"The Nuts"

While sitting in a RG table, I observed this hand:


I was at the table, but not in this hand, having folded 45o from middle position.

Flop is QTA, Turn 7, River T. Three players go all-in: KJ, ATs, and AJs. AT wins it, Tens full of Aces.

KJ had Broadway on the Flop, AT had Two Pair, AATT, and hit a magic river card.

After the hand, KJ complained that they “had the nuts on the flop”. I took issue with that; “The nuts” is the best possible hand, and you only know for sure what the Nuts is when the river card is dealt. Except in rare situations, such as if you’re holding a pair and flop quads with no possibility of a better quads hand and no possibility of a straight flush.

In this case, the player did have the best possible hand at the flop. The flop was rainbow, so there was no possibility someone could have made a flush. And AA would still only have trip Aces, which a straight beats.

A straight is a good hand, and at the moment was the best hand possible, but it was still beatable, and therefore NOT “the nuts” on this board.

AT was also not holding the nuts at the river. They held the best hand at the table. But if someone had held AA, that would have been the possible full house that could have been made with this board, for a better full house, AAATT. Or someone holding TT would have made TTTTA, which would have been the absolute nuts on this board.

I patiently corrected KJ that they did not have the nuts, and he got testy with me, insisting that “on the flop” he had “the nuts”. And yes, no disputing, no one could have had a stronger hand at the flop, and if the hand had stopped there, his hand would have been tie-able, but not beatable. But in Hold-em, there’s a Turn and River street, and those can change the strength of your hand relative to your opponents, as this hand perfectly illustrates.

I’m not really here to complain about having abuse hurled at me for pointing out that his losing hand was not the nuts. I’m sure he was burning from the beat, and wasn’t in the mood to be corrected. But the fact is, he held a strong, but beatable hand, and was beaten. Ergo, it was not the nuts. He made his hand, and he made a hand that could not improve from the flop to the River, so in that sense he had his best possible hand with Straight, T-A. And at the moment of the flop, no one could have had a better hand, making it, for the moment, the hand to beat. But it was beatable, and therefore not the nuts. A better flop for him would have been KKJ. But even if he’d made KKKJJ on the flop, he still could be beaten by someone holding AK if another Ace turns up on 4th or 5th street, or someone holding KQ if another Q comes… etc. “The Nuts” is finnicky and elusive like that. It doesn’t mean the winning hand, it means the best possible hand for a given board.

When you hold the best possible hand at the flop, it’s normally not a bad idea to slow play it, and let other players bet into you. Show weakness, and let them think they have it, and that you’re just a calling station paying them off.

But you can sometimes get burned by this. I’ve flopped straights only to see the turn and river cards fill in the gaps that my hand previously filled, giving everyone a chop. Or a 4th connector on the board reaching higher cards that made a better straight for someone else, when I had the only straight at the flop. Etc.

Here, three players clearly thought they had the hand. Of them, AJ had top pair, good kicker, and a Broadway draw, so the weakest hand of the three. AT had two pair, and was behind the leader, JK holding Broadway. But they all bet like they were confident they had the best hand. There wasn’t a realistic possibility that shoving at any point in this hand would have convinced any of them otherwise, making the all-in at the river an all-but-foregone conclusion.

Even if KJ shoved at the flop and gotten everyone to fold the hand, without seeing the turn and river cards, that would have looked like a bad play, leaving way too many chips on the table when you’re well ahead in the hand.

But perhaps KJ should have shoved in response to AT’s big bet on the Turn, rather than just calling. At that point, AT is probably already committed, having just pushed 75K into the middle, and will call most likely, but at least then they’re calling with a measly Two Pair hand, on a board where a Broadway straight is possible. As the hand played out, he would have won when the river came anyway, but at least the decision to bet more on 2 Pair would have been a lot harder than the decision to shove the full house.

Many RPP players would probably have just shoved back with their Two Pair in response, anyway, but at least doing that in a Two Pair vs. Straight situation makes Two Pair think pretty hard about whether to come back when shoved at. KJ shoves after the river, and it’s too late, and the shove does nothing – neither opponent can match that bet, so all he’s doing is calling AT’s shove.

I don’t think KJ misplayed the hand. Not too badly, anyway. They held the strongest hand until the board paired with a Ten, making a full house possible. By that time, enough chips were in the middle that laying down for the river bet wasn’t really tenable. Here, you pretty much are going to want to slow play, call any bet, and pay off someone who hit a lucky river boat, which is what happened. Sometimes you just get beat, through no fault of your own.

AJ, though, probably should have known better, and gave up the hand when the King they needed never showed up for them. But by the time the river got there, they had too much in the pot to give it up, either. I think folding to the 75000 chip bet from AT on the Turn would have been the right place to lay this one down. Still, I’ve been betting into people all night long in tournament play who wouldn’t fold bottom pair, much less top pair, good kicker.

What do you think?

My understanding is that the definition of the nuts is the best possible pocket cards to compliment the board, at any given time during the hand. So excluding information which is unknown (ie. cards still to come). The nuts can (and often does!) change at every street!

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That’s my understanding too…the term “the nuts” can change throughout the hand (but I could be wrong).


He was right about flopping the nuts - he did. Even if he didn’t, what’s the value of getting into a semantics game there? Just let it go man - nothing to be gained by chiming in. Is it the nuts, the absolute nuts, the final nuts or the effective nuts? Are we all nuts? That’s what we have a Forum for :slight_smile:

The rest of the hand is just the unfortunate result of passive/weak play and the runout of the cards. When you have lots of people sitting around all trying to hit flops, sometimes the flop hits more than 1 of them.

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Agreed with the other commenters. The nuts is the best possible hand based on the board right now. For example, before the flop, AA is the nuts.

When you do flop the nuts, the decision whether to slowplay depends on the board and whether you need to worry about people drawing out. If you have a set or a straight on the flop it is almost always best to play those fast because there are a lot of possible runouts that can either leave you beaten or that can look scary to other players and kill your action.

On the other hand, if you have A9 and the flop comes AA9 rainbow it is very hard for anyone to have a hand that can even call a bet right now so it’d be a good spot to slowplay and give them a chance to catch up.