What is the Nuts in Poker?

beastsofpoker-favicon

In the game of poker, there’s one hand that’s considered the ultimate powerhouse. You’ve probably heard it before, when someone says they flopped, turned or rivered the “nuts.” 

This is the hand every player dreams of holding in a big cash game pot or at the final table of a major poker tournament. In this article, we’ll explore what makes the nuts special in poker – and what to avoid when holding the nuts!

How to tell you’ve got the nuts in poker?

When your hole cards form the best possible hand combination with the community cards, you’ve got the nuts. For example, if the flop comes 7-9-J rainbow, holding T8 would make the nuts. But, the nuts can change on each street: Let’s say the turn card is another Jack, with the board reading 7-9-J-J. Now the nuts would be either JJ or J9, and the player who has T8 would lose.

So it’s good to keep in mind that the nuts can change as more community cards are revealed, making the once best hand weaker. Let’s take a look at some examples:

Examples of nuts in No-Limit Hold’em

Board: Ad-Ac-8c-5d-2s 

Nuts: As-Ah or A8 is the nuts on this board

Board: Jd-Td-9d-7c-2s

Nuts: With Kd-Qd or Qd-8d you’ll have the best hand on this board

Examples of nuts in Pot-Limit Omaha

Flop: 7d-Jc-9s

Nuts: Any hand with T-8-x-x. Also note that in the picture above, our hero Samuli ‘TheJudas’ Sipilä also has a re-draw to a higher straight and backdoor diamond flush with his Kd-Td as well as a backdoor fullhouse with his pair of nines.

Board: Ad-Tc-8c-5d-5s 

Nuts: Any hand with 5h-5c-x-x makes the nuts on this board

Board: Jd-Td-9d-7c-2s

Nuts: Any hand with Kd-Qd-x-x or Qd-8d-x-x is the nuts here

Where does the term nuts come from in poker

The term ‘nuts’ has its roots in poker’s Wild West history, where players bet valuable items, even wagon wheel nuts, indicating a strong belief in their hand. The nuts are fluid, changing with each card dealt. For instance, holding Ace-Ten of spades becomes the nuts if the flop is King-Nine-Four of spades. However, subsequent community cards can alter the scenario, shifting the nuts to another player.

(Always) draw to the nuts in omaha

In Pot-Limit Omaha, many drawing hands like non-nut combo draws and wraps accompanied with a low flush draw might look really pretty when you flop them. Nevertheless, the more players that see the flop, the higher the probability is that someone has a drawing hand to the nuts. This means that if you complete your hand and put a lot of money into the pot either before or after hitting your draw, you might lose a lot.

The concept of reverse implied odds comes into play here. Reverse implied odds in poker refer to the potential loss you might face when completing a drawing hand but still ending up losing to a superior hand. 

Therefore, the less experience you have in playing Pot-Limit Omaha, the more prone you should be to only drawing to the nuts (nut flush, nut full house, nut straight etc.) until you can better figure out where you equity-wise with each hand.

When to bet and when to check with the nuts

A good rule of thumb here is that you should bet with the nuts when there are many hands that would either call or raise you in your opponent’s range of possible hands. On the other hand, if it’s likely that your opponent can’t continue with much (for example when you hold pocket Kings on a board of K82 rainbow), you should balance your play by checking.

In PLO the optimal strategy gets a lot more complicated fast. Depending on your side cards, you might want to check some flopped nuts and bet some others. Learning the optimal betting and checking strategies with trainer tools and GTO solvers is recommended if you’re serious about making money in poker.

How to play the nuts in tournaments?

There isn’t a single golden rule here to follow. Sometimes you should trap your opponents and sometimes you should be more straightforward in your betting. 

It all comes down to the table dynamics and player types you’re facing, what kind of ICM pressure there is and your stack size, and other important factors that go into making decisions at the table in tourneys.

Our advice? Study some situations with solvers, watch training videos, and play a ton – that’s how you learn to make better decisions at the tables!

Can you affect the probability of making the nuts?

The short answer is no. It’s pretty much the same as in games like casino slots, CS2 gambling, blackjack or other games – the odds at the table or in the game are the same for every player.

Even if you played 100% of your starting hands, you wouldn’t make more nuts than what every player would make on average with those same starting hands.

But in poker, you can gain a tremendous skill edge against your opponents, which makes all the difference.

So, what you can have an impact on is how much money you win on average when you make the nuts. The better you can exploit the mistakes of your opponents, be it that they’re either too tight or too loose, too passive or too aggressive, the more money you can extract from them once you hit the nuts.

What to do with the second nuts or the third nuts?

It depends (like many things in poker). When you don’t have the ultimate nuts, you need to consider how to maximize your expected value against the range of hands your opponents are likely to have and proceed from there.

Let’s say you have a Queen-High flush on the river on a non-paired board and only three of the suits on the board, for example 8h, 7h and 2h.

In No-Limit Hold’em, this is a very strong hand. While you have the third nuts here, in most situations you want to put more money into the pot unless you’re facing a super nitty opponent who would never call you with less than a King-High flush.

What about the same situation in Omaha? If it’s a multiway pot and you’re facing a bet and raise on the river, you need to seriously consider laying down your hand (unless you’re in an absolutely crazy game). The probability of someone having at least the second nuts (King-High flush) or the nuts with the A-high flush are quite high if there’s a lot of fireworks on the river here.

The more poker you play, the better you will learn to navigate these situations. Nothing can replace the experience gained at the tables!

Conclusion

Tons of different strategies exist for playing the nuts on the flop and drawing to the nuts on NLHE and PLO. These strategies not only involve calculating pot odds but also require considering the betting patterns of other players. It’s crucial to account for the potential outs that your villains might have to improve their hands on the turn or river (to outdraw your current nuts), as well as the size of the pot.

Learn to identify not only when you’ve flopped, turned, or rivered the nuts, but also what hands you can get value from! This allows you to target hands that might otherwise fold against you. Show weakness against players who like to bluff with airball type of hands, and bet or raise against loose players who will hang on to their draws and mediocre made hands. They’re the last players to care about the proper odds needed to keep calling your bets.

If you enjoyed this article, we have a whole bunch of more in our strategy section for you here.

Author: Justin Watson