What is a ‘Pair’?
In a gambling context, a ‘pair’ is any two matching cards, dice or slot game symbols which appear for the player during their turn. The term is best known from poker, where it refers to two cards of different suits which share the same value – i.e. K-K or 3-3. Pairs are one of the ranked hands in poker, beating high cards.
A ‘pair’ simply means two of anything and could refer to doubles in a dice roll, a two-symbol win on the slots or a split bet in roulette. In casino slang, a ‘pair’ is best known as the name for a two card set. Standard playing cards have four suits: hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades. In each suit there are 13 cards, which are ranked consecutively as 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K (though sometimes ace is the lowest card and the king takes top place). Two cards of the same value (e.g. the three of clubs and the three of hearts) makes a pair.
In poker, if a player holds a pair then they have a chance at winning the pot – pairs, especially high ones like K-K and A-A – are capable of winning the pot against a table of high cards and low pairs. Pairs are extremely desirable to hold in stud and community card games, because a lucky draw or flop can find a triple set – perhaps even four of a kind. These are strong hands with a great chance of winning. A pair might also be joined by another by the river or fifth street play, making ‘two pair’ and beating any pairs. Two pair hands are usually beaten by three of a kind hands.
In video poker, players must achieve a high pair (usually jacks or better) in order to win. Where there are multiple pairs in a showdown, the highest value pair wins – K-K beats Q-Q, for example. If two players have the same pair, then a ‘kicker‘ usually determines the tie-break. The player with the highest card wins. For example, a hand of 3-4-6-6-8 would lose to 4-6-6-9-K, because the king in the second hand is higher than the 8 in the first.