Why Does a Straight Beat Two Pair?

Strong poker hands don’t come around all that often, so it’s crucial to know just where your made hand stacks up in the poker hand rankings. If it’s a hand like two pair or a straight, it probably has a good chance of holding up as the winner when you take it to showdown.

Both a straight and two pair represent strong poker hands in games like Texas Hold’em, Stud, and Omaha. The question is – does two pair beat a straight?

The answer in this case is no. A straight ranks higher than two pair in the poker hand rankings, and let’s take a look at the math to find out why.

Why Does A Straight Beat Two Pair?

When trying to make the best five-card hand from a 52-card deck, a straight occurs mathematically less often than two pair. Because of this, the straight is harder to make and therefore outranks two pair.

why does a straight beat two pair in poker

why does a straight beat two pair in poker

The Math Behind A Straight

A 52-card deck yields ten distinct ways to make a straight. The following hand represents an example of a five-card straight:

Why Does a Straight Beat Two Pair?

Why Does a Straight Beat Two Pair?

Note that the probabilities we’ll talk about in this article exclude straight flushes and royal flushes, which count as their own categories in the poker hand rankings. In the case of a straight, the suits don’t affect the hand strength, and any queen-high straight represents the same distinct hand no matter what the suits.

While there are only ten distinct ways to make a straight, the combinations of different suits yield 10,200 different ways to make a five-card straight from a 52-card deck. 

The Math Behind Two Pair

Pulling five random cards from a 52-card deck produces 858 distinct two pair hands. A two pair hand looks like this:

Why Does a Straight Beat Two Pair?

Why Does a Straight Beat Two Pair?

Note that the suits don’t matter when it comes to determining a distinct two pair hand, but the kicker does. For example, A♠A♥5♦5♣T♣ and A♠A♥5♦5♣3♣ make two different distinct two pair hands.

The suits do count toward overall ways to draw two pair, however, and a 52-card deck produces 123,552 ways to make two pair.

Texas Hold’em, the world’s most popular poker game, tasks the player with making the five-card hand out of seven possible cards (two hole cards and five community cards).

You have a 4.62% chance of making a straight in Texas Hold’em with all five community cards on the board. Two pair, however, happens 23.5% of the time.

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