3 of a Kind vs 2 Pair: Which Poker Hand is Better?

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3 of a Kind vs 2 Pair
Jun 20, 2024 Reading time : 5 min

Beginners might find it difficult to understand the rules of poker. Whether playing real casino or online poker, the first and foremost thing to know is the ranking of hands and how these poker rankings work.

In this article, we will discuss the answer to “Does 2 pair beat 3 of a kind?”. You will also learn about poker hand rankings, how kickers contribute to the game, and much more. 

Let’s get started!

What is Three of a Kind and Two Pair?

3 of a kind vs 2 pair

Three-of-a-kind is a card situation where a poker hand has three of the same rank cards in any of the four suits. It also includes the cards on the table that are shared among all players. 

Here are a few examples of three-of-a-kind hands:

  • 9♠️ 9♣️ 9♦️ 7♠️ Q♥️
  • K♥️ K♠️ K♣️ 2♦️ 7♠️ 
  • 4♣️ 4♠️ 4♥️ 5♣️ A♠️

Two pairs is a combination of 5 cards, which includes 2 pairs of 2 same rank cards and 1 card of any rank. Even though two pairs are in the lower half of the poker hand ranking, they are the most common combination for winning. 

Here are a few examples of two pair:

  • 5♠️ 5♣️ K♥️ K♠️ A♠️
  • 9♠️ 9♣️ 4♣️ 4♠️ J♦️
  • J♦️ J♣️ Q♠️ Q♦️ 2♣️
Sets (a type of three-of-a-kind)

“Sets” and “Trips” are the different types of three of a kind. In the Texas hold ’em variant of poker, Sets are made using the same rank pair in the hands with a single card on the board. Trips are made with one card in the hand along with two same-rank cards on the table.

How Does Poker Hand Ranking Work?

Before we can answer the question “Is 3 of a kind better than 2 pair?” we should first understand how the ranking system works. The likelihood that a player will receive a hand, determines its value. If a poker hand is easy to get, then it will rank lower in the table.  

Poker Hand Rankings

The following is the list of different poker hands with odds of landing them. Ranked from strongest to weakest

HandOdds
Royal flush649,739:1
Straight flush72,192.33:1
Four of a kind4,164:1
Full house693.1667:1
Flush507.8019:1
Straight253.8:1
Three of a kind46.32955:1
Two pair20.03535:1
One pair1.366477:1

The probability of getting these combinations can be different, depending on the variant you are playing. However, the rankings remain unchanged.

Does 2 Pair Beat 3 of a Kind? – Mathematical Approach 

The answer to the question “Does two pair beat three of a kind?” is no. Three of a kind is mathematically more difficult to make than two pairs. 

Most beginners think that poker is a game of skill and luck, but that’s not true. The poker card holding depends on the probability. If the probability of a combination of cards is less, then the chances of winning are high. 

Making three of a kind is twice as hard as two pair, even though it requires fewer cards for winning combinations. The odds of making two pairs and three of a kind are 20.03535:1 and 46.32955:1, respectively, according to the list. Let’s see the mathematical aspects of two pair vs three of a kind.

Notes

The rankings of poker hands may differ in video games.

The Math Behind Two Pair

7♥️ 7♠️ 2♣️ 2♦️ 3♠️ 

There are 858 definite ways of drawing a two pair from a deck of 52 cards and considering the 4 different suits (♠️ ♣️ ♥️ ♦️) you can make two pair in 144 different ways. So, you’ll get 123,552 ways to make two pair after multiplying 858 distinct poker hands with 144 different ways to draw a card. 

The Math Behind Three of a Kind

There are also 858 definite ways of drawing three of a kind from a deck of 52 cards. But there are only 64 ways to make a three-of-a-kind. 

5♠️ 5♣️ 5♥️ K♠️ A♠️

So, if you multiply 858 definite poker hands by 64 different possible ways, you get 54,912 possible ways to make three of a kind.

Notes

The remaining two cards have to be unpaired to make a three-of-a-kind. Otherwise, it will be considered as a full house.

What are Kickers in Poker?

Kickers are the cards that can be used for breaking the ties in the game of poker. These cards don’t take part in determining the rank of the hand. Kickers are ranked as follows: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2.

Three-of-a-kind aces will be considered the best kicker if more than one player has the three-of-a-kind.

If two players have the same two pairs, the fifth card serves as a kicker. If even the fifth card is identical, the pot will be divided.  

Wrapping Up

To summarize, the ranking of hands in poker solely depends on the probability of making a combination where royal flush is the hardest and one pair is the easiest to make. In 2 pair vs 3 of a kind, 3 of a kind is comparatively harder to make than 2 pair, making it rank higher in the list.

We hope that this article will help you understand the fundamentals of poker. 

Frequently Asked Questions
Does 2 pair with aces beat 3 of a kind?

No, unless you are playing the lowball variant, two pairs with aces cannot beat three of a kind. In lowball, the poker hand with the lowest value wins. Two aces are just a pair, and a pair is beaten by three of a kind.

What beats a 3 of a kind?

The royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, and straight all beat the three of a kind.

What beats 3 of a kind in 3 card poker?

In 3-card poker, mini-royal flush (AKQ) and straight flush beats three of a kind, straight, flush, pair, and high card.

Is a flush better than a full house?

The probability of getting a full house is 0.1441% which is less than the probability of a flush which is 0.1965%.

Does three of a kind beat two pair?

Yes, because the probability of making three of a kind is less than two pair. 

Sources:

Basics of Poker by Bicycle Cards

Poker Strategy by Brilliant 

Defining a Kicker in Poker by Spartan Poker

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