Poker Beginners Guide: What s the Nuts

Poker Beginners Guide: What's the Nuts?

In poker, the best possible hand for any arrangement of cards is known as the 'nuts'. Sometimes you will be fortunate enough to hold the nut hand after all the cards have been dealt. In that case you would be in a completely unbeatable position. However, it is sometimes possible that someone else may have the same hand as you, in which case you will split the pot.

Let's take a look at some examples of the nut hand.

Hole Cards Board Cards

Here you would hold the nuts if you had the K in your hand together with any other spade. The nut hand is A -K -9 -3 -X , where 'X ' denotes another spade.

Hole Cards Board Cards

This board is very similar to the previous one. However, now a straight flush is possible! Anyone holding 5 -4 in their hand will have made a Five-high straight flush: 5 -4 -3 -2 -A .

Hole Cards Board Cards

This time the nuts hand is specifically 4 -4 for quad fours. The best possible five-card hand is 4 -4 -4 -4 -A .

Chris Fergusons $10K Challenge

For those who dont know, Chris Ferguson is a professional poker player who has won 5 World Series of Poker bracelets. Nicknamed Jesus because of his long hair and beard, he plays most of his online poker at Full Tilt.

In 2009, he embarked on a challenge to turn $0 into $10K through playing free tournaments and working his bankroll up to the larger games.

Here are the rules he set himself:

  • He never bought into a Sit n Go or cash game that constituted more than 5% of his bankroll except at the very lowest limits
  • He didnt buy into any multi-table tournaments worth more than 2% of his bankroll again, this was waived for tournaments only costing $1
  • If at any time during a cash game, the money on the table was worth more than 10% of his total bankroll, he had to leave the table

The process was slow going and it took him more than 7 months to stabilise around $100, but from there he reached the $10K target with just another 8 months play.

Chris Ferguson took $0 and turned it into $10K in the space of 15 months

Being a Good Samaritan, he donated the cash to the Save the Children Foundation before deciding to up the stakes and turn the $10K into $100K (which he again managed to do).

So, sounds easy right? Well, thats what Im going to be finding out. I will try to follow Jesus astute bankroll management guidelines, but admittedly Ferguson clearly holds a number of advantages over me:

  • Hes a mathematical genius and game theory expert who possesses a Ph.D in computer science, whereas I am borderline special needs when it comes to statistics
  • Hes an experienced professional poker player with a well-documented string of big wins and top prizes. My biggest win is $3,000, which was around 8 years ago and have been known to crash out of home games against absolute novices in spectacular fashion
  • His higher skill level meant he could progress very quickly once he built a small bankroll. I will likely struggle at the high stakes game

Pretty bleak eh? Well, its not all bad. Believe it or not, I actually have some advantages of my own slim as they may be:

  • As a Full Tilt sponsored pro, Ferguson had to play his freerolls at Full Tilt only. I am able to pick and choose the best freerolls from all the sites, giving me a deeper selection and more playing time
  • Ferguson will have dipped into the Challenge between sessions of normal play, where he makes a living. I have no bankroll, so all of my poker playing time will be dedicated to this
  • I will be taking advantage of any promotions or bonuses that contribute to my stack (apart from the sign-up bonus given at 888 Poker, which would have started me on $8. That felt like cheating)

Confident? Me neither, but thems the breaks. I will try to avoid as much technical jargon as possible until I get round to putting a glossary up, in order to keep layman readers happy. Im also going to try really really really hard to not spend too much time whinging about bad beats/crap players no one likes a sore loser.

10 Essential Texas Hold em Moves: The Check-Raise

By checking and raising your opponent s bet you can use his position against him to get more money into the pot when you re holding the nuts, and make him throw away the best hand when you re bluffing.

The check-raise is a technique you should be using in every poker session, but it s extremely important to understand the move and how to use it so it doesn t become a serious leak.

