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Updated: July 9, 2023
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Three Of A Kind In Poker hand ranking: All You Need To Know

When one comes across any game, the immediate question that comes to one’s mind is “What wins you the game?” Because obviously, there must be something that defines a win in any game. And poker game is no different. In cricket you have runs and wickets to win you a game, in football, you have the number of goals, in poker it is the hand rankings! Hand rankings are what decide if you will win or lose a given hand. If you have the best hand rank, nothing will stop you from winning, if you have the lowest hand rank, your probability of winning is the lowest and its difficult to win. The hand rankings in between the highest and the lowest is what brings fun into the game. Whether you will or lose with these hands depends on how you decide to play them, and ultimately on what hand your opponent shows.

There are roughly 10 hand rankings in poker arranged in the order of their probability of occurrence during a given dealing of a deck consisting of 52 cards. Each of these ten hand rankings have a value of their own and rank accordingly.

One of these ten hand rankings is known as ‘Three of a kind.’ But what is it, how strong is it and how should you play it? Let’s find out:

What is Three of a kind?

Just as the name suggests, when you hear the name, one will instantly think of three cards of the same type and that’s just what it is. A three of a kind hand is poker is a hand that contains three cards of the same rank or denomination. For example, AAAQJ is a three of a kind because it has three cards of the same rank, in this case, there are three aces. There could be other combinations too, like 666A4, 99982. However, the other two kicker cards should be of completely different denomination as compared to each other, or else it would be called a full-house. For example, AAAQQ will not be a three of a kind, it is a full house.

In three of a kind, the suit of the card does not matter since in poker every suit is given similar importance. There is no suit that has more value than others. Every suit is treated equally, hence, the value depends on the denomination of the cards.  The three of a kind hand ranks seventh in the hand rankings arranged from the best to worst. It is slightly on the lower side since there is a probability of 858 distinct three of a kind, which calculates to a rough probability of 2.1128%. Right above three of a kind is a straight (sequential card) that ranks sixth, while below the three of a kind are two pair, pair and high-card, that rank eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.

You will also often come across the words ‘sets’ and ‘trips,’ when talking about three of a kind. That is because there are two ways of making a three of a kind considering you use minimum one and maximum two hole cards to form the hand. Depending on how many cards you use from your hole cards and how many from the board, you are said to hit a set or trips. Let’s have a look at both:

  • Set:

When you use two cards of the same denomination from your hole cards, and a third card of the same card falls on the board, you are said to hit a set. If you get your third card on the flop, you flop a set. In this situation you made a three of a kind hand using two hole cards and one community card. This is only achievable when you are already dealt with a pair (Pocket cards).

For example, you are already holding 6♣ and 6♦. You stay in the hand, and 6♥ falls on the board. Now you have a set of sixes.

  • Trips:

A little different and contradictory to a set trip is when you have one given hole card, and two more cards of the same denomination fall on the board to help you get a three of a kind hand. So you are using two cards from the board and one from your hand to make these three of a kind in trips.

Say you are holding 3♥, K♥ and 3♦8♣A♣35comes on the board. You will use the two threes on the board and one in your hand to form trips.

Three of a kinds rankings:

All combinations of three of a kind hands can also be ranked based on the value of the cards in contention. Hence, while playing it is also important to look out for the value or denomination of the cards you use in your three of a kind in poker.  Since Ace is the highest value card in poker, three aces is the best three of a kind hand you can have. It could be a set of aces or trip aces. It is followed by three Kings, then three Queens, three Jacks, three tens and so on.

A typical 52-card deck is said to have about 54,912 possible combinations of three of a Kind poker hands. Additionally, there are almost 858 unique ranks of Three of a Kind hands that can potentially be formed. This is because when two players have the same value three of a kind, then the kicker card comes into play. The highest card from the remaining two cards that supports the three of a kind is known as a kicker. Thus, every three of a Kind hand is determined by the three cards of the same value, followed by the rank of the first kicker and then the second kicker, for the best possible five card hand.

Let’s do a quick test. Which of the following three of a kind ranks highest and which is the lowest?

  1. Q♥Q♦Q♠K♠2♠
  2. AAAT♣6♥
  3. Q♦Q♣Q♥A♥9♥

Did you guess? In these, the AAAT6 is clearly the best because it has a three of a king with aces. Now among hand ‘a’ and hand ‘c,’ hand ‘c’ is greater because even though both have three of a kind of queens, hand ‘c’ has the ace kicker to support the hand. An ace is higher than a king, and hence QQQA9 will rank higher than QQQK2.

