No Limit Texas Hold em: Playing Against Trips


Recently we emailed out a short survey to our clients who have signed up for our free e-course. In that survey you were asked what area of your poker game you would most like to improve on/work on. Over the next week or so I am going to be blogging every day on one of YOUR topics. This is a bonus for those of you who were nice enough to answer the survey. Hopefully discussing these topics will give you a little bit of insight.

The first thing I want to tackle is playing against someone who has a pocket pair pre-flop and has hit trips on the flop. This is probably the most difficult hand to sniff out. It is many times near impossible to know when someone has flopped a set and you are beaten with your hand of high-pair, high-kicker.  Notice I said NEAR impossible, not impossible. There are some things that you can look for that may save you from making a mistake that busts you out of a tournament or Sit n Go.

First, do not live in fear of the set. Sometimes you do the best that you can with what you have and if someone puts you out with a set, that is just the way it gos. If you constantly worry about it, you will start seeing ghosts in every hand and end up playing way to defensively when in fact you have the best hand. Remember, a set is only going to hit 1 in 8 times when a player has a pocket pair. You cannot assume you are beaten every time someone stays in a hand with you. Also, if you are one of these players that lays down a set for fear of being beaten by a high set, then you are hopeless and should give up playing poker. If your set is put out by a higher one, it is not your day/tournament and you need to move on. It just does not happen often enough to worry about. DO NOT PLAY SCARED POKER.

That said, there are some things you can look for, mostly in the betting patterns of your opponents. The bad news is, Trips are a classic hand to slow play. If you get a good player who hits a set on you, you are in trouble and are going to lose alot of chips in the hand. However, most of the time you will NOT end up against a good player who has hit their set. Most of the time you will be playing an average or novice player who will get so excited that they bet too many chips. BEWARE THE ALL-IN.

Most of the time in online poker, when a player goes all-in it is because they have hit a monster and don’t have the finesse to slow play it. They get excited and that all-in bet is just irresistible. They figure they have the hand won and their first reaction is to push in all their chips. Respect this even when it seems like a stupid bet. It probably IS a stupid bet, but it also probably means something. I would say 90% of the time when a player pushes in $1500 worth of chips into a $300 pot, it is because they hit their hand, NOT because they are trying to push you off the pot. Remember, these are not experienced players you are playing against most of the time and if internet novices have anything in common, it is that they do not know how to bet. They know two bets, the call, and the all-in. Do not be too quick to call if you have top pair and someone goes all-in on you. You had better have pretty good information that they are bluffing to call and again, most internet players don’t have the ability to properly bluff, especially for all their chips.

Second, if you run up against a player where you have top pair like Aces with a top kicker and he is betting out or calling your bets, SLOW DOWN. Do not be too quick to get all your chips in here. You could be up against a call-station, but you could also be up against a set. Recall how he bet pre-flop. Did he limp in or did he raise. If he does not try to re-raise your bets post flop, you could be in trouble.  Keep your bets at 1/3 to 1/2 the pot in these instances. Do not get carried away with pot sized bets until you have more information.

I am not saying that you should figure you are beaten just because someone calls you. Most of the time, it will just be some noodle-head with A-rag and your top kicker will put the hurt on him. However, every once in awhile, you may be up against a set. Learn how to minimize your losses if you suspect this.

The key to becoming very successful at Texas Hold em is to maximize your wins and minimize your losses. How can you maximize a win if you live in fear of trips? The answer is, you can’t. Think about this, top pair with top kicker can be beaten by alot of hands. Trips, straights, flushes, coming first to mind. Top pair with top-kicker is not a hand that you can always maximize unless you have previous information about the person you are playing against. (For example, I ran into a player who I had made notes on in a previous tournament in a hand last night. My note said that he seemed to play A-rag a lot. Knowing this, I ended up doubling up on him when my A-Q beat his A-6. Unless you have information like that, however, proceed somewhat cautiously.)

So, instead of trying to maximize every hand where you have top pair and top kicker, just worry about winning a little instead of a lot. Then maximize your win when YOU hit a set or something higher. Not getting a hurry to get all your chips in is the best way to avoid getting burned by a set.

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