Players use sets and trips in the same context. It’s something that’s always made me chuckle. The two hands whilst theoretically have the same hand rank in three of a kind are wildly different. If you’re not an experienced player you may also think they are of equal value.
In this article I’m going to explain why they are very different and why it’s important. Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll gain a greater appreciation of the two and adjust your strategy accordingly.
What is the difference between sets and trips?
Trips is where you make three of a kind using only one of your hole-cards and two from the community cards.
A set is where you’ve made three of a kind but you’ve done it using both your hole-cards and only one from the available community cards.
Sets are better
Cutting to the chase, sets are far more valuable than trips. A set is very well hidden. There’s an old saying in in poker “sets win money whilst trips lose money”. Flopping a set is great as they are incredibly well disguised. Additionally, another opponent may be overplaying top pair or possibly an overpair. Therefore, you have a better chance of winning a big pot too.
Players are far less likely to give you credit for a set as the chances always seem more remote too. There’s nothing better than sneaking in with a small pocket pair and flopping a set!
Trips are obvious and dangerous
Whilst sets are disguised, trips are “in your face” so to speak. It’s hard to get a big payday with trips as your opponents are using the same two cards on the board. It’s easier for them to give you credit for trips when two are on the board.
Trips are also dangerous as there’s always the chance someone else has trips but with a better kicker. Moreover, if someone has a set, they now have a full house and you’re going to pay them off feeling you’ve been coolered. Therefore, trips are both obvious and dangerous to play.
That’s not to say you should play scared with trips but just be wary. An opponent with top pair or an overpair is more likely to pot control with a paired board than on a safe board texture.
Now you know the value of sets vs trips you should be mindful of the odds of hitting both.
The odds of flopping a set are just over 8 to 1 or 11%.
The odds of flopping trips are much less likely at 73 to 1 or 1.4%.
Final thoughts on sets vs trips
Knowing the difference between a set vs trips is important both for cash and tournament. By recognizing that sets are far more valuable you should play them aggressively and manipulate the pot to win the max. In contrast, trips should be played for value but also with a sense of caution, especially multi-way or if your kicker is weak. I’ve seen it countless times in cash games where players get too attached to trips. Players fail to appreciate the context of the hand.