Now consider another instance with the following example:

  1. Q♦Q♣Q♥A♥9♥
  2. Q♦Q♣Q♥A♦J♥

Who do you think wins in this case? The right answer is option ‘b,’ This is because, here, the value of three of a kind is the same, i.e., three of a kind of queens, the value of the kicker is also the same. The suit of the kicker doesn’t matter because suits have no value in three of a kind. In this case the second kicker comes into the picture. Jack is greater than a nine and hence, QQQAJ is higher than QQQA9.

What are the probabilities of forming a three of a kind in Texas Hold’em?

In Texas Hold’em you are dealt with just two hole cards and five community cards are displayed on the board. You are allowed to use either one, both or none of your hole cards to make the best five card hand. Given these rules let’s see what are the probabilities preflop, on the flop, on the turn and on the river.

Say you are holding a pocket pair and you hit a set of three of a kind on the board.

The Pre-Flop Stage: At this stage, any random five cards can show up on the board from the deck of 52 cards. Hence your probabilities pre-flop are 2.1128%.

The Flop: Three cards from the deck have been revealed and hence the probabilities are 11.8%. Since three cards open, there is a greater possibility that a card of the same denomination (you are already holding two) shows up.

The Turn: Here three cards have already opened and a fourth card is revealed, hence the probability of hitting a set 4.26%.

The River: This is the last card to be revealed and also your last chance to hit a set. Thus, the probability is 4.35%.

What are the probabilities of Forming Three of a Kind in Pot Limit Omaha (PLO)

In a Pot Limit Omaha game, you are dealt with four cards and five cards are revealed on the board as community cards. You must compulsorily use two and only two hole cards and three cards from the board to make your best five card hand. Here there is a possibility that you could be holding two pairs. For example, you could be dealt with AA44 as your hole cards. In that case, your probabilities also increase since you have two options of making a three of a kind hand.

The Pre-Flop Stage: Preflop, the probabilities remain the same, since any five cards from the 52 card deck could show up. Hence the probability is 2.1128%.

The Flop: On the flop, if you are holding just one pair, the probability of flopping a set is 12.59%.

But if you have two pairs in hand, your probability is 12.59%.

The Turn: Your probability of hitting a set on the turn if you have one pair is 4.44%. Similarly, if you have two pairs, there is an 8.89% probability of hitting a set on the turn.

The River: There is 4.55% probability of completing your three of a kind on the river if you have one pair and 9.09% if you have two pairs in hand.

How to play a three of a kind?

Even though a three of a kind ranks on the lower side of the poker hand rankings, it is still a decent hand to play and win. If you have pockets pairs and are anticipating a set, it is good to play aggressively preflop by betting, raising or re-raising. This is because of two reasons. Firstly, you already have a pair, even if you do not hit a set, you can still fall back on your pocket pair. Secondly, playing aggressively will drive away or eliminate any opponents that hold lower cards, like players who don’t have something strong to play for. Even if they hold suited cards, many of them will opt out of the hand if someone raises or re-raises because the probabilities of making a straight preflop are considerably low. This could prove beneficial for you because if the folded hands improved on the board, your three of a kind could be in danger. However, now that they are folded there is absolutely no threat to you.

If you do not have a pair, then you might want to play for the value of your cards. Play cautiously preflop, because the possibilities of forming trips is lower than that of hitting a set. Remember that what opens on the board is not in your hands. If you score trips it could be just because of your luck.

On the board if you flop a set, nothing like it. You are in an advantageous position. However, do not get too overwhelmed, keep the dynamics of the table and the actions of the players. In case the flop shows another pair different from the value of your cards, especially a higher pair, there could be a possibility of someone getting a higher trip, thus can beat you with their higher three of a kind at showdown. Also, if the flop shows sequential cards of cards of the same suit, there are possibilities of other players getting their straights or flushes. If not, many players would be on straight draws and flush draws. On the turn and river too, you need to be a little cautious and observant.

If you see and read that your opponents don’t have much value to play for, you can bully them and profit.


Like mentioned earlier, three of a kind may not be the most amazing hand in poker, but it isn’t that bad either. It has its own charm, excitement and can keep you on the edge of your seat. If you happen to get a three-of-a-kind early in the hand, you not only have a decent hand to play, but you also step closer to getting stronger hands, namely four of a kind or full-house.

Keep practicing your game and playing as many hands as you can, and you will realize the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that each hand brings.


What are three of a kind in poker?

A Three of a Kind hand in poker is a hand with three cards of the same rank or denomination. A hand which has three equally ranked cards is a three of a kind hand. The remaining two cards can be of different ranks. For example, 999A6, KKKJ4 are Three of a Kind hands.

What is the best three of a kind hand?

AAAKQ is the best three of a kind hand. Any other hand with three aces is a strong three of a kind, and you can confidently play this hand.

What hand can beat a three of a kind?

Hands like straight, flush, four of a kind, full house, straight flush, royal flush can beat a three of a kind, since it ranks seventh, and the above hands rank higher than the three of a kind hand.

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