When you’re beginning to learn poker – whether that’s online poker or poker at a real casino – one of the first things you’re taught is that the game has a very clear ranking of poker hands. Simply put, some hands are weaker or stronger than others. But as a new player, you may be wondering how these rankings work and even question (quietly to yourself) whether certain hands are actually ranked correctly.
This is often the case when it comes to a three of a kind vs a two pair, with new players often assuming that a two pair should be more valuable because it requires four cards in total. But this isn’t the case, which is why we’re going to take a more detailed look at these specific poker hands and explain what they are, why they each have a particular ranking and why one is considered stronger than the other.
Understanding the Difference Between a Three of a Kind and a Two Pair
Before we get into the reasons why a three of a kind and a two pair are placed in specific positions in the hand ranking, it’s important to know exactly what each hand is.
What Is a Three of a Kind in Poker?
A three of a kind is any hand that has three of the same rank of card in any of the four suits. Here are a few examples of different hands that all qualify as three of a kind:
- A jack of clubs, a jack of hearts and a jack of spades, a 10 of diamonds and a nine of diamonds.
- A 10 of clubs, a 10 of diamonds, a 10 of hearts, a nine of spades and a four of hearts.
- A two of diamonds, a two of hearts, a two of spades, a five of spades and a three of clubs.
There are 858 unique combinations that qualify as a three of a kind. This hand and its ranking is the same in both community and draw poker games but they may appear differently in each of these different types of poker games.
In a community poker game such as Texas Hold’em, a player may have a 10 of clubs and a 10 of diamonds with the flop revealing a 10 of hearts to complete their three of a kind. This is referred to as a set because you’re holding a pair. You can also make a three of a kind with one card in your hand and two community cards. This is known as trips. A set is considered to be more valuable because your opponents are less likely to realize that you’re holding a pair. In a regular draw game, you have to draw three of the same cards.
What Is a Two Pair in Poker?
Simply put, a two pair in poker is two pairs of matching value cards of any of the four suits in a player’s hand. Here are a few examples of different hands that all count as a two pair:
- An ace of clubs and an ace of hearts, a queen of diamonds, a queen of spades and a two of clubs.
- A 10 of clubs and a 10 of spades, a 9 of clubs, a 9 of spades and a five of hearts.
- A five of clubs and a five of hearts, a four of diamonds, a four of spades and an ace of spades.
As in the case of the three of a kind, there are also 858 unique combinations that can make a two pair. This poker hand has the same ranking in both community and draw poker games.
How Do Poker Hand Rankings Work?
Before we dive into the differences between a three of a kind and a two pair, it’s important to understand how the ranking of poker hands works. Basically, the value of each hand is determined by how likely you are to receive it in any poker variant. The more common the hand, the less value it has. If that’s what you prefer to play, bear in mind that the value of poker hands in video poker may differ slightly, so be sure to check how hands are ranked in your favorite version of video poker.
Poker Hand Ranked From Weakest To Strongest and Your Chances of Landing Them
Here’s a ranking list of the different hands in a game of poker, ordered from weakest to strongest (the values themselves may change depending on which version of poker you’re playing, but the ranking will stay the same):
- Pair – 1.36:1
- Two pair – 20.03:1
- Three of a kind – 46.32:1
- Straight – 253.80:1
- Flush – 508.80:1
- Full house – 693.16:1
- Four of a kind – 4,164:1
- Straight flush – 72,192.33:1
- Royal flush – 649,739:1
While understanding the odds of getting a specific hand is important, it’s also vital to know the strength of your starting hand so that you can decide whether you should fold or take a chance on getting a winning combination.
Is a Three of a Kind Better Than a Two Pair?
For anyone who is wondering if a three of a kind beats a two pair, the above list shows yes, it does. Even though a two pair requires more cards to make a winning combination, it’s actually just more than twice as hard to get three of the same value card in a hand. If you look at the listed odds as percentages, you have a 4.75% chance to make two pairs, while you only have a 2.11% chance to make three of a kind.
Even though these specific values may once again change depending on which version of poker you play, ultimately, it’s still harder to make three of a kind than a two pair, which is why it’s considered a stronger hand.
Put Your Improved Poker Knowledge and Skills to the Test at BetMGM
If you want to see how this new insight into poker can elevate your game, you can find out by playing poker online at BetMGM. If you want to sit down and enjoy some quick cash games, or you enjoy highly competitive poker tournaments that will truly put your skills to the test, you’ll find both at our online poker tables. We also offer an entertaining mix of poker variants, including Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Seven Card Stud, so you can switch things up between different poker games to keep your playing fresh and exciting.
Register at BetMGM to join in all the online poker action!