Explanation of Three of a kind
We make three of a kind when our holding consists of three cards of identical rank.
Hand 1: K♦T♥
Hand 2: A♦T♦
Both hand 1 and hand 2 make three of a kind Tens in the above example. When three of a kind is made using only one of our hole-cards it is frequently referred to as “trips”.
Since both players have the same rank of three of a kind in the above example, the winner will be determined by the kicker. Hand 1 has trip Tens with a King kicker while hand 2 has trip Tens with an Ace kicker. Hand 2 hence wins this matchup since it has the higher kicker.
Hand 1: 9♦9♥
Hand 2: 5♣5♥
Once more both players make three of a kind. When three of a kind is formulated using a pocket pair it is frequently referred to as a “set”. In scenarios where players make three of a kind of different ranks, the player with the highest ranked three of a kind wins the pot.
Hand 1: AdQd
Hand 2: AhKh
In this example both players make trips purely with board cards. Seeing as neither player’s hole cards help to directly formulate the three of a kind, these holdings are often colloquially referred to as “Ace high”. Both players technically hold three of a kind Tens with an Ace kicker. It might appear at first glance that these hands will chop, but it’s important to remember that we always need to use 5 cards to construct a complete hand. This leaves us room to incorporate a second kicker as the tie-breaker. Hand 1 is trip Tens with Ace Queen kickers while hand 2 is trip Tens with Ace King kickers. Hand 2 hence wins the pot since the second kicker is stronger.
Example of Three of a Kind used in a sentence -> Three of a kind made with a pocket pair is typically referred to as a ‘set’.
How to Use Three of a kind as Part of Your Poker Strategy
In Hold’em it is important to differentiate between “trips” and “sets”. Trips is where we only use one of our hole-cards when formulating the three-of-a-kind component of the hand. A set is where we formulate our three of a kind using a pocket pair in the hole.
Although three of a kind is nearly always a strong hand in Hold’em, sets are significantly stronger than trips for the following reasons.
a) Sets are well disguised whereas it’s obvious a player might have made trips when there are two cards of identical rank on the board.
b) If we have top set we have the nuts on many board textures. If we have top trips, we might find ourselves up against the full-house made with a pocket-pair.
c) We need to be concerned about our kicker when making trips, but this is not an issue when making a set.
In many cases, sets are strong enough for us to be happy about committing postflop when playing in 100bb cash games. There are exceptions however, especially on board textures where straights and flushes are possible. It won’t always be correct to stack off for 100bb with any set.
Trips needs to be treated with a little more caution, and whether we commit the stacks or not will usually be dependent on whether we have a decent kicker.
Sets are relatively strong in Pot Limit Omaha, but nowhere near as strong as in Hold’em. Caution is especially advised with bottom and middle set, since they often get novice PLO players into a lot of difficult. These hands are often not strong enough to stack off with for 100bb, especially assuming no relevant redraws.