THE NUTS—EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BEST POSSIBLE HAND IN POKER
Poker has a lot of slang terms and jargon. Some are staples of the game and are used by pretty much everyone, while others are a bit more obscure and might only be used by a few individuals. Once you have been playing poker for a while, you will have heard the term “The Nuts;” “You have “The Nuts;” or maybe even another player bragging, “I have The Nuts.” Out of context, it’s a weird thing to say, and if you are unfamiliar with it, you might start wondering what exactly they are talking about or if they just made the phrase up. Believe it or not, “The Nuts” is an actual poker term, and here is everything you need to know about it.
WHAT DOES HAVING “THE NUTS” MEAN?
The term is primarily used in community card poker games like Texas hold'em and Omaha Poker. Having The Nuts can mean a few different things in a poker game. Depending on who you ask, there are two schools of thought. If you have the best possible hand during any round, pre-flop, on the flop, the turn or the river, some players say you have The Nuts. In this situation, The Nut hand can change as the game progresses.
In contrast, the other common usage is for the best possible hand in the overall round. The highest-ranked hand on the river is considered The Nut hand. Players who subscribe to this way of thinking argue that it's impossible to have The Nut hand until the game reaches the river because you can't know what the best hand is without all five community cards in play. Both are considered technically correct and are widely used and debated at poker tables.
HISTORY OF THE TERM “THE NUTS”
The origin of the phrase "The Nuts” can become a hotly debated subject around poker tables and in online forums. The first use of the term will probably never be known with 100 percent certainty, but the most widely accepted origin story for the phrase is traced back to the frontier saloons in the American Old West. If an unfortunate player speculated with all their chips, they would start putting up other items to buy back in the game, horses, deeds to property, guns and any other item deemed valuable.
Once all other avenues were exhausted, the hapless player would supposedly resort to taking the nuts and bolts out of their wagon wheels and placing them on the table for one final "All or Nothing" play. If a player was putting the nuts of their wagon into the pot, it was generally accepted they must have the best hand on the table because they are willing to risk their only means of transport and escape. The phrase gradually came to mean speculating on the best possible hand, and eventually it came to describe the best possible hand.
FIVE QUICK TIPS FOR WHEN YOU GET THE NUTS
LEARN HOW TO IDENTIFY THE NUTS
An essential skill in poker is recognizing which hand is the absolute highest ranked at any given moment. Before you act, check your cards and the board and figure out if your cards could be the highest ranked. Keep in mind; the best possible hand might change as additional cards are revealed during the flop, turn and river. Always recalculate The Nuts after every bit of new information. Keep in mind that more than one person can have the nut hand at the same time. If there are four kings on the board, anyone with an ace technically has The Nuts, or if an ace comes out on the board, everyone has The Nuts. It takes a while to develop this skill, but after a few thousand rounds of poker, you should be able to figure out The Nuts without even thinking about it.
AGGRESSIVELY PLAY THE NUTS
The most obvious option for a player with the best possible hand is to be aggressive, play big and re-raise; it's the best way to build the pot. Aim for at least eight times the big blind as a minimum; if everyone folds, it doesn't matter; you won, if someone thinks the play is weak and tries to bully you, who cares, you have the best hand, you can't lose. The only thing you need to worry about is trying to maximize your profits. Adding to the pot is also the best way to build the pot.
SLOW PLAY THE NUTS
Playing passively and making weak plays might goad a more aggressive player to try and bully you out of the pot. If that happens, re-raise them and coax them into going all in; you have the highest ranked hand on the table, you can't lose. Your only concern should be maximizing your profits.
If the whole round has seen only passive and weak play from everyone at the table, it would be safe to assume an aggressive play might make everyone fold. Instead, put in a small amount, either calling or slightly raising the previous play and test the waters, you might get one or two callers. Unfortunately, you can't always win big, even when you have The Nuts.
ALWAYS GATHER INFORMATION
If you are playing a long poker session, you will get The Nuts eventually; it's inevitable unless you are very unlucky. Prepare for that moment by observing everyone else at the table and gather information on how they like to play. Who is weak, who is strong, who folds at the first sign of trouble? The more you know, the more options you will have when you finally get that Nut hand, and the more likely you will make the best possible decision to get a favorable outcome.
TAKE A MOMENT TO CONSIDER THE BOARD
Sometimes it can pay just to take a breath and think about your next move. What strategy will work best to maximize your profits? If it’s a slow hand, a big play will make everyone fold; if it’s a big hand, slow playing will make people suspicious, play to the conditions and think about your move before you make it.
KEEP A GOOD POKER FACE WHEN HOLDING THE NUTS
Don’t react, even if you flop a royal flush. Getting the best hand is always exciting, but don’t react; keep calm. Any indication of excitement will tip off your opponents and potentially make them fold. So don’t give anything away and stay in a stone-cold emotionless state throughout the game.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
Q: IS THERE A RULE THAT OBLIGATES PLAYERS TO RAISE WHEN THEY HAVE “THE NUTS”?
A: Most of the time, no, there isn't a rule that forces players to raise when they have The Nuts. However, some casinos and large-scale tournaments enforce a rule where players must always raise if they have The Nuts on the river. Designed to prevent collusion between players, it only applies when you are last to act on the river. Keep in mind some establishments will enforce penalties for anyone who fails to raise with The Nuts on the river, so it's worth checking out if the rule applies before you start playing.
Q: WHAT DOES DRAWING TO “THE NUTS” MEAN?
A: Drawing to The Nuts means you have a hand that only needs one more card to become the best at the table; you are trying to draw one more card to complete the combination. For example, if you hold four parts of a straight and only need one more card to complete it.
Q: WHAT IS A NUT STRAIGHT?
A: The Nut straight is the highest possible straight in the round. The term can also apply to the best possible flush, The Nut flush.
Q: CAN I LOSE WITH “THE NUTS” ON THE RIVER?
A: In most cases, no. However, if you fail to realize you have The Nuts and fold, yes, you will lose. That’s why you must know how to identify The Nut hand as soon as possible to avoid the embarrassing and potentially costly mistake of folding the best hand in the round. Occasionally, two players might have the best hand, so it would be a split pot. You didn’t lose, but you have to share the winnings.
Q: WILL I GET KICKED OUT OF THE CASINO IF I START MAKING JOKES ABOUT “THE NUTS”?
A: Maybe. If you start interfering with the flow of the game because you are talking too much, there is a possibility they may ask you to leave. You may also find that other players start leaving, or ask to be moved to another table. Poker is a pretty social game, and most players will be happy to have a few jokes, but if you start repeating the same lewd comments ad nauseam, you may find nobody wants to play at a table with you anymore. This also applies online as well; if you fill the chat box with too many ridiculous comments or observations, you may find that everyone leaves the game room the moment they see your screen name log in. But that doesn’t stop us from having a little fun.