OFC Beginners Guide: It Starts with the Set
posted in Open Face Chinese, Poker Strategy on 12 August 2017 by

This is Part 2 of my OFC Beginners Guide. See the full series here.

Thinking About Sets

As I mentioned briefly in the Introduction, OFC is a game where you need to think ahead. How you set your hand dictates how the rest of the hand will play out, making it the most important part of the hand. It’s called the “set” because you’re “setting up” your hand. I’m not trying to sound redundant but I want to stress how important it is to make correct decisions on your set, and as a new player, this is where you should focus on improving.

Let’s look at some examples. All of the below examples will assume we are OOP and setting first. Always make sure to take your opponents cards into consideration when you’re in position.

Note: When explaining various sets, I’m using the format of “Top / Middle / Bottom”. For example, a set of “Q / K K / A T” means the Q is up top, KK in middle, and AT in the bottom.

(If you’re looking to test yourself, look the hands first and before reading my explanations write down how you would set them and why. It could lead to some interesting discussions!)

#1

This hand is interesting, and I can see it being set a few different ways. A more conservative player may set it: 8 / J / A A K. Setting it this way you almost never foul, and can end up with a strong Two Pair+ in the back, Pair+ in middle, and Pair up top. It can score you some royalties and lead to scoops.

A more aggressive set, which I prefer, would be: K / A A / J 8. I like this set better because it helps the hand develop into Fantasy Land more often and as long as some combination of my Jack, 8, or diamonds are live, there are a lot good cards I can draw. That being said, more aggressive players tend to have higher foul percentages. In a beginner strategy video, Barry Greenstein mentioned you want to foul around 15% of the time, so if you notice your foul % is getting into the 20s, 30s, or higher, you are probably setting your hands much too aggressively.

My plan with this aggressive set is to improve my back as soon as possible. So this means if my first draw is a Jack, I’m placing it in the back right away. When you set more aggressively, you can’t be as selective. You set yourself up to be in survival mode, meaning you have to avoid fouling at all costs. The middle is a safe haven for 3 dump cards, meaning I’m completely fine ending the hand with just a pair of Aces in the middle. The goal here is to draw another King, or two Queens, get them up top, and get into Fantasy Land. So to break it down, any K or Q goes up top, any bricks go in the middle, and anything to improve the back is placed there immediately.

#2

I’ve gone back and forth and tried setting hands like this various ways, but for this particular hand I would set it as: x / J 4 / 9 Q 6. This may seem conservative considering my first example, but I don’t like doing something like: Q / 6 4 / J 9 when I have a three flush to work with.

My plan with this set is to make a flush in the back, and setting a 3 flush OOP leads to a flush about 55% of the time. But that doesn’t mean my hand has no other options. If I’m drawing bad, I can always decide to take a pair and develop into Two Pair/Trips in the bottom. Generally, with a 3 flush, I don’t give up on the flush instantly, but don’t hold onto it for dear life. If for example my first draw is a Queen, I would put it up top instead of taking the immediate pair in the back. But if by 10th street I haven’t pulled a heart, I’ll gladly place a pair there. But as always, consider how your hand as played out, along with your opponents.

#3

On the surface this hand may look simple, but I wanted to point a couple of things out. I would set this hand like this: Q / x / J T 8 2.

This is a strong hand, as a set 4 flush develops into a flush about 85% of the time OOP. Because of this, as I play the hand, I’m going to assume I’m going to make the flush. So this means if I haven’t yet drew my club, but I can make Two Pair or Trips in the middle, I’m going to take it. Only in a few rare cases would I give up on the draw, and will go down with the ship if I brick all 8 draws. It is a mistake to panic and put a Jack on the bottom on 11th, trying to avoid a foul. By setting the hand with a 4 flush in the back, you must play as if you’re going to hit it.

Secondly, put that Queen up top! I’ve seen beginner players set strong hands like two pair, or 4 to a flush in the back, and then set a lone Queen in the middle. Because of Fantasy Land, you need to prepare yourself by setting most lone Queens or Kings up top. It’s fine having a blank middle, you can generally place the first few non-club cards there, but hopefully you will draw something to work with. So to sum it up, I’m only placing a club in the back and will gladly take a strong middle early on, in hopes to making Queens up top.

#4

This hand has a lot going on, there is a 3 to a straight, 3 to a flush, and a pair, so I could see setting it a few different ways. That being said, I would tend to go with this more often: x / A 9 / T T 8.

I don’t like breaking up the pair of Tens for a 3 to a straight (which develops into a straight about 51% of the time) or a 3 to a flush. A pair of Tens in the back is strong and will develop into trips 35% of the time OOP. Also, Aces in the middle are very strong. Some new players may be worried setting Aces in the middle because it may lead you to foul more often. However, a pair of Aces in the middle often times will win the row, and sets your hand up for a potential Fantasy Land visit. When I set a pair with a kicker in the back, I play the hand assuming it’s going to develop into Two Pair+, so if I catch an early Ace, I’ll put it in the middle and hope to catch up in the back. Even if you don’t hit a pair of Aces, putting the Ace in the middle allows you to put any Q or K up top, and often King high up top is enough to win the row.

It’s worth a mention as to why I put the 9 in the middle and 8 in the back. This is because a small percentage of the time, you will hit your full house early and can go for a flush in the middle. Also, since your bottom pair of Tens is higher than the 9, you can pair the 9 early on without getting into much trouble. And a pair of 9s is stronger than a pair of 8s in the middle. TT99 in the back isn’t much stronger than TT88, whereas 99 in the middle is much stronger than 88.

#5

This is a hand that was actually explained in detail by Greenstein in the same video I mentioned earlier and I thought it was an interesting example. When I first started playing, I would set this hand like this: x / 8 8 3 / A J. Setting it this way allows you to draw to a flush or high pair in the back, and sets a mid pair in the middle. Ideally, you would end up with some kind of Two Pair+ on the bottom, Two Pair in the middle, and Pair or High Card up top.

However, Barry says the correct way to set it, which I agree with, is: x / A 3 / 8 8 J.

Looking closer at the first set, a two flush isn’t very strong. In fact, it only develops into a flush about 27% of the time. And you need to draw really well early on to get there. But even if you aren’t playing just for the flush, two non-paired cards will develop into two pair about 26% of the time. Compare that to setting a pair with a kicker in the back, which develops into two pair about 44% of the time, and trips 35% of the time. And as we mentioned in Hand #4, Aces are strong in the middle.

Also, as Greenstein mentions in the video, the Jack kicker is very important. If you put the Jack in the middle and pair it, it makes you scramble to improve your back and often leads you to never being able to make two pair in the middle. You don’t want to set yourself up where your middle two pair would be higher than your back two pair.

Taking it In

These 5 examples were interesting situations I’ve come across while playing that I feel beginners may misplay. As you continue to practice, make sure to think of the set as the foundation of your hand. The cards you draw should help build the walls. Of course, you won’t always draw perfectly according to plan, so that’s when experience comes into play. When should you give up on a draw? Should you take the pair? Is this card better for my middle or back? These are all questions that I will expand on later, and get more into the actual math behind some decisions.

Remember to practice by playing OFC on FTR, and post your tough sets in our forum!

Read the Full Series

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: It Starts with the Set
Discuss in our Forum

More parts coming soon.

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