Laying down three of a kind

Whenever you hear people say things like: 'Well I had a set I had to call' or similar, it is nearly always a sign that they are not thinking about hands clearly and well.

I was in my old home town this weekend and popped into my regular pub to play a bit of pool. A poker game usually ran after the pool matches, and I sat down with the old crowd for a bit of low limit sit and go action after hours. An interesting hand came up against a regular - and one that illustrates one of the most important concepts in poker very well.

The villain in question is typically tight, usually passive but capable of aggression with big hands, and with the odd crazy shove up his sleeve if he gets the urge (like 5x the pot etc). I have a great deal of history with him, and through talking to him he seems to view me as a maniacal loose aggressive player (the game is so tight that I am very loose - but only for the small bets - a point he seems to have not noticed in the big hands we play, where I always have it). In this hand we are both playing early in the tournament around 125 big blinds deep.

It's folded around to me in the small blind where I put in a 3x raise with JhQd. He snap defends his blind. The flop comes out Js7c4c. I bet about half the pot. He reluctantly calls. The turn is the 8c. I check and he checks. The river is the Jc. I check. He looks at his cards, looks happy and relaxed and casually throws in a bet of double the pot. Knowing this player well, this is about as easy a fold as is possible in poker, but I decide to flash him the jack before I muck to try and gauge his reaction to this type of fold and hopefully get a little reaction from him.

He instantly started huffing and puffing when he saw the jack, disgustedly turning over the ace of clubs and berating my fold. 'How do you ever fold three of a kind?!?!? Half the time you call me with nothing?!?!?!' seemed to be the general point he was making, and it shows one of the most common mistakes made by weak players in poker. My hand strength is completely irrelevant in this spot. Three of a kind here plays little differently to bottom pair (a hand he would obviously never have a go at me for folding if I showed here - but would happily berate me for calling with, despite their being little difference between the plays), as he either has a club or air when he makes such a bet.

Although three of a kind is a strong hand on the whole in poker, this does not mean it is always a strong hand. Whenever you hear people say things like: 'Well I had a set I had to call' or similar, it is nearly always a sign that they are not thinking about hands clearly and well. Poker is simply a game where you have to do your best to gauge your hands strength against your opponent's likely hand - not the chart of hands on the wall, and it is crucial that you do not become attached to hands simply because they are usually strong.

A good player beats that person long term simply because in that spot they fold, where as he reluctantly calls after falling in love with three of a kind. This adds up to a huge amount of difference between two individuals over enough hands, and is a great example of a simple and fundamental mistake that low limit players make that in the long run costs them a fortune.

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