While building an entire poker strategy around set mining is no longer a viable path to being a winning player, it is still important to fully understand the concept. In the right situation, this tool is undoubtedly useful when implemented correctly. I myself am a reformed “nut camper” and can tell you everything you need to know about it.
What is set mining in poker? Set mining is when you call with a pocket pair with the intention of trying to flop a set. It is a form of “nut camping” which means that you flat call a pre-flop raise with a speculative hand hoping to flop a strong hand so that you can win a pot large enough to overcome your pre-flop pot odds.
Now, I will describe exactly what set mining as well as provide an easy to learn process for deciding whether or not you should speculate. I’ll also cover how factors related to the table dynamic can influence the profitability of nut camping in any given situation.
What Is a Set Mining in Poker?
If you play on a poker site that allows you to track long term statistics on opponents, you will occasionally encounter an opponent with overly tight stats. I’m talking something like 14/10 (VPIP/PFR) for 6-max and 10/7 for full-ring. These are not only rocks but probably also nut camping set miners.
Set miners will open raise a very tight range, 3-bet with a low frequency, but flat call with every single pocket pair below QQ with the intention of trying to hit a set and win a big pot. You may even see them call with all of their suited connectors for the same reason.
Spotting Nut Campers= Saving Your Stack
Extreme nut campers, who build their games entirely around mining, will have stats something like 18/10 for 6-max and 14/6 for 9-max. Being able to spot them is a useful skill to have, for obvious reasons. Because if they call, and then suddenly get interested post-flop by calling or raising your continuation bet, look out.
Ultimately, set mining is a loser’s strategy in today’s games. Those that employ this “nitty” strategy will get eaten alive by the blinds as their opponents steal their blinds relentlessly and push them out of pots when they hold marginal hands.
However, if you are able to recognize the correct conditions, and exhausted all other avenues to profit in that spot, nut camping with both pocket pairs and other speculative hands is a powerful tool.
Profitable Set Mining Guidelines
Whenever you are faced with a situation where you hold a speculative hand and are facing pre-flop aggression, there is a really simple process you can use to weigh whether you have the right price and if mining is a viable option.
Here are 4 conditions to look for when making pre-flop calls with the intention of set mining. While each one is not going to give the whole story, I’ll show you how to weigh them carefully and make solid decisions based on all the information available.
1. Make Sure 3-Betting Is Not +EV
First off, it’s easy to sometimes forget that it’s almost always better to take an aggressive +EV action rather than a passive one. Therefore, don’t forget to consider a reraise before resigning yourself to a flat call.
I have run enumerable scenarios through the Cardrunner’s EV software and studied my own database extensively on this point. The conclusions are always the same. If raising or reraising is +EV (Positive expectation), then that is the action that should be taken.
So, forget about the typical excuses people find to play passively. Things like “seeing what develops” or “realizing equity” or “trapping” or whatever helps you sleep at night. Just raise the dang thing and move on. Your win-rate will love you for it.
However, if the value in raising is murky then, by all means, consider taking the passive route. But, only if you are fairly certain the path forward is profitable. Otherwise, shutting down or folding is probably the best play.
How can you be sure that nut camping is the way to go? The best way is to look at the odds.
2. Have Direct Odds of at Least 2 to 1
Before even looking at implied odds, a good rule of thumb is to make sure you are getting a decent direct odds price on your call. Because, in the end, you are going to have to play post-flop without initiative and need favorable odds to win that uphill battle.
For example, if someone has opened for 4x (4 times the big blind) and you are on the button with deuces, just do the math. In non-ante games, there would be 5.5 big blinds in the pot and you’d have to call 4 big blinds. That’s 1.4 to 1 odds. Since you fail on this guideline, you’d need the next couple of conditions to be exceptionally favorable to make the call.
Additionally, if you are out of position, you may want to be even more strict. Personally, I look for at least 3 to 1 odds to flat call when out of position, unless I have a strong range on range advantage and a hand with good post-flop playability.
3. Have Implied Odds of at Least 20 to 1
Having reasonable direct odds is just the starting point of your decision-making process. You also need to look at how much you could potentially win after the flop.
There are two main considerations when thinking about implied odds:
- Are you deep enough- If the cost of calling divided by the effective stack is at least 20 to 1, then it may be worth considering a call. Since you only hit a set once in 7.5 times, there needs to be enough money behind to win in case you do flop your set.
- Is the dynamic favorable to playing a big pot post-flop- Think about how likely it is that your opponent will be willing to put more money in the pot post-flop. An opponent having a tight positional opening range or if it is a 3-bet pot are favorable for it being a high implied odds situations. Loose opponents and single-raised pots tend to make it a lower implied odds spot. The exception is if you are playing against a maniac, who will almost always make the implied odds high.
