Does Two Pair Beat Three of a Kind?

Dennis  «Dennis_Stets» 
06 Jun 2024
Poker Basics
06 Jun 2024

Understanding hand poker rankings is very important for all the beginners. But even after learning them, part of players may still ask something like this: «does three of a kind beat two pairs»? Despite the simlicity of such question, we’ll give a quick and detailed response. So let’s get to it!

Does two pair beat three of a kind?

In popular poker disciplines like Texas Hold’em, Seven-Card Stud, or Five-Card Draw, poker pros never doubt when it comes to 3 of a kind vs 2 pair hand comparison. Here you should remember just one simple thing:

According to poker hand ranking three of a kind is stronger than two pairs.

To confirm this fact, let’s dive into the main reasons why three of a kind outranks two pair.

Explaining in simple words

Is three of a kind better than two pair? YES, and it’s just simple math! Almost in any poker game with standart 52-card deck, the odds of getting two pairs is 7.62%. The odds for three of a kind are less — just 2.87%.

Because it's mathematically harder to get three of a kind, this hand wins against two pair.

Examples and possibilities

There’s 858 ways to make 3 of a kind out of a standart poker deck. An example of a distinct hand:

Distinct hands refer to the cards in the hand without taking suits into account. The four suits (♠,♦,♣,♥), in different combinations, give player 64 possible ways to make Q-Q-Q-7-6.

With 858 distinct three-of-kind hands possible, multiplied by 64 possible suit combinations, a 52-card deck yields 54,912 possible ways to draw three-of-a-kind.

Now let’s look at the math behind two pair.

A 52-card deck produces 858 ways to make 2 pairs. That number is exactly the same as the distinct count of three-of-a-kind hands. Factoring in suits, however, makes two pair a more commonly occurring hand.

Let’s check a hand that qualifies as two pair:

The above hand qualifies as two pair, Jacks and nines.

For example, our above example of J-J-9-9-2 can be drawn 144 different ways to make a two pair hand. Multiplied by 858 distinct hands, it gives us 123,552 possible ways to make 2 pairs.

In Texas Hold’em, players have a 23.5% chance of making two pair with all five community cards on the board. Three of a kind, with its 4.83% frequency, is a far less common hand.

Basic Strategy

There’s no concrete method or working strategy to win with two pairs against a three of a kind. The only thing you can do, if such a situation occurs, is to successfully bluff and win. That's the best case scenario. Also you can invest less chips and, respectively, lose not that much to three of a kind, if:

  1. You know how to read your opponent's hands;
  2. You do not overvalue your hands with two pairs.

For example, check or check-fold. After all, the main objective for poker pro is not always to win in the current hand, but on a long distance.

With the professional approach and a some dose of luck you'll get positive results.

Real tournament cases when 2 pairs brought victory

Of course, winning with a two pairs is real and theoretically may happen — but only in the context of bluffing and applying other strategic poker techniques. But even in real history, there have been precedents of poker pros winning with two pairs. We’re not talking specifically about 3 of a kind vs 2 pair situations, but in general:

  • In the 2007 WSOP event, James A. Brown won with 2 pair and a gold bracelet for first place.
  • In the 2012 Las Vegas Poker Championship in Las Vegas, Ray Hunt got two pair and won the tournament.
  • In 2014, John Holling (on picture below) won with 2 pair and received a first place bracelet.

How to play correctly with 2 pairs?

In the end, here's some recommendations. First of all, to win with two pair it’s important to have a complete understanding of the game and the characteristics of your opponent. Start by analyzing the situation and determining your poker strategy. For example, if you have two pairs, you can apply psychological pressure to force your opponent to fold cards. 

It is equally important to consider the player's position and advantages.

For example, if you're making decision last, you will have more information about the other players. This will give you a better understanding of what you should do to win with two pairs combination.

Pairs in poker are cards of the same value. Even if you have 2 of such pairs, it will be almost impossible to beat poker hand three of a kind, because the other players' cards will give them a greater advantage. And it’s just facts — according to the simple seniority of poker combinations.

Also keep in mind that you should not overestimate your opportunities. Otherwise weaker players may leave the table or make more calculated decisions. Also take into consideration responsible bankroll management. 

Anyways, keep in mind that this type of combination is weak and will not beat three of a kind and the rest of higher ones.

Final words

It’s important to understand the tactics of the game and make the right decisions. Remember that playing poker requires a lot of practice, so you should not take up the game with the aim of winning quickly and big. It’s not a casino! By the way, if you want to teach more or improve your current level of skill, you can visit the coach section and leave a request for personal training.

Even the strongest combinations can be beaten by two pairs. But in such case 2 pair will play the role of a cooler and nothing more. According to the rules of poker, two pairs lose to three of a kind 100% of the time. If you still have questions — write in the comments. We’d be happy to answer!

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