As a new player, it is common that poker rankings are unclear to you. When I started playing in 2007, I was also unsure if a triple beats two pairs or not. In fact, it was even worse. For about 14 days, my friends and I were convinced we are playing poker according to the rules. It turned out each one of us was wrong :D.
Nevertheless, we soon found out the following:
Triple (or better-known trips) beats 2 pairs in poker. This is because you are statistically less likely to hit it than 2 pairs. This is true if you hold a pair in your hand and hit the third card on the board or if the board is paired, and you have the third card in your hand to give you trips.
The same, of course, goes for any stronger hand than three of a kind. 4 of a kind beats 2 pairs because it is even less likely to hit than trips.
How likely are you to hit specific hands in poker?
Your odds of hitting a specific hand varies greatly depending on which street you want to hit your hand. The stronger the hand, the harder it is to hit. Have a look at the table below. Note: The table includes all random hands and boards. The percentage consists of only the specified hand and not a specific hand + all lower hands!
|Strength of your hand||Chance to hit by the river|
|Pair (for non-paired preflop hand – hole cards)||42.2%|
|2 pair (for non-paired hole cards)||7.6%|
|Trips (triple, three of a kind) for a random hand||2.9%|
At first glance, you might think I am contradicting myself. Chances to hit 2 pairs are only 2%, while trips have a 12% chance to hit. We need to account for the possibility of us getting a pair preflop first. We will be dealt a pair about 6% of the time or once every 17 hands. This together makes hitting trips much less likely than two pairs. Same for hitting a flush on the flop. We need to be dealt suited cards first even to have the 0.8% chance to hit the flush on the flop.
If you want to read more about the chances to hit a specific hand, here is a useful link to Wikipedia about it.
What do 2 pairs beat in poker?
Two pairs do beat some hands. They beat all pairs and all no pair hands. Especially in 6max games, and even in full ring, 2 pairs often wins. Of course, you would prefer to have the top two pair, so now you beat all the lower two pairs. It is even better if no other draws have hit. With that, I mean no flushes or straights are possible. Now our top two pair is powerful. It gets beaten by only three of a kind.
When some straight or even flushes are possible, our 2 pair can’t withstand a lot of pressure. Person betting will either be betting with a hand better than ours. Maybe the opponent will value bet with a set, straight, or a flush. Only hands that we would at that point are the ones he decided to turn into a bluff. A good rule of thumb is to believe the opponent has the hand until you are proven wrong. You don’t want to start making expensive hero calls against unknown players. Once you are given more info that they are capable of the bluff, then you can consider making some hero calls. But be careful. You will make more money by value betting than hero calling.
If you are unsure about other basic rules in poker, you might want to check my beginner’s guide for people wanting to learn the very basics of poker. It is intended for complete newcomers.
Three of a Kind vs. 2 Pairs Compared by Winrate
It is of no surprise that you will make a lot more money with sets than 2 pairs. Three of a kind is statistically less likely to hit, so you should have a higher winrate with it, compared to two pairs.
If you pay close attention to both graphs, you might notice that I have about 3500 cases for both scenarios. You might be asking why is that if two pairs are more likely to hit? The graph includes only hands made by the river. Moreover, it contains only two pairs where we don’t hold a pair in our hand preflop.
Both hands make good money. Two pairs are decent money-making hand, and you should learn when to value bet it, and when to give up even though you hold 2 pairs.
Triple does even better. My graph looks very smooth, with almost no variance. If you have a significant sample as I do and your chart for sets doesn’t go up steadily but instead bounces up and down, then you are doing something wrong.
Learning to play 2 pairs and your triples efficiently is an essential skill you should learn early on in your poker career. Even more important is to learn when to fold them. Any poker player, being inexperienced or a seasonal pro, will know how to make money with both of these hands. But it is often that amateur players will have difficulties knowing when to fold them. For poker pros, it is not uncommon they fold as strong hands as 2 pairs or triples if they believe they are beaten.
If you are still struggling to make the correct folds with your strong hands, I strongly advise you to learn proper poker strategy. At the beginning of my poker career, I used this website to learn. It helped me transition from a losing player to a winner on micro stakes. And I have never looked back. The best thing is, it’s completely free.
Can you get 3 pairs in poker? It is impossible to get three pairs in poker. For that, you would need to have 6 cards. Even if there were 2 pairs on board and you would have a pair in hand, that is still impossible. In most popular poker variant, No-Limit Texas Hold’em, the rule is that the best hand variation of your two hole cards (the ones you get dealt in the hand) and five cards on board wins. Where exactly 5 hands in total need to be chosen. This rule makes it impossible to hit three pairs.
What beats trips? Straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush and royal flush, beat trips. And of course higher trips if we don’t hold the highest one. You will hit a stronger hand than trips 0.76% of the time.
How are poker strength rankings? From weakest to strongest. No pair, one pair, two pair, trips, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush and royal flush.