Second Pair

Number Two Pair

by Jesse Knight


Second Pair
Second Pair - A pair completed with the second highest card on the board.

Flop games are different from stud and draw type poker games because community cards are used. Community card games have their own terminology in which pairs are frequently described by their position relative to the other community cards rather than being described by their specific ranks. There are several terms which are used to describe a player’s hand in this way including “overpair,” “top pair,” “middle pair,” “bottom pair,” “second pair,” “under pair,” and so on. Second pair describes a pair that is completed with the second highest community card from the board.

Community cards come in distinct stages, known as the “flop,” “turn,” and “river.” This means that the relative position of the individual community cards to each other can, and frequently do, change as the hand progresses. For example, if the highest card on the flop is a queen, a pair made with the queen would be considered top pair. However, if a king came on the turn, a pair of kings would take over the spot of top pair, while the queens would now be considered second pair. If an ace came on the river, the queens would slip further to third pair. For this reason, players discussing a poker hand will often include when they completed their hand, as this can provide valuable context. A player may say, “I had top pair on the flop,” or “I spiked second pair on the turn.”

When a player holds hole cards which are higher than any of the cards on the board, they are called “overcards.” If a community card higher than any of the flop cards comes on the turn or the river, it can also be referred to as an over card. Sometimes looser players, or players who attempt to float their opponents, will hold over cards past the flop in an attempt to spike top pair on the turn or the river. This can make it dangerous when an over card spikes on the turn or the river.

Sometimes top pair on the flop will hold up in the face of over cards, and sometimes it will not. You can get clues as to whether or not your hand is still good from the betting. When an over card generates a lot of action it is far more dangerous than when it generates none. One or more rounds without betting often indicate a weak field and can be an opportunity to bluff or to semi-bluff. Do not be afraid to bet with second pair, or worse, if no one seems interested in the pot.

These non specific, relativistic terms are an acceptable way to describe hand strengths, because it is the ranking of your hand relative to that of your opponents’ hands which determines the winner in a poker game, not the specific rank of your hand. As you know, a pair of queens may win easily, or finish the hand in third place or worse, depending upon the situation, or how the queen sits relative to the other community cards that are on the board. In community card games, even more so than in stud and draw games, it is your relative position which is more important than your hand’s actual rank.

Relative position is even more pronounced and important in flop type games, because the community cards, which are shared by everybody, establish a hierarchy of probable pairs, draws and completed hands. In stud and draw games, players receive their own independent cards, and therefore have the whole deck to draw from. Consider how that differs from the game of Texas Hold’em, a flop type game in which players receive only two private hole cards. In a Hold’em game, five out of seven cards in each players hand are the community cards shared by all. That makes it very difficult to form hands without using the board. Because of this, players who are able to complete a pair with the highest ranked card on the board will often end up winning the pot. In this environment, you can see why players are preoccupied with their hand ranking relative to the cards on the board, and why this dominates the lingo.

Usage: Second Pair No Good, Second Pair Top Kicker

Previous Poker Term: Scoop
Next Poker Term: Semi-Bluff


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