What Does Nuts Mean in Poker?
The nuts in poker is the best possible hand at any given time during the course of a poker hand. The nuts, or “nut hand,” occur in any type of poker game, including no-limit Texas hold’em and Omaha, which are always available at The Lodge Card Club and most poker rooms. Let’s first take a look at how the term nuts, one of the more confusing poker terms, possibly came into use in the first place before looking at examples.
The Etymology of “Nuts” in Poker
One common thought for where the term nuts started dates back to the early days of poker. When poker was popular during the days of the Wild West, one of the most popular modes of transportation was the covered wagon. It is believed that if a player was so confident in their poker hand winning, that they would bet everything, including the nuts to their wagon wheels. Betting the nuts of their wagon showed that the player was so confident of winning that there was no chance they would flee, as they had absolutely nothing to worry about. In short, if someone was confident to bet the literal nuts of their wagon wheels during the times of the Wild West, then their opponents could assume they had an unbeatable hand.
In the same vein, the term “stone cold nuts” would have come from the nuts of the wagon wheel being cold due to low temperatures. As in, the nuts were as cold as stones, or rocks. That term now means the absolute best possible hand that has no way of losing.
Examples of the Nuts
The best possible hand in poker is the royal flush. If you need a refresher on the ranking of poker hands, check out The Lodge’s Beginners Guide. If the flop, turn card, or river (aka, the community cards) give you a royal flush, you have the “stone cold nuts,” or “absolute nuts.” Nothing can beat you – perhaps the greatest feeling when you play poker.
Your job now becomes extracting as much cash or chips from your opponents, depending on if you are in a cash game or a tournament.
There are also examples of the use of the word nuts, that doesn’t necessarily mean the best hand, but instead defines the best possible hand according to a certain hand ranking. For example, say your hole cards are the king and queen of spades and you elect to stay in the hand preflop. Let’s pretend the board runs out As-10h-10s-Jh-3s. In this example you would have an ace-high flush, which would be called the nut flush. Pretend your opponent’s hand shows a king of hearts and a queen of clubs. They would have the nut straight because they have the ace-high straight. Because a flush beats a straight, your nut flush would scoop you the pot against the opponent holding the nut straight, as that would be the low hand.
On the very unfortunate chance that someone goes to showdown with pocket 10’s, they would beat the nut flushes and nut straights with quads (four-of-a-kind).
Now, using the same example as above, if your opponent showed a 10 of clubs and a jack of diamonds at showdown, you would lose to a full house, despite having the nut flush.
Another example of when having a type of nuts can get you in trouble is when you have the nut low. Imagine you are holding the 6-7 (suit doesn’t matter in this example) and the flop comes 7-8-9, all different suits. Because your opponent could possibly be holding the 10-J, that would mean your opponent has the nut high of the straight while you have the nut low (or bottom straight), also known as second nuts.
If your 6-7 is suited (say 6-7 of hearts) and the flop is 7-8-9 all hearts, you now have a straight flush, which would now be the best hand, as a straight flush usually is.
A Common Poker Strategy – Going For The Nut Flush
A lot of poker players will play every variant of a dealt Ace and any other card as long as they are suited. That is because if you hit your flush, it will be the nut flush (except on the very rare occasions your opponent(s) hit a straight flush). Many of the biggest hands in both cash games and poker tournaments are when one player is going for the nut flush versus an already made hand such as pocket aces or a set (Note – link to set story in poker guide). Flush draws, particularly the nut flush draw, can be hard for all poker players to fold, regardless of their experience level.
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