Figuring the Nuts in Texas Holdem - Part 2

Pair on the board: Four of a kind is again the nut hand, unless you have one of that rank in your hand. Then you once again need to determine the highest full house. In this situation, if the pair uses the highest card on the board then the nut full house is three of that card with a pair of the next highest card. If the pair does not use the highest card, then the nut full house is three of the highest card plus the pair on the board. An example would be QQJ53, where you hold KQ. The nuts here would be QQQJJ. Conversely, if the board was JT552, and you held 56, the nuts would be JJJ55.

Three or more suited cards with a straight possibility: A royal or straight flush is sometimes hard to see coming. If you do see three or more suited cards on the board you should then check for possible straights using those cards. If you find one, and you’re sure you’re looking at the highest straight possible, then that would be the nuts. Remember to check your hand for cards that would make that straight impossible!

Five suited cards on the board without a straight possibility: Figuring the nuts with a flush on the board has lost a lot of money for a lot of beginners. Remember that the highest card of the suit that isn't on the board will now make the nuts. Everyone does not have the nuts just because there is an ace high flush sitting out there. Someone can still easily have a higher flush using the cards in their hand. AQ973 of hearts on the board simply means that any hand with the king of hearts in it is now unbeatable. All flushes are not equal!

Three or four suited cards on the board without a straight possibility: An ace high flush is the nuts here, assuming the ace is not on the board. If it is, then determine what the highest missing card from that suit would be. A flush using that missing high card is now the nuts, assuming the cards in your hand don’t make it impossible.

If none of the above applies, check for possible straights like we discussed earlier. If there are none, then a set of the highest card on the board is the nuts. If all five cards are already on the table, and you think the nuts is less than a set of queens, then you missed something so look again!

Now you should be able to find the best possible hand on any board. This is useful information that you should be aware of at all times. Once you’re comfortable doing this, it’s very important to start looking ahead at what the next card may bring. You may have the nuts right now, but that next card could bring a nasty surprise and the earlier that you see it coming, the better. A good example is when you have pocket aces and the flop come AJ5 with two spades. You’ve got the nuts right now, but keeping an eye out for that next spade is vitally important because if it hits you may no longer have the best hand. Don’t forget to recalculate the nuts with each new card, and don’t get blinded by a card that helps you. If you have pocket aces and the flop is AJ4, then the turn is another J, don’t get so excited that you miss the possibility that your pretty full house could still be beaten by four jacks. It’s not likely, but being aware of the possibility is important to good play.

The key to learning anything is practice. Take out a deck of cards and deal a few hands. Stop at each betting point and identify the nuts until you’re comfortable. Try to set up a few of the more complicated situations, if you can, since they do not happen often. You might try a few of these:

On the board so far:..........In your hand:

- 1. Ad Kd 5h 9d Td.................Jd Js

- 2. Ts 5d Ah Td 5c.................Th As

- 3. 9s 8s Kh 4s....................As Kd

- 4. Qc Jd 7s 3c 2h.................Ac Ad

- 5. Jc Kh 9s.......................2c 7d

- 6. 5d 5c 5s 5h Ac.................Ah Js

Write down your answers so you can be sure you’ve gotten it right!

Do you think you got them all? If you did, then you’re well on your way! If you missed any, don’t worry… you’ll get it with practice. Here are the answers:

1. A player holding the queen of diamonds has the nuts here. There is no straight or royal flush possibility because the jack is in your hand, and the board isn’t paired so you don’t need to worry about four of a kind or full houses.

2. Think you have the nuts here? Pocket aces has you beat with AAATT, but even that isn’t the nut hand! The nut hand is any hand with the other two fives in it, giving them four of a kind.

3. With one card to go, the nut hand would be a king high spade flush. It can’t be ace high because you have the ace. If you get another spade on the river, then your ace would give you the nuts, right? Not necessarily! If that river spade is the five, six, seven or ten, then you could still be beaten by a straight flush! Always recalculate the odds with each new card, especially if that new card really helped your hand. It’s easy to miss things when you’re excited.

4. No pairs, no three suited, no straight draw. That means a set must be the nuts, and since the queen is high it must be three queens.

5. Did you see the straight possibility? A king high straight is possible. Now let’s imagine the turn was a ten of diamonds. Now what is the highest straight? If you said it was ace high, you’re right. Subsequent cards often make the highest possible straight get higher. Watch for it.

6. That ace in your hand doesn’t help you. The board already has the nuts showing so everybody has the nuts.