Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Absolute Stone Cold Nuts?

Any half decent Hold’em player can look at a flop and determine the best possible hand. For example, if I said the flop was K-J-10, all different suits, then it would be rather easy for you to tell me that “the nuts” would be A-Q, completing the straight. This is both the right and wrong answer.

Awhile back, I was playing 1-3 NL in Tunica when I encountered a hand identical to this example. With only on opponent, I was first to act and holding A-Q with a K-J-10 rainbow flop. I checked the nuts, setting a trap. The villain was a Tunica regular, an older man whom I had played with several times before. He was a silent person who never said a word at the table and a patient player who only bet premium hands. When he put in out a small bet, my unconscious poker instincts must have felt it was slightly suspicious. I just called; the turn card brought a four and a second spade. Still holding the nuts, I checked and the silent old man bet out, bigger this time. He didn’t have much more than one big bet left in his stack, so I check-raised all in. With the speed he called, I instantly knew before he turned over his hand what I would see: a matching A-Q. However, and this is the point of this particular recollection, his hand was suited in spades, giving him a flush draw as well. So, while we both had the nuts, his hand was the absolute stone cold nuts. Fortunately, fate was kind to me on this hand and the river card was a harmless blank.

When I first started playing Hold’em, I used to laugh derisively at commentators who pointed out the potential of backdoor flush draws as even worth mentioning. Now, years later, I understand how backdoor odds must always be considered in the play of a hand. A-Q might be the best hand, but it isn’t always the absolute stone cold nuts.