Poker Trips

Three of a Kind - Flopped Trips

by Jesse Knight


Poker Trips
Trips - Three of a kind with two of them on the board.

In flop games, such as Hold’em and Omaha, players often make a distinction between “trips,” which is three of a kind composed of one card from your hand and two cards from the board, and “a set” which is three of a kind composed of two cards from your hand and only one from the board. This distinction is made because there are huge differences in the way these two types of three-of-a-kind hands tend to play out. Some less sophisticated players may not understand the distinction between trips and a set, and will use the terms interchangeably. Doing this is a sign that you are a new or inexperienced player.

One big difference between trips and a set, is that a set tends to be far more powerful than trips. One reason for this is that a set is often very well disguised. Remember, when you complete a set, you will be using two cards from your hand and one from the board. Since you are using only one card from the board, it will be difficult for your opponent to put you on your hand based upon the texture of the board. Instead, if they are going to put you on (or guess that you have) a set, they will have to do it based on other things, like betting patterns or physical tells. In many instances, you will only be able to put your opponent on a set because they bet their hand strongly, and no other explanation seems to make sense.

In contrast, trips are not very well hidden at all. Since two out of three cards appear on the board, everyone is aware that there is a danger that trips is out there, possibly in two different spots. This creates a considerably different playing environment than you would have with a set. Players have more reason to be cautious because of the danger, but the danger also creates a larger incentive to bluff and play position. This means that frequently, when you are facing a paired board, you must evaluate accurately whether or not your opponent has what they are representing.

In addition to being better concealed, a set has another natural advantage over trips. When the two hands face off against each other, the set is often a big favorite. Having a favorite when another player has a monster, like trips, is a great spot to be in, especially in a No-Limit or Pot-limit game. It is one of the classic situations where you are able to win your opponent’s entire stack, because they will often perceive their hand as being too strong to throw away. When you make a set and pair the board, you are often a huge favorite over any players who have made trips when the board paired. Depending upon how big your set is, you may have them drawing dead or near dead. If you only hold an under set to their trips, your opponent may still have several outs.

It is a mistake to assume that you have the nuts when you make trips, especially if you do not have a strong kicker. Sometimes you will be up against a full house, better trips, a set, a straight or a flush, so that you may either be beat, or be in grave danger. Even if you have the best hand, you are frequently in danger of being drawn out on when you hold trips and do not fill up. Trips need to be played more cautiously than a set, and there will even be times when it is correct to throw trips away. Understanding the nuanced differences between trips and a set will both help you build a bigger pot when you have the best hand, and help you to lose less when you do not.

In addition to being used in flop games, the term “trips” is also used in stud games and certain types of draw games. Some players in these games will continue to make the distinction between trips and a set, but the term “trips” is used a little more loosely and frequently in these games than it would be in a flop game. It is one of many slang terms for three-of-a-kind, which include: a “trio,” a “set,” and a “wire.”

Usage: Flopped Trips, Hit Trip Kings, Trips vs. A Set

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