It’s a $4-$8 limit hold’em game. You are seated in a middle position and dealt a pair of 10’s. Several others and you stay to see the flop. You are hoping to catch a third 10 that matches your pocket pair for a “set.” Note: “Trips” occur when the flop includes a pair that matches one of your hole cards. Both are three-of-a-kind.
The advantage of a set is it is much less obvious to your opponents and gives you a great opportunity to build the pot you expect to win even if your hand does not improve on the turn or on the river – as is usually the case.
Starting with a pocket pair, the odds are about 8-to-1 against flopping a set. It does happen; so be prepared. At that point, your goal is to maximize the pot. The higher the value of your set, the better for you, of course. There is always a chance (remote) another player could flop a higher set than yours. That would be very costly. A smart player would look for tells that his opponent may inadvertently offer. Best of all, if your set represents the highest one possible, you are sitting on top of the world. All the more reason to try to build the pot. Maximize your wins!
Do not act in haste. There are many factors to consider – lots of questions to ask yourself – whether to check, bet or raise on the flop. Don’t raise just because you are certain your set is the top hand at that point. After all, your goal is to win as many chips as possible – not just to win hands.
What is the texture of the game? If it’s a tight game, your bet might force out all of the enemy; then, you would not be able to build your pot. (Avoid very tight tables with few if any loose players. Change tables first chance you get.)
If it has been checked to you on the flop, ask yourself if this a good spot to check-raise? Usually not. There must be several loose players in the hand for that to be a wise decision; otherwise, just call along – slow-play. It would be better to check-raise on the turn after the pot has grown more attractive.
In a typical loose-aggressive game, if someone bets before you on the flop it’s natural to consider making a raise with your set. But, before doing so, ask yourself: Would all the remaining players muck their cards? You can’t win much money if that happens. So, think twice before acting. Slow-playing at this point may be the wisest decision.
Also, consider your image. How will your opponents judge your bet? A tight image will work against your goal to maximize the pot. Many opponents will fold unless they have a made hand or a strong draw. On the other hand, a loose image will encourage callers. That’s what you want right now.
Before you must declare from your middle position, note how many opponents have bet/called to see the turn. Then, peek to your left to see if any players behind you are gathering their chips to call. (That’s a good tell.)
At this point, you would prefer to have two or three opponents stay in the pot. With only one or two opponents calling, your raise from a middle position on the flop would likely force too many opponents behind you to muck their hands – while those who call your raise would become more cautious for the rest of the hand. Hardly the way to maximize your win.
On the other hand, if three or more opponents have already called the bet, so the pot is getting big, your raise is less likely to chase them out. And, seeing such a large pot, your opponents will be more inclined to call your bets and raises on the turn and river – as you maximize your win.