Who Wins if Both Players Have 2 Pair in Poker? Examples Included


A common confusion for new players is to determine a winning hand at showdown. Things can get complicated very fast if 2 players have two pairs at showdown or some other same ranking hand. Luckily for you, I will show you many different scenarios, so next time you can be sure who wins. 

Who wins if both players have 2 pairs? A person with a higher 2 pairs wins. In the case that both players have the same 2 pairs, then the one with the highest kicker wins. If 2 pairs and the kicker are the same, then the pot gets split.

both 2 pair, but only one player wins
Scenario that might confuse some players. Who gets the pot?

Playing high cards will help you be on the winning side more often when both you and your opponent have two pairs.

Yes, you will still win with bottom two pair, since you are beating all the top pairs and overpairs, that are value betting multiple streets. But to be the winner of the truly huge pots, you will need to have higher two pairs than the opponent more often.

Some players start folding top pairs and overpairs when faced with multiple streets of value. But to start folding even bottom two pairs, it takes some self-discipline. And discipline is what many players on lower stakes lack.

When you have the top two pair, you can value bet huge and will get paid off by the smaller two pairs. Your opponents will try the same, so stick to playing bigger cards – playing more broadway cars than low suited connectors is the right approach – to have higher two pairs more often.

Nonetheless, there are several different possible scenarios when it comes to both players having two pairs at showdown. Let’s check them below.

Both 2 pairs but of different value

This is probably the most common scenario when you see both players having two pairs. It is easier to have 2 pairs of a different value than having exactly the same two pairs. This is due card removal effect – if we hold AQ, then AQ is less likely to be in the opponent’s hand.

Higher pair is different, and a lower pair is the same

two pair vs. lower two pair
If the highest of the two pairs in our hand is bigger than opponent’s highest pair then we already know we won the hand.

If a higher pair is different, then no need to check the lower pair anymore. We already know that the person with the higher pair in their two pairs wins.

Example: we have AT, and the opponent has KT. Board is AKT23. First, we check, and we see that we both have 2 pairs. But we win because our highest pair is higher than the opponent’s highest pair. The fact that the lower pair is the same as an opponent’s it doesn’t matter. Also, the fact that our kicker is lower is, in this case, completely irrelevant.

Once the higher pair is different, we know we already have the winner. In our case, we have two pairs aces and tens with a king kicker, and the opponent has two pairs of kings and tens with an ace kicker.

Higher pair is the same, and the lower pair is different

AK vs. AT - top two pair vs top and 3rd pair
A player that has AK wins the pot.

If both players have the highest pair the same, but the lower pair is different, then the person with higher 2nd pair wins. For example, AK vs. AT on AKT23 board. We will win with AK as we have two pairs aces and kings with a ten kicker, and the opponent has two pairs aces and tens with a king kicker.

We check the highest pair, and we see it is the same, then we move down to 2nd pair, and we see that our 2nd pair is higher than the opponent’s, so no need to check the kicker, we win.

Both pairs are different

The person with the highest pair wins when both pairs are different. If you hold AK and the opponent has T9 on the AT9K2 board, then you are the winner since you have two pair aces and kings with a T kicker. Opponent only has two pairs of tens and nines with an ace kicker. – you can see that it is enough just to check the highest of the two pairs in each player’s hand and we know who the winner is.

top two pairs vs. lower two pair
The person holding AK is the winner of the hand.

Both players have the same 2 pairs

Different kicker

If players have a different kicker and both pairs are the same, then the person with the highest kicker will win. Let’s check an example:

  • We have KT, and the opponent holds JT. Board is QQT23. We win the pot, we have the same two pair, but we have a better kicker than our opponent. Our hand is two pairs, queens and tens with a king kicker, the opponent has the same hand, but only jack kicker.
two pair, better kicker
In this case, a better kicker decides who is the winner.

The kicker is the same

If the kicker is the same and both pairs are the same, then pot gets split.

There is not much more to explain, so let us move on to the next possible scenarios :).

