What Is the Nuts in Poker?

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The nuts in poker refer to the best hand in a given situation during the game. It’s generally used in community card games where a player can tell if they have the strongest hand with the given cards on the board. These hands can also be referred to as the stone-cold nuts to emphasize a winning position.

A good example of the nuts is when a player holds A♦J♣ and the board features Q♣T♣8♣. The player with the A♦J♣  has the nuts. The hand can also be used to describe a player’s position in the game. The second-best hand in a game, for instance, is called the second nuts. The strength of a hand varies and largely relies on the cards on the board. The next card drawn on the board can change a player's hand and their position in the game.  

The Nut Low vs The Nut High 

High-low split card games refer to the nut low and nut high as separate entities. The strongest hand is identified as the nut high, while the best possible low hand is called the nut low. The nut low can depend on the kind of game in play. A wheel-straight (A-2-3-4-5) represents the low nut in most poker games, except in deuce to seven lowball, where it’s 2-3-4-5-7. The nut high refers to the orthodox, strongest possible hand and is generally used to differentiate a hand from the nut low. 

Types of Nuts 

There are various types of nuts depending on the cards and poker game involved. They include: 

Absolute nuts - This is the best possible hand in a game, and cannot lose no matter how the board progresses. 

Nut flush - Refers to the best possible flush in a game. 

Nut Nut - This refers to a hand that can make the best high or low hand. 

Checking the Nuts 

Checking the nuts refers to a situation where a player has the nuts or absolute nuts but decides to flat-call their hand as the last player. This act is not always declared illegal in poker games but is generally frowned upon by most players. Many tournaments integrate a rule where a player holding the nuts is obligated to raise when they are the last player.

This is because, as a player holding the strongest hand, you’re required to portray fair levels of aggression to create action. Failing to capitalize on a strong hand makes for a boring poker game. Major tournaments also forbid checking the nuts to prevent collusion between players. Penalties for this action can range from being made to sit out a hand to a blind rotation.

Forbidding players from checking the nuts has long been a controversial topic as it places the onus on the player to always recognize when they have the strongest hand. This can be hard for inexperienced players. Many games outside official tournaments do not hold players accountable for checking the nuts, and this rule is only applied when the player concerned is closing the action.

A majority of cash games do not ban checking the nut. Many pro poker players also tend to check the nut in cases where they are first to act, to give the impression of a weak hand, and to encourage a check-raise. 

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