Here are some reasonable guidelines for minimum implied odds needed for set mining in various dynamics:
|15 to 1||Versus a maniac who seems to barrel off every hand or a 4-bet pot|
|20 to 1||Versus a really tight opponent, 3-bet pot, or multi-way pot|
|30 to 1||Versus a typical 35% stealing range|
|40 to 1||Versus a wide stealing range of 50% or higher|
This hand is a good example of these considerations:
PokerStars, Hold’em No Limit – $0.50/$1.00 – 6 players
Nitty Reg (UTG): $131.73
Weak Tight (MP): $104.13
Mass Multi-Tabler (CO): $227.79
Wide Stealer (BU): $28.50
Rock (SB): $234.86
Hero (BB): $118.65
Pre-Flop: ($1.50) Hero is BB with 9♠ 9♣
3 players fold, Wide Stealer (BU) raises to $4.00, 1 fold, Hero ?
At first glance to some, this might look like a good spot to call and see a flop.
While calling with mid pairs to try and flop a set against a tight opener might be a reasonable play, the Villain in question is on the button. You have a read that he steals wide, which means you aren’t necessarily going to be able to win a big pot against his wide range even when you do hit a set. Also, you are only getting 1.8 to 1 to call and will be playing out of position. This will be a difficult spot to show a profit even if you are highly skilled post-flop.
Last, take a look at the Villain’s stack size. 29 big blinds! Since you can confidently call off a 4-bet shove versus him, go ahead and commit pre-flop by 3-betting to something like 10 or 12 big blinds. If he calls for that price, you can profitably shove on any flop.
4. Other Considerations
Before finalizing your decision, two other factors should be weighed:
- Is the pot multiway? If so, you can expect your implied odds to be a bit greater since there are now two other ranges involved that can connect with the boat.
- Are you closing the action? If you still have people left to act behind you, you need to have higher implied odds. After all, the person behind you can squeeze or back raise and force you to give up your hand without even seeing a flop. The more opponents left to act, the more implied odds you need.
Hands to Consider Mining With
Nut camping can be done with hands other than pocket pairs. Speculative hands can really be anything, I mean 72o can flop two pair or trips right?
Unfortunately, you will almost never have good enough implied odds to play a holding that weak. Generally, you need to be able to flop some kind of equity fairly often even if you don’t make a monster hand. Therefore, suited and connected hands are best for this purpose.
Hands to consider calling with:
- Suited Connectors or Semi-Connectors- Hands like 76s, 97s, and T8s are good candidates. Just remember that T6s, while connected, cannot flop nearly as many straight combinations are T9s. Therefore, you will need higher implied odds with the former.
- Suited High Cards- Hands such as A4s and K7s are reasonable to try and flop a disguised two-pair, a flush, or a strong flush draw. However, just make sure you don’t overcommit with a weak top pair or else you will defeat the entire purpose of nut camping in the first place.
What If I Flop a Non-Nut Hand?
This is the rub of the green. More often than not, you will flop some kind of marginal hand instead of the nuts. Just remember in these cases that you had a plan pre-flop as well as huge implied odds.
And, while you want to still play good poker and maximize the situation, you do not need to become a play machine and try to run some crazy bluff everything you miss your hand. Just take what the poker Gods give you and move on.
What If I Flop the Nuts?
Dumb question right? The funny thing is, I see people misplay this all the time.
By far, the biggest mistake I see is that people do not try to get the money all-in after they hit a big hand.
Often it goes something like this: We call. They check. We check. They check. We check. We feebly bet half pot. They call and show a weak top or 2nd pair.
Facepalm moment right? After you may a huge hand, you simply HAVE to try and get all-in to make up for the times you make your hand and miss. So please, bet, raise, and reraise. Throw away the slow-play part of your strategy.
Limping Speculative Hands Is Not Nut Camping
Generally, set mining is reserved for raised pots. This is because there are a few problems that can arise when you limp a small pair or other speculative hands. The main issue is reverse implied odds.
Reverse implied odds is when you make the hand you were trying to but an opponent makes an even stronger nut hand. Ever wonder why you seem to get beat set over set more than your fair share? It could be that you are limping small pairs in multi-way pots when 3 or more other people also are limping their small to mid pairs. The math will catch up to you eventually.
Therefore, stop limping small pairs or speculative hands outside of maybe the small blind or button. Not only are you going to get blown off your hand by an isolation raise a lot of the time, but you are also going to get coolered way too often to make it a profitable play.
Also, multi-way pots are typically played passively post-flop. Most players now understand that you need a much better hand to commit when more than two players are involved in a pot. So, even if someone flops top pair, it does not mean you are going to get them to call your raise or reraise over multiple streets. Generally, when the money goes in, you will be up against a really strong hand, like top two pair or better.
Any winning poker player loves nut campers. They are viewed as basically empty seats at the table who are easy to win against. Betting until they raise= profit.
However, don’t completely discount mining altogether because it can sometimes be the most +EV play. Imagine you have a whale behind and you hold fives in the SB. Sure, 3-betting might be slightly +EV versus a wide button opener, but calling is probably ideal. Your implied odds is through the roof in this spot should you spike a set.
Other than situations like that, employing the set mine is usually best reserved for when there are no other profitable options. My process usually has me treating a flat call as a last resort. By not abusing my call button, I have been able to enjoy over a decade of winning. I hope this information helps you equal or beat my streak. Good luck!