Three of a Kind - Flopped a Set

by Jesse Knight


Poker Set
Set - Three of a kind specifically composed of two hole cards and one card from the board.

In a Hold’em game, when a player holds a pocket pair and matches it with one of the community cards on the board, he holds a specific type of three-of-a-kind hand, known as a “set.” Another way a player can make three-of-a-kind in a Hold’em game is when they hold two unpaired hole cards, and they match one of them to a pair on the board. This type of three-of-a-kind holding is commonly referred to as “trips.”

Hold’em players differentiate between these two different ways to make three-of-a-kind, because the hands typically play out quite differently, and it is appropriate to think about them as separate categories of hands. One important area where a set and trips differ is in value to the holder. While it is possible to win or lose large pots with either hand, a set is regarded as generally being more valuable than trips, especially trips with a weak kicker.

Trips with a weak kicker can be a real problem hand, because it will lose much more frequently than trips with top kicker or a set. Often when you lose you will be heavily to moderately invested into the pot, making it frequently expensive to lose. Trips with no kicker may or may not have value depending upon the situation. If you hold trips with no kicker against a pair or two pairs, you are a substantial favorite to win the hand. If you are up against a flush or a straight draw, you will often be a small favorite to win the hand. If your opponent holds trips with a better kicker, or a set, you are usually a big underdog.

Trips with a good kicker, especially the top kicker, is a far more valuable hand than trips with a bad kicker, especially in games with unstructured betting (no limit and pot-limit). The main advantage that trips with a good kicker has over trips with a bad kicker is its heads up dominance. When two different players make three of a kind at the same time, by each matching one of their hole cards to a pair on the board, a big pot often ensues. In this heads up match, the hand with the higher kicker dominates, as it is often the difference between the two hands at showdown.

But all trip hands, even trips with top kicker have a major disadvantage over a set. This is the fact that it is fairly easy to read an opponent for a set, because a pair is on the board, and a set can easily be completed with one card. In this environment, trips are frequently in play, and a large bet is a pretty good indicator of it. This can make it difficult to get paid off or win a big pot when you have trips. Their presence is just too obvious.

This is one reason a set is more valuable than trips. A set is concealed, because two of the three cards are coming from a pocket pair, and only one card is used from the board. This can make it hard to read an opponent for a set, because a when an opponent holds a set, his large bet is not related to the texture of the board. Often, you are able to get some idea about what a bettor likely holds, based on the assumption that what he is betting is similar in texture to the texture of the board. This is not the case when your opponent holds a set, since he completes it with only one card from the board, there are no textural clues.

Since you frequently will not receive any clues from the board that your opponent has a set, you will have to rely on physical tell and logic. When your opponent bets or raises a large amount, they will often have a very strong hand. A set is a very strong hand you should always consider as a possibility. It is especially dangerous when there is a large bet or raise against a raiser who has previously shown strength or a large bet or raise in the face of an unrelated, incongruous board.

Another reason a set is more valuable than trips is once again, its heads up dominance. In order for one or more players to make trips, the board must be paired. If another player had a set, they would now have a full house, and a full house beats trips. In a heads up match between trips and a set which has filled, the full house dominates. Depending upon how large the set is, the trips can have as few as one out. As you can see, the set has the advantage of both stealth and power, which makes it in general, a more valuable holding than trips.

The terminology “set” is also used in stud games and draw games. In these games, you will sometimes hear a set referred to as a “wire.” In a stud game, if a player receives a set on his first three cards (third street), it is referred to as being “rolled up.”

Usage: Flopped A Set, Spiked A Set

Previous Poker Term: Semi-Bluff
Next Poker Term: Shark


Popular Articles:
Online Poker Tells
Poker Expectation
Playing Pocket Pairs
Basic Loose Aggressive LAG Poker Strategy
Basic Tight Aggressive TAG Poker Strategy
Sit N Go Strategy - Part 1: Early Stages
Sit and Go Tournaments - Part 2: Middle Stages
Single Table Tournament Strategy - Part 3 End Game



(c) Shirley Rosario

More Poker Tips

Poker Journal

Steve Badger