3 of a Kind in Poker

Poker.Org Staff
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Published: May 31, 2022 12:16 PM EDT

What is a 3-of-a-kind?

Three-of-a-kind is a card combination that contains three ranking cards, like three aces, three queens, three sevens, or three nines.

The suit of your cards isn’t important for ranking three-of-a-kind. Depending on which poker game you’re playing, your three-of-a-kind may include some community cards.It may also include cards on the table that are shared amongst all players.

If you’re a new poker player and you’re learning to strategize with one or more of the most common poker games like pot-limit Omaha or Texas Hold’em, it can feel really exciting when you find three-of-a-kind in your hand. But just how good is three-of-a-kind? 

In order to make the most effective and realistic wagers, you’ll need to understand poker hand rankings, the potential value of different three-of-a-kind variants, and just how likely you are to get three-of-a-kind in your poker hand. 

What does 3-of-a-kind beat?

Three-of-a-kind beats a pair hand, two-pair hands, and a high-card hand. Three-of-a-kind can also beat other three-of-a-kind hands. It depends on the value and ranking of your own three-of-a-kind hand.

Three-of-a-kind does not beat a straight, a flush, a full house, four-of-a-kind, a straight flush, or a royal flush. Each of these hands is superior to your three-of-a-kind hand.

Winning the pot with three-of-a-kind isn’t always likely, but it’s definitely possible.

3-of-a-kind probabilities

So just how likely are you to get three-of-a-kind in your poker hand?

If you’re playing a poker game that uses the traditional 52-card deck, then there are 54,912 ways to get three-of-a-kind with different suits.

Three-of-a-kind in your starting hand

Your probability of drawing three-of-a-kind in your starting hand is 2.1128%. That may sound promising, but it’s important to remember that every player has the same probability of drawing three-of-a-kind.

Three-of-a-kind on the flop

If you’re playing a game with community cards and you have a pocket pair, your odds of getting three-of-a-kind on the flop are 10.8%. If you don’t already have a pair, your odds of getting three-of-a-kind on the flop are much lower or only 2.08%.

3-of-a-kind rankings

As you learn poker, it’s important to fully understand the ins and outs of ranking card combinations, what constitutes a strong hand, and what exactly to go for if you want to achieve the best possible hand.

Sets vs. trips

In games like Texas Hold’em that use community cards, you can make three-of-a-kind using the cards on the board. 

If you hold a pocket pair and get the third matching card from the board, that’s called a set. For example, if you’re holding a pair of jacks and there’s a jack on the board, then you have three-of-a-kind, but more specifically, you have a set.

If there is a pair on the board and you hold a matching card in your hand, then that’s called having trips. So if there’s a pair of nines on the board and you have a nine in your starting hand, then you have three-of-a-kind, but it can also be called trips.

If you have a set, no other players in the game can also have that same set, but if you make three-of-a-kind with trips, then another player may be able to match your trips. That’s where the value of your kickers come in to help you win.

The takeaway

Three-of-a-kind may not feel like a very exciting hand in poker, but it does have some hidden values. If you’re dealt three-of-a-kind early on or can make three-of-a-kind with community cards, you’re that much closer to an even better hand like four-of-a-kind or a full house.

The more you play and begin to recognize the strengths of different types of hands, the closer you may be to winning your card games and taking home some impressive pot winnings! Who knows, you may even win poker tournaments like the WSOP!

Featured image source: Flickr by Poker Photos used under CC license