When to Check Raise in Poker

What : A check-raise in poker consists of checking when the action's on you, and raising after a player behind you has bet. The check-raise is a trapping move.

Why: Check-raising can be done for two reasons. Either you are check-raising for value, to get more money into the pot when you think you have the best hand, or check-raising as a bluff, to make your opponent throw away the best hand.

When: The check-raise is an essential Texas Hold em move that is right at home in any poker game on the planet. It s equally effective in cash games, tournaments and sit and gos.

Where: Since you must check in order to check-raise, this move only works when you re out of position.

Check-Raising Done Right

Since this is a beginner poker strategy series, moves like the check-raise must be handled with care.

While the check-raise is definitely an essential move and deserves a spot in every poker player s toolbox, if you start firing off check-raises willy nilly it s only going to get you into trouble.

The first thing you need to know when check-raising is why you re doing it. Poker is a game of planning and the check-raise is a prime example.

Unless you know what you re trying to accomplish by check-raising you ll just be burning money. Check-raising is done in two main ways:

  • You hold what you think is the best hand and you check-raise for value to get more money into the pot, or
  • You think your opponent has the best hand and you re check-raising as a bluff to make your opponent fold

Check-raising also serves to balance your checking range, meaning that by raising some of the times

when you check, your opponent won t automatically know you have a weak hand when you check to them.

Check-Raising for Value

As a beginner the vast majority of the times you check-raise should be for value. When you think you have the best hand you need to get as many chips into the pot as possible.

The better your hand, the more comfortable you should be putting all your chips at risk. Check-raising for value gives you another way to entice your opponent into putting money into the pot.

By checking and signalling weakness your opponent will bet a wider range of hands, trying to use position to win the pot with weak holdings.

By check-raising you can either force your opponent into making a mistake by calling with the worst hand, or you can induce and all-in shove from drawing hands and second-best made hands.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind when check-raising for value:

  • You must be first to act
  • Your opponent must be aggressive enough that he will bet with a wide variety of hands when checked to
  • Check-raising with a monster for value can be especially effective in multi-way pots

But remember, check-raising is a powerful move and can force your opponent into laying down even moderately strong hands.

So if you hold the nuts, be cautious of overplaying your hand and forcing your opponent into folding before putting all his money in the pot.

Related Reading:

Check-Raising as a Bluff or Semi-Bluff

Because check-raising is such a powerful poker move it should come as no surprise that it s one of the most effective bluffing tactics out there.

By taking advantage of a few common Hold em situations, you can use the check-raise to knock players off pots regardless of the cards you re holding.

The most common situation where the check-raise can be used as a bluff is in a heads-up pot when you ve called out of position.

Because even most beginner poker players know they should be continuation-betting the majority of the time when they raise preflop, you can turn the tables on them with a well-timed check-raise.

In this situation you can use your opponent s knowledge of c-betting to your advantage.

If your opponent decides to c-bet a 4 5 6 flop, you can check-raise as a bluff to represent a hand you d be likely to just flat-call with preflop, a pocket pair that hit a set or suited connectors that flopped big.

Check-raising as a semi-bluff is also a great way to add strength to the way you play your drawing hands. Next time you flop a flush draw, check-raise instead of check-call and give yourself a second way to win the pot.

Related Reading:

Check-Raising in Action

If you're still unconvinced about the power of the check-raise, check out the video below. Listen to Gus Hansen teach you about check-raising in a clip that looks more like a ransom video than a poker strategy tutorial. We particularly like the monotone delivery.

Learn More Essential Texas Hold'em Moves:
  • The Reverse Tell
  • Semi-Bluffing
  • Triple-Barrel Bluff
  • The Bluff Catcher

Texas Holdem FAQs

What are the top Texas Holdem Official Rules?

1. BUY-IN - In a cash game, there is a minimum buy-in to enter, but you can reload or buy more chips at any point outside a hand. In a tournament you buy-in once, with the possibility of re-entering. Your starting stack is typically 100 big blinds or more.