Two pairs on the board

Sometimes it will happen that there are 2 pairs already on the board. If nobody else holds a higher pair in their hand, then the kicker will be a deciding factor in who wins the pot. If the kicker is of the same rank, then the pot gets split. Let’s check two examples: 

  1. Board is A3773: We have A2, and the opponent has K4. We win because we have a higher two pair than the opponent. Our hand is two pair, aces, and sevens with a 3 kicker (AA773), while the opponent has two pair, sevens and threes with an ace kicker (7733A).
  2. This time board is T3773. We hold A2, and the opponent has AK. The pot gets split as we both have two pairs, sevens and threes, with an ace kicker (7733A). Remember, the best five-card combination wins.
two pair, same kicker, pot is split
Pot gets split.

How strong are two pairs

Two pairs are a decently strong hand. You can expect to have 2 pairs around every 21 hands (if you wouldn’t be folding and always went to showdown). Or if we transfer this into percentages, you have a 4.75% chance to have exactly two pairs at showdown. To check probabilities to hit certain hands, check this link to Wikipedia.

As you were able to see from all the examples above, some two pairs are much better than the other two pairs. Having the top two pairs is excellent. Even top and bottom pair are a lot better than having 2nd and 3rd pair. But 

The value of our two pairs is different depending on the board, and our equities can change dramatically. Let’s check a few examples:

Dry boards

On very dry boards, our two pairs are a valuable hand. Of course, our bottom two pairs aren’t as strong as the top two pairs, but nonetheless, we still do beat plenty of hands. Check the equities on Q95 rainbow board:

dry board, two pair
Our two pairs are a lot more valuable on dry boards like this one, than on the draw heavy board.
Our hand/Equity against:AAAQA9JT
Q974.6%84.9%87%69.7%
9574.6%74%72.1%67%
Q9 has 87% equity against A9 on the Q95 board. On the other hand, 95 has 72%, which is a considerable drop in equity.

Wet flops and mono boards (of one color)

Straight possible boards

We have 87, on three straight boards like 6h7h8s many opponents will be betting if they have a 9 and a pair, sets, lower two pairs, high flush draws, and made straights. Our equity of the top two pairs is a lot worse here than on a dry board above. Let’s see in the table below how we do against certain hands.

The most surprising is that 69 has almost 44% to win against the top two pairs there. The board is 6h7h8s:

Our hand/Equity against:66T969AhThA9
8720.6%18.5%56.4%58%66.6%
87 has a 20.6% chance to win against a set of sixes.

Mono (flush hits on the flop) board

On 2h7h8h board, our 87 isn’t such a good hand anymore. It is largely behind flushes (it has 17.3% to win), and we have only 63% against ace-high flush draw (AhTs in our example). Against T9 (including flushes) we now have 56.4% equity, which is around as much as QQ has against AK offsuit, and many categorize that as a flip already.

Related questions

Does a straight beat a two pair?

Straight does beat two pair. Both are winning hands but straight is just better. Hand rankings go as follows, from weakest to strongest:

  1. No pair
  2. One pair
  3. Two pair
  4. Three of a kind
  5. Straight
  6. Flush
  7. Full house
  8. Four of a kind
  9. Straight flush
  10. Royal flush

Pair in hand vs. pair on the table

It doesn’t matter if you have a pair on the table or a pair in the hand. At showdown, both still count as a pair. But a pair in the hand is more valuable. Let me explain why:

  • If there is a pair on the board, then everyone has at least that pair.
  • In the case that you have a pair in hand and there is a pair on the board, then now you have two pairs.
  • Think of the pair on the table as a bonus to everyone’s hands. Plus on top of that, it is easier for someone to have trips now. On the other hand, the pair in your hand is only yours, and others still need to hit a better hand if they don’t already have a higher pair than yours, to beat your hand.

Conclusion

All the examples above will make you a lot more confident next time when you see the same cards at showdown. Keep playing, and eventually, you will know in a split of a second who wins the pot. It kind of becomes muscle memory after a while. If you are interested in similar articles, then check the section below. Good luck at the tables.

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