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Part V-A: Flopping the Nuts

Author's Note: This article is part of a larger course for new players. Course links are provided at the bottom of this page.

“The Nuts” in poker is a hand which at the given point you are at in the course of play, can not be beat. Its the best possible hand that can be made at the present time, although it may be beat by the outcome of later cards which hit the flop, turn, or river. Pre-flop, a pair of Aces is the nuts hand. If the flop comes:

  • K-8-6

of different suits (rainbow) then a set of kings is the nuts hand at that point. If another 8 were to come on the turn, then four of a kind, or quad 8's becomes the nuts hand.

If the last king were to fall on the river, then quad kings are the nuts, and the holder of the quad 8's has received what is known as a true “bad beat”. (A true bad beat is when one high hand, a four of a kind, or straight flush, is beat by another high hand, which would also include a Royal Flush, the best hand that it is possible to make.)

When you “flop the nuts” you generally run into two different kinds of situations, which present two different sets of problems which are completely opposite in their character. The first kind of situation is that you have flopped a nuts hand which has a very small chance of getting beat by the time the river card falls. Its very likely to hold up until the end. An example of this is if you had pocket kings and the flop came:

  • K-8-2.

In this situation you are way ahead, and given the fact that you probably raised pre-flop with your pocket kings, its going to be very hard to get any action here most of the time. Therefore you need to check after the flop and hope your opponent has the fourth king or possibly A,8, or even a smaller pocket pair, hoping to draw a bet or a bluff. If he does bet, then you should just call, still trying to portray the image that you are marginal, in order to induce more action down the line. If he checks then you are hoping that he is going to catch something on the turn. When the turn falls (assuming he has made a bet to you on the previous round) you check again. If he bets again then at this point you can raise his bet.

This known as a “check-raise”. You have at least some money in the pot at this point, and if he really has got a hold of something he will call you and then call you again on the river. Not a bad outcome. If after the flop he checked, and then checked again on the turn, then you are going have to bet the river yourself in order to try and induce one call from him. You probably won't get it, but there is nothing else that you can do in that situation.

The second kind of situation you will run into if you flop the nuts is one in which there is a good chance that your hand won't hold up until the river, due to a variety of possible draws. Percentage wise overall, you are still going to be in the lead after the flop, but there is a good 35% to 40% potentiality that you are going to be outdrawn. A good example would be if you had 8,9 off suit, and the flop came:

  • 7 hearts, 10 hearts, J diamonds.

You now have the current nuts hand but you are threatened by both a heart flush draw and a higher (K,Q) straight draw, and also a possible J,10 two pair which could make a full house. So your concern here isn't, “Can I get enough action on this hand?” But, “Is my nuts straight going to hold up to the river with all of these draws out there?”

Therefore the only way to play this hand is to bet it aggressively from the outset. You are trying to chase away the chasers, and if you can't do that, then you are trying to at least make them pay for their chasing if their minority draw doesn't pan out.

The following links for this poker course are listed sequentially. Beginners may want to go through in the order in which they are listed to get the whole rundown. More advanced players may want to skip around to the parts which hold interest for them.

Poker


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