2. DEALER BUTTON - This represents the 'rotating' dealer which moves after each hand. To choose the first dealer, each player picks a face-down card from the deck and the one with the highest value card is the dealer.

3. BLINDS - There are two 'blind' players after the button (clockwise) - Small and Big Blind. The big blind is the call price of the round and small blind is half of that. These are forced bets that the players in question need to put out to build a pot, irrelevant of their hand.

4. DEALING - You need to deal clockwise around the table, starting from the small blind. Each player gets one card at a time for a total of two hole cards. After a round of betting here, you deal 3 cards for the flop followed by another betting round. Then one more card for the turn, more betting, then one more river card and final betting. Before dealing each round, the dealer must 'burn' the card at the top of the deck

5. ACTIONS - Every time cards are dealt or turned on the board, there is an action. Choose to check (do nothing), bet (add chips to the pot), call (match someone's bet), raise (add even more chips than the bettor), or fold (discard their hand and exit the round). A bet must be at least worth two big blinds. Or if you raise, it must be at least double the previous bet. Each round is only over when all players have acted - either placed their chips, folded or checked around.

6. BETTING / RAISING RULES - You need to declare your intent to raise or the amount before making an action. Or bring their chip raise amount into play at the same time. You can't place chips gradually - This is known as a string bet and would be considered a call.

7. SHOWDOWN - Unless everyone folds to one player, the best hand at showdown (showing cards after last betting round post-river) wins the pot. The player who bet on the river should reveal their hand first. The other/s can show or muck/fold their hand and give up the pot.

8. THE BEST HAND - Poker hand rankings are as follows, with the best ranging from top to bottom:

Royal Flush
Straight Flush
Full House
Three of a Kind
Two Pairs
One Pair
High Card

Why are you not allowed to check the nuts on the river?

Just saw a video where a guy got a penalty for checking his nut flush on the river and he got a penalty for it. What was wrong about that move?

Prevents collusion with other players on table.

you just cant check BACK the nuts because there is no reason for it ( besides collusion )

Two legitimate strategy reasons: 1: see opponents cards, 2: save time on a chop (akqjt board) vs an opponent you think knows how to read the board.

What is the true definition of the nuts?

often times, a nuts turns out to not be the nuts. and my definnition of nuts is the absolute best hand possible

it seems that the definition of a nuts is best hand possible with no absolute

player A: 109 Player B: .

Flop: Q8J rainbow

this is considered player A getting the nuts. but if player B has pocket Q, 8, or J, he could get quads, which is the actual nuts in this flop (as per my definition)

so again, what IS the definiton of the nuts?

Short of collusion, why would you WANT to check back the nuts?

Pay less rake on a chop.

As an example a fishy for fun player gets a hand of the lifetime like a 4 kind or straight flush and checks back the river to show off his premium hand. Then again he could always not muck but I'm just saying there should be exceptions.

The rule is bad because it only penalizes people who have no bad will and just misread the board/hand, or don't try to bluff people off a chop on an akqjt board. It's also bad because it makes it harder to detect collusion, because it encourages colluders to be smarter about it. There's also legitimate strategy reasons to check back (see their cards).

Why would you even want to check nuts on the river?

to answer your question its to prevent collusion.

A person doesn't have to want to check the nuts on the river to want to know why there is a rule against it.

so this rule only applies if you are last to act correct?

I just saw this and had to look it up as well, it's to prevent collusion, or secretly working together. While I'm not sure what is categorized as the nuts (Flush+?), it doesn't allow for the button to just let who he has position on get a free look at the pot. If player X(button) and player Y(SB) play a hand to the river and player X has a spade flush on the river and player Y checks it to him he must min bet. This rule is to avoid player Y talking to player X and is like yo I'll give you 10 bucks if you go easy/ let me off on some pots.

In my amateur and probably invalid opinion it seems like an unnecessary rule but it is one.

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