Should You Ever Fold A Set?

Today’s hand history question comes from Eugene. Eugene just wants me to review this hand played with 99 in a live game. This hand was played at $2/$5, there’s a limp and Hero decides to limp behind. I would say this is my first issue with the hand. I really would prefer the hero be the one raising here to something like 30 bucks and go forward from there. You can raise a little bit larger if you want to. Isolate seat 5, fight for the button, and go from there. Don’t limp and try to create a million way pot, as your hand is way too strong to do that. If you have something like 33, I’m not going to fault you for limping behind. When you have something as strong as 99, I think you really want to be in here playing aggressive and taking control.

As played, there’s a raise to $25, a call, a call and the hero decides to call as well. Villain in this hand, who’s the button, is described as a relatively solid regular who doesn’t get aggro too often without a real hand. Eugene says, “I think his raising range is pretty strong.”

The flop comes down 964 check, check. Hero decides to donk bet. Just a reminder, a donk bet, yes it has kind of a derogatory term to it, but it actually just simply means betting into the previous street aggressor. Villain was the aggressor pre flop, we’re leading into them on the flop, so we are donk betting. That’s all it means.

In this exact situation should we donk or should we check? I would actually much prefer to check in this situation as opposed to donk. Now, there’s a couple different factors here. I would like donking better if you thought that villain had a ton of double broadway things in his range or things like pocket deuces, things that are not likely to CBET. If you think that he’s not going to CBET a very large chunk of the time, okay, donk betting makes sense because you don’t just want to let this flop get checked through for no reason.

Now, one quick thing is because Eugene said that he thought his pre-flop raising range was pretty strong, I think that’s going to include a lot more things like overpairs and obviously that makes me more likely to want to check here, induce a bet from villain, maybe a call or 2 from seat 2 or seat 5, and then you have a really big pot brewing quickly, as opposed to donking, where you kind of take away that seat bet option. You also take away the option where it can go bet, call, call, weak, check, raise, right? If we bet and villain decides to raise something like pocket jacks, well now we’re in a situation where seat 2 and seat 5 almost always go away. Keep that kind of stuff in mind. This is the power of relative position and thinking about what’s realistically going to happen whether you check or bet yourself.

Relative Positions

Read this guide and get familiar with your position

In this exact situation, villain calls, get a call from seat 2, seat 5 goes away, go through 8 to it, jack on the turn, and Eugene said, “When the jack hit the turn, he immediately looked up at me in observation, which made me think that the jack hit him.” Obviously he’s returning to villain in this situation and because of that, I’m totally okay with hero’s bet here. How could the jack have hit him, right? Is the jack getting hit with pocket jacks, which obviously buries us, or is it hit with something like ace, jack, maybe it’s ace, jack of spades exactly, or king, jack of spades, that sort of thing? I don’t think villain’s likely to naked float king, jack offsuit on the flop for some reason.

Unless you have some very, very specific read on him, I would not think that that’s the case. Yes, the jack could hit him in a bunch of different ways, but by the same token, I wouldn’t panic about it too much, unless you were just dead set on that read like you’ve seen it happen before, you have confirmation that when he starts getting really, really observative that it means he hit in some way. He could just as likely have something like 10s, where he now hates the jack or queens, where he’s now just a little bit curious about what’s going on here. I wouldn’t necessarily say that he has to have a monster on the jack just because he started observing, given that could kind of just be a false read.

As played, we end up getting called by villain and deuce of spades on the river and hero decides to punch it for 275. In this situation, it’s good to do at least a little bit of hand reading here. One of the things I always like to start by doing is counting kind of worst case combos. Worst case combos in this situation are going to be spades of course, and of course pocket jacks. In this spot, if we think that villain was only raising really strong stuff pre-flop, that means he’s probably not going to be showing up hero like ace, 5 of spades, right? That’s just not the kind of spade combo we have to be worried about. We’re more in the top left quadrant of hands. We’re talking like ace, king, ace, queen, ace, jack, ace, 10, king, queen, king, jack, and that’s probably about it, all in spades of course. We’re talking 7 combos of nut spade combos, 3 of pocket jacks, but I don’t think he just calls pocket jacks in the turn, once the turn starts going into very, very draw heavy with 2 flush draws present, plus straight draws present. I think he’s going to raise there.

Not sure how to count combos? Start with this poker combos video

I’m going to just kind of delete pocket jacks from the range and again talk about 7 combos of spades. Then I just compare that to the other stuff. If I think that queens, kings, and aces are all fully in his range, then we’re talking about 18 combos of those compared to 7 combos of nut flushes or strong flushes. I really don’t care, I just punch it in and hope to get called. Even if we’re in a situation where, say, he only has half of queens plus, thinking maybe he raises on the flop some chunk of the time or raises on the turn some chunk of the time. With some of them, we’re still in a situation where there’s plenty enough of second best combos that can and will call, compared to the nuttish combos that crush us.

In this exact situation, I really like hero’s smash. Unfortunately, end up running into spades and it is what it is, but my point being is that a lot of players panic solely because of flush draw or straight draw fills up and don’t really think about how many combos of really, really strong hands are in that range and what density of that range those strong combos make up. I think this shove on the river is totally good, fine, and valid. Yes, we’re going to lose it some chunk of the time when he ends up waking up with a flush, but it doesn’t mean that I want to just stop betting those rivers altogether just because there are some flushes in that range.

Eugene, thanks for the great hand and hopefully this helps you the next time you find yourself in a similar situation. If you or anyone else has a poker related hand or question, feel free to send it to me directly at, leave any hand or comment in my dropbox right there. I’ll add it to my list and hopefully get to it as soon as I can. If you have any comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Otherwise, good luck out there and happy grinding.

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