# What is meant by "protecting" your hand and when do you want to try to do it?

In this hand there are three players to the flop. The flop is 9♥ J♥ T♦ and the player in position hits a set and raises the middle player. The commentator has this to say about the raise:

I like this raise, the board is sopping wet, he's going to want to try to protect his set.

My understanding of "protecting" your hand is that you want to bet out when you have a made hand in such a way that prices out draws. But in this hand, as the commentator says, the board is "sopping wet" so there are a lot of other made hands out there which could already beat a set including any 89, 8Q, and KQ. Given the action pre-flop any of these hands could be in play.

So given this, how is raising "protecting" anything? Is the raiser assuming the initial bettor doesn't have any of these hands that could beat him and is just on a draw? Is it more an attempt to get more information than actually protecting anything? In the hand in question, UTG then re-raises and gets called (all-in for less if I'm not mistaken), and the player with a set still appears to have a difficult decision before laying down the hand. Is it really so unlikely that either player has him beat giving the preceding action? (The odds are showing the player with the set actually has a 57% chance of winning, although without knowing the other player's cards it seems harder to know).

This question talks about betting with a set on the flop but I'm not so much interested in betting versus not betting, but more about whether or not this particular type of bet, especially in position, is really protecting and why, and how one can identify when it is appropriate to try it when there is a decent chance they are already behind.

"there is a decent chance they are already behind"

Is there really? Let's break it down and see. Provided we have T♠T♣ and the flop is 9♥ J♥ T♦. Our opponents might have:

• Any two hearts.
• Any Two pair with a Jack.
• Any straight draw (Any Queen, any 8, or K and 7)
• Pocket Queens or Pocket eights (interesting straight draws)

All the above hands might suck out on us by the turn. Furthermore, a single lucky Jack could suck out on us by the river if we slow play all the way.

In fact this flop is as wet as it can get according to a nice answer provided here.

So by looking at the video you referenced, the first to act checked which showed weakness, the next player made a standard 3/4 pot bet which might imply some potential. You'd be perfectly safe if you assume that the first to act is not a real threat while the second player might be on a draw. That leaves you with nothing to do but protecting your hand via raising. In fact the raise should've been a bit more than what our player raised by in order to break the 2 to 1 pot odds (which is a common mark for flop callers who are on an 8+ outs draw).

Now, what are the alternatives? You might be against two jacks which makes you a victim of a set over set tragedy but that's part of poker. Or you might be against a made straight which is what our player later assessed one of the other players held, so he folded. Remember, without raising he probably couldn't have come to that conclusion (which in the actual hand turned out to be wrong, no straight was there). Now you might wonder, Should he really have folded? Well that's a discussion for another time but I think yes (see the edit), fold was the right play at that point.

EDIT

As Paparazzi pointed out, by the end of the hand, our guy was actually getting the right pot odds to call. According to the odds calculator he has 34% chance to win against KQ. I was mislead by the fact that he has only 7 outs to beat a straight (which usually doesn't translate to as high as 34%). I personally don't like to be forced to go all in while being an underdog. I don't like it but I'd do it because that's the most profitable play at the long run.

• Really fold a set getting 2:1+ on your money. In that hand a call was getting 2.5:1. Only hands you are behind are bigger sets. You are getting pot odds to made two pair, straight, flush, and any draws. Did you run the numbers? On that specific hand he was 53% to win. Commented May 11, 2016 at 2:23
• You're right. Against KQ he would be 34% underdog. So provided the pot odds of 2.5:1 he should've called. I didn't run the numbers because I figured that he technically has 7 outs (a Ten, three Jacks, and three Nines) which usually doesn't translate to as high as 34%!. I made a mistake there. Thank you for pointing that out. I'll edit the answer. Commented May 11, 2016 at 2:31
• There you go :) Commented May 11, 2016 at 2:46

"Protecting their hand" means when a player is trying to deny another player the proper odds for catching up in the hand. In other words, they would be making a mathematical mistake by calling.

Yes the board could have a made hand that has hero beat.
That board also could have draws that a made hand should chase off.

Are you going to shut down with a set?
Giving up a set on the flop is not a winning strategy.

That is a very wet board that is very likely to have draws.

• Need to raise to not give draws odds to continue
• Raise to find out where you are
• Don't smooth call - not a board to slow play

89 and 8Q probably did not open early. KQ is a problem. But even then is a weak open.

An aggressive pot size raise to price out draws. You could have strait and flush draw on 15 outs. That is protecting and is the proper play.

So he got looked up (even raised). He got looked by by 2 players. Set on the flop is still a very good hand. A set still stands up to made straight or flush. Set has 7 outs to improve to boat on the turn. And 10 outs to improve to a boat on the river. That is a lot of outs. Odds of making a boat is > 1/3 (2:1). Getting 2:1 + and might be ahead. If they folded top set getting 2:1 they are a fool.

I just watched the actual video and player had middle set. Preflop was 3BB open with two calls. Flop was check, bet, and then raise by middle set. At this point would put the check (Doyle BB) on a draw. And the relatively small opening bet could still be a draw. Yes should bet big to push off draws. Then BB raises to represent a monster and gets a call. The set is getting 2.5:1 to call. The odds to make a boat is 2:1. Mathematically should call. The only hand the set of tens is a dog to is a set of jacks. Doyle just called pre flop from the BB. If he had a pair of jacks then he most likely would have raised. Yes the open could have been on a pair of jacks. Against anything but JJ the call of 70,000 has and EV of 16,000. Bad fold by an armature. There would need to be 1/5 or better chance JJ was out to make that a good mathematical fold. Yes he would have lost the hand to JT in the BB.

• To add to this, he is basically only crushed by a higher set which given he has middle set there is only one higher set for a total of 3 possible combinations of holecards villain can have that have you crushed (you have a 1 outer to quads). So basically a lot of hands you are ahead of, a decent amount of hands you have correct odds to call even though behind and a very small amout that crush you. Mathematically that is always a call but at that level of poker a lot more comes into play. Commented May 11, 2016 at 10:50