What is a three-of a-kind in poker? Three-of-a-kind means that you have three cards of equal value in your hand, like three Queens, or three 10s. It’s a very strong poker hand and will win you many pots, as long as you can play it properly. Three-of-a-kind can be a very stealthy and strong hand, though it’s vulnerable to straights, flushes, and other premium hand combos.

This guide will explain how to make/rank three-of-a-kind hands in poker and show the probability. Towards the end, we’ll explain some basic strategies for players to consider when they have three-of-a-kind.

We’ll also explain the difference between sets and trips, which are two poker terms to describe three-of-a-kind.

Without knowing he’s behind Bryn Kelly, Olivier loves his hand

Three-of-a-kind is made in two separate ways and there’s a special poker term for each one. Having a “set” or “trips” are both terms for three-of-a-kind, and you should know the difference.

What is a Set?

A set in poker can only happen when the player has a pocket pair, meaning two cards of matching value (Ace-Ace, 9-9, 10-10, and so on). When you see a third matching card on the flop, turn, or river betting rounds, you’ve got a set.

What are Trips?

Trips happen when the board is paired, meaning there are two matching cards among the community cards. For example, a flop like 4♥ 8♥ 8♠ is a “paired board”. Let’s say you hold the 8♣ in your hand; you’ve got trips, also known as three-of-a-kind 8s.

Three-of-a-kind is a strong hand; but it loses to many poker hand combinations, like four-of-a-kind, full houses, flushes, and of course, straight and royal flushes. Three-of-a-kind beats two-pair, one-pair, and high card hand combinations.

The highest three-of-a-kind combination is three Aces, and the weakest is three 2s. When two players have three-of-a-kind, it’s straightforward to rank it, unless both players have the same combination of trips.

When two players have trips, we need to check their kicker to decide a winner. The kicker is a tiebreaker card that helps when two players have nearly identical hand combinations. If two players have trip Kings, but one player has an Ace kicker, then that player wins.

Lex Velduis has been playing professional poker for decades

Team PokerStars Pro Lex Velduis takes a moment out of his tournament grind to discuss what to do when you flop top set. In his opinion, most players go into “trapping mode” in this situation, instead of betting.

At the right stakes, you might sit across from Lex if you play the Texas hold ‘em tournaments at PokerStars. He usually plays larger buy-in events several times a week and invests a lot of his own money into the entry fees.

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There are two main ways to make three-of-a-kind and it’s handy to know the probability of making trips or a set.

Making a set with a pocket pair: When you hold a pair in your hand, like pocket 10s or pocket Kings, you’ll make a set on the flop about 11.8% of the time (around 1 in every 7.5 times). If you missed the set on the flop, you’ll have about a 4% chance of finding the card you need on the turn or river.

Making trips with two unmatching cards: The probability of flopping trips is far lower than the odds of flopping a set; it’s only going to happen 1 in every 74 flops, or 1.35% of the time. If you pair one of your hole cards on the flop, you still only have about a 4% chance of hitting one of the two cards you need on the turn and river.

Какой вид покера предпочитаешь?

Three-of-a-kind is a very strong hand that you shouldn’t fold often, but the strength of this hand can be severely weakened on certain boards.

Top set is the “nuts” (the strongest possible hand combination) on any unpaired board that doesn’t have the possibility of flushes or straights. For example, on the board shown below of K♦ 10♠ 8♠, the nuts is K♥ K♣.

Some turns and rivers make top set very weak

A lot of stronger hand combinations like straights, flushes, and full houses beat three-of-a-kind, so you need to be wary of your opponent’s hand and the board's texture. If your opponent has a flush draw, they’ll win the hand 1 out of 3 times. If they have an open-ended straight draw, they’ll win about the same amount, 31.5%, to be exact.

In an 888poker cash game, Nick Eastwood shows us the kind of trouble we can get into with sets. Since they are very disguised and relatively strong, we often feel forced to call in positions of vulnerability. Facing a raise on the river from his opponent, Nick calls and sees the bad news.

Eastyyy22 (Nick Eastwood) makes top set on the river but probably wishes he hadn’t

Do you think you could make the fold in this situation? Eastyyy22 plays around the 25NL stakes, meaning a maximum buy-in of $25 and $0.10/$025 blinds. In his own words, he’s “playing against whales” at this stake level. Generally speaking, 888poker has a reputation for attracting players who are very casual and are just there to enjoy card games.

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888poker is one of the oldest rooms of modern online poker, founded in 2002. Known for regular freerolls, a large selection of mid-low stakes games and it's SuperStorm and XL tournament series.

Basic Strategies for Three-of-a-Kind:

  • When you have top set, you need to remember that it is now unlikely for your opponent to have top pair. Rather than wasting such a strong hand, try to choose a strategy that maximizes your profit. Sometimes, betting with top set makes perfect sense, for example, when you think your opponent has an over-pair.
  • Be wary of flush draws when you have a set or trips. Avoid letting your opponents “draw for free” and make bets to build the pot, especially against multiple opponents where it’s more likely someone has a flush draw.
  • When you have the bottom or middle set, it can be a good idea to bet. This is because your opponent is more likely to have a top pair and will be able to continue in the hand.
  • If you suspect your opponent is weak, there’s no need to force them out of the hand. For example, if they raised pre-flop but the flop is full of lower cards (that they are unlikely to match with). Rather than making them fold with a bet, allow them to “catch up” and hopefully pair one of their cards.
Poker Tactics That Will Help You Become Better