in the pot. Odds are they don't have it, and even if they do, you have outs to make a full house.

Getting Paid Off With a Set

Since sets are the biggest money making hands in poker, it is important to know how to extract as many chips as possible from your opponent(s) when you flop a set. It is rare that he or she has also flopped a big hand, so follow these instructions to build the largest pot possible:

Let's take a look at a hand to show an example. Imagine that you have pocket sevens in late position, and someone in early position makes a raise to 4x the big blind. Two people in front of you call, and since you have great pot odds and position, you also call the raise. The flop comes down Ac-Jh-7h. Although this looks like a great flop, you still need to take caution. Since two players called the initial raise, its likely they have hands like QK or K10 which leaves them with gut-shot straight draws. Also, the hearts are scary, because a flush dominates your hand.

If the initial raiser comes out firing, and one of the limpers calls the bet, you need to raise, and raise big. Your hand is very susceptible to draws in this situation, so even an all-in bet would be justified. Although I'm sure you'd love to slow play your monster hand, it is simply too risky in this situation.

Let's look at another flop (same situation). If the board comes out Ah-7c-2d, you're in great shape to win a big pot. It's likely that one of the three players in front of you holds an Ace, if not two pair with A-7 or A-2. If someone bets in front of you on this flop, you should just call and hope that they improve their hand on the turn so you can really lock them in. The reason you shouldn't raise this flop is because a hand like A-Q may be able to get away from the hand on the flop, but if the turn brings a Queen its almost guaranteed that you're going to take all their money.

More Specific No Limit Hold'em Strategies: