The nuts in poker – meaning, basics, and strategy


If you are playing a hand of poker, you want to end up with the nuts, but even if you have heard the expression used, do you know exactly what it means?


Generally speaking, the nuts in poker is the best possible poker hand in a given spot. But there are some situations when a hand can be considered the nuts, although it technically isn’t the absolute nuts.


To help you better understand what is the nuts in poker, I am going to go into a little more detail and explain the full meaning of the term and what it can mean in different situations.


I am also going to go into some strategy, explaining how to play the nuts and how to get the most value possible when holding some of the best hands in poker.


But before we proceed to any of that, let’s talk about what does the nuts mean in poker, how to recognize it, and how to play it.


What Is the Nuts in Poker
In poker, the term “the nuts” means the best possible hand. This can mean a different thing in different games and situations.


For example, if you are playing Texas Hold’em and someone says they have the nuts before the flop, they are referring to pocket aces.


Aces are the strongest possible starting hand in Texas Hold’em, effectively making them the nuts at that point in the hand.


Depending on the board texture, the nuts could be any two cards that make the nut flush, a pocket pair that makes the top set, or two cards that make the nut straight.


In essence, determining the nuts is pretty simple.


Look at the board and come up with the best two hole cards that would make the best possible poker hand with the board. This is the nuts.


Of course, you can have the nuts in other poker games as well. Whether you are playing PLO, Stud, 2-7 Triple Draw, or any other poker game, you can make the nuts.


Keep in mind that the nuts is merely a colloquial term. The dealers and tournament staff don’t care about it but rather simply look at the cards as they are exposed.


You announcing “nuts” won’t do anything for the poker room staff, as only turning over the cards that make the nuts will make your hand take down the pot.


Holding the “Virtual Nuts”
There are many situations in poker when you have a hand, and you want to play it for all the money, despite that hand not actually being the nuts.


For example, holding the top full house in No-Limit Hold’em, you will want to get all the money into the pot almost every time.


The top full house can be beaten by four of a kind, but you don’t need to worry too much about that, as quads are simply so hard to make in the game.


Despite this hand technically not being the nuts, you will not worry about the possibility of a straight flush too often and should be pretty happy to get the money all in.


Similar scenarios can happen in many other games, such as 2-7 single draw, where certain hands are simply too big to fold, regardless of everything else.


Just be mindful of saying the word “nuts” out loud in these situations, as there is always that small possibility you are beaten.


What’s even worse, other players at the table might start playing smart and convincing you that your hand isn’t the nuts, as if you didn’t already know that.


What to Do When You Have the Nuts?
Knowing what the nuts is in poker is pretty simple, but acting on it can be a little bit more complicated.


Novice players often think that poker is all about making a big hand, which is why they get extremely excited about being dealt the nuts.


In reality, holding the nuts is just like holding any other poker hand, and it’s not always the best thing either, as it can sometimes be difficult to get paid when holding the actual nuts.


On many different boards, holding the nuts means that you have the board completely locked up. This makes it very difficult for your opponent to have a hand they can call you with.


Whether you are holding the nuts or nothing, you should always remain calm and composed at the poker tables.


Make sure you are not acting too fast or too slow when you have the nuts and don’t start talking, either, as this can make it very obvious to experienced players that you are strong.


My best advice is to play at a reasonable pace, whether you have the nuts or just a bluff, and to refrain from talking at the table while in a hand altogether.


Despite what many players like to tell you, speech play is very overrated, and you are giving away information much more often than you are getting any.


Most other players won’t respond to anything you are saying and will rather just accumulate information from the things you say, potentially making a better play because of something you said.


Apart from whether to talk or not and how fast to act, you should also think about how to play your nuts, when to bet, and when to slow-play it. Let’s talk briefly about that.