And I don't think I even need to tell you how low the odds are of hitting that!
So in this article I am going to talk about what to do on those rare occasions in poker when you get set over set. Is there any way to get away and not go broke in these situations?
Set Over Set is Exceedingly Rare
First off it should be noted that getting set over set is an extremely rare occurrence in poker.
In fact, the math suggests that somebody will flop a higher set than you in a full ring cash game once every 7.8k hands. It is even more rare in a 6max game, where it will only happen once every 12.6k hands.
This is why set over set is commonly referred to as a "cooler". That is, a hand that is simply an unlucky break and pretty much everybody is going to lose all their money.
Let's assume for a moment that you do in fact put all of your money in the middle every time you are set over set. As we know, you will lose the vast, vast majority of the time.
However, it is important to note that you are going to cooler somebody else (by set over setting them) once every 7.8k or 12.6k hands as well. And believe me, they are almost surely going broke against you too.
So the key takeaway here is that set over set situations are exceedingly rare and pretty much everybody goes broke when they happen.
This makes the whole debate of whether or not you should always go broke when they happen a bit pointless.
This is because even if you stick all the money in the middle every single time this situation arises, your opponents are going to do the same when you happen to have the higher set.
So therefore, in the long run this is pretty much a neutral EV (expected value) situation.
Should You Always Go Broke With a Set?
Bet let's address the question or whether or not you should always lose all your money with a dominated set anyways.
Because we should always be looking for an edge in poker no matter how small especially in today's tighter games.
If we can successfully make a good fold with a lower set even just once every 10 times it happens, then we can turn this into a positive EV long term situation for ourselves and a negative EV one for our opponents.
This in turn will directly impact your bb/100 (also known as your winrate) in a positive way, which is the most important thing in this game.
But should you ever really fold a set especially at the lower limits where there are so many wild and crazy players?
Well, folding a set should definitely be an exceedingly rare event. In fact, the only time you should ever really be folding a set is when one or both of the following conditions are true:
- You are against a tight/passive opponent who is giving you big action
- The community cards allow for a lot of other nut hands (straights, flushes etc.)
The most important factor in nearly every decision in poker is the player type that you are up against. I am simply not going to be folding a set versus any fish or aggressive regs unless the board is absolutely ridiculously bad for me (e.g., four flush).
Because these player types have way too many hands in their range (and even total bluffs) that my set is miles ahead of.
And in the case of recreational players in particular, they tend to think about hand strengths incorrectly anyways. For instance, they will often massively over-value a hand like top pair.
Secondly, the board texture (especially by the river) is hugely important if I am ever going to consider folding a set.
On a dry uncoordinated board like:
There is very little chance that I ever fold because there are no possible straights or flushes that could beat me.
However on a board like:
There are multiple straights and flushes that could beat me and therefore it is easier to get away.
Lastly, you will sometimes encounter a crazy board like:
Where there are so many ways for you to be beat that folding your set to a big bet is almost trivial.
When Would I Really Consider Folding a Set?
Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis though (or has checked out either of my books) knows that my whole poker game and strategy is heavily based around playing the player.
So assuming the board doesn't go totally crazy like in the last example above, the main determining factor for me is often a tight/passive player type. We have all seen these kinds of players at the micros.
Their stats might look something like this:
|Typical nitty 6max regular|
The numbers in blue are VPIP/PFR/AF. This is a typical tight/passive 6max regular. A VPIP of 18 indicates a tight player and an AF of 2 is definitely on the passive side.
This is essentially the type of player who picks his spots carefully and is very cautious at the poker tables. So you would be well advised to give them some credit when they start tossing the chips around.
By the way, for a complete breakdown of what each stat above means, check out my complete HUD setup article.
Another thing that is important to remember is that these types of players will typically be the ones who are playing on many different tables at once.
So when they wake up out of the blue and suddenly start giving you big time action, this is when the alarm bells need to start going off. They didn't just randomly pick you on one of their 16 tables to suddenly run a wild bluff against.
But still, should we really fold a set especially on a dry uncoordinated board like the first one above? To be honest, if it is just heads up with me and one of these tight/passive opponents, I am still going broke most of the time.
The reason why is that at the lower stakes I still believe that enough wacky stuff can be going on for me to be ahead sometimes. They can be overvaluing a hand like an overpair for instance. Also, it is just really damn hard to fold a set!
Something that is also extremely important to note here is the type of set we have. On a dry uncoordinated board I am never folding middle set. Top set is quite literally the best hand possible so that obviously never gets folded either.
The reason why I am always willing to felt middle set in this spot is because my opponent has an equal chance of having a higher set or a lower one. And this is not even to mention a whole host of other non-set hands that I destroy.
So, if I am ever going to fold a set (which is exceedingly rare), it will only ever be bottom set.
The One Situation Where it is Correct to Fold a Set
Ok so enough build up!
Is there actually a specific spot in poker where you can correctly make an incredible fold with your bottom set versus a higher set on a harmless board?
Yes. There is one.
This is the extremely rare situation where you are up against multiple tight/passive opponents with bottom set on a dry uncoordinated flop. Furthermore, before the action even gets to you there is a CBet by the preflop raiser and a raise by one of the preflop callers.
As crazy as it might sound, this is a situation where if you continue on in the hand there is a good chance that you will be shown a higher set by the flop raiser.
The key thing to remember here is the player type. Simply ask yourself why a tight/passive player would make the insanely aggressive move of raising the preflop raiser (with more people left to act behind as well!) on a completely harmless board like:
I will tell you why. It is because his 99 or 55 has your 22 absolutely crushed.
I gotta be honest though, even in a somewhat obvious spot like this, I don't always make the right fold. It is especially hard at the lower limits because I just assume that everyone is bad until I am proven otherwise.
However, this is a rare situation that you might want to be on the look out for. As difficult as it might appear at first, being good enough to fold bottom set here can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Set over set situations are one of the most common types of hands that you will see posted on poker forums in particular. This is because everybody wants to know if they should have gotten away.
Often they really just want to hear those four magic words to soothe their pain "it's just a cooler".
And to be honest, it is just a cooler in the vast, vast majority of cases. To go around routinely folding sets (especially at the lower limits) is a serious mistake that will negatively affect your winrate in a big way.
And also, it is important to remember that even on the rare occasions that you are behind to a straight or a flush, you still have 10 outs to a full house or quads. This is by no means an insignificant amount of equity.
So to answer the age old question of whether or not you should always go broke when you are set over set, the answer is yes in the vast majority of cases.
As I discussed above this situation is extremely rare and most of your opponents are always going broke when the roles are reversed as well. Therefore, even if you decided to stick all the money in the middle every single time, it would be close to neutral EV in the end.
However, there might be one or two rare spots where a couple of tight/passive nits are in a raising war in front of you and you have bottom set on a dry and uncoordinated flop. I am not saying that you should always fold here but alarm bells should be going off at the very least.
Let me know in the comments below how you approach set over set situations. Are you able to make a sick fold in these spots sometimes?
New Here? If you want to learn my complete strategy for crushing the micros then make sure to check out my Start Here page. Also, make sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more top strategy advice and my free ebook!