In poker, the best possible hand is called the nut hand, or the “Nuts”, and the second best is called the second nuts and so on. For example, if the board on the river shows a 5♠, 6♠, 7♠, 6♥, K♣, then the nut hand would be with the player that has an eight and nine of spades for the top end of a straight flush. The second nut hand would be the person with a three and four of spades for the smaller straight flush. As I am typing this a shiver runs down my spine thinking about all the money I would lose holding the second nut hand in this example. However, when you have the second nut hand, you can feel pretty confident since there is only one other hand out there that can beat you. The worrisome part would be if that winning hand is in the hands of your opponent so there are times when you should fold with the second nut, but not that often.
When the Second Nut Isn’t a Second Nut
If you have the second nut, there are occasions when you can in fact have the best hand in the game. Using the above example, if the nut is a nine high straight flush and you have the four and eight of spades then you know that a nine high straight flush is not possible because you have the eight. Using the community cards, the ones in your hand, and the occasional exposed card, you must determine what the best possible hand could be. It is a great feeling to know you have the Nuts and you must make certain to use your best judgment playing the hand for its maximum value. Although you will usually win holding the second nuts, this is the hand that will give you your biggest potential losses so you have to use your best judgment playing the hand to minimize your losses.
Folding the Second Nuts on the Flop
The second nut hand on the flop is a very comfortable position and unless you are 100 percent certain that someone else has that one better hand then there is no real reason to fold. On a flop without straight or flush possibilities the second nuts would be the middle set against the top set and that is a very hard hand to get away from. That middle set is going to cost you a lot of money if someone has the top set. But if you have been paying attention to the game, as you should, you may be able to lessen your losses with your understanding of the other players and their betting patterns.
Folding the Second Nuts on the Turn
With the addition of the new card, it is possible that your position as the second nut has changed. If the middle card on the flop paired and you had the middle set against top set, you went from the second nuts to the Nuts. If the bottom flop card paired, someone that had the bottom set would have moved to the nuts giving you the third best hand. If there is a large bet in to you or a large raise after you, by a very tight player, then you may be able to fold the second nuts and get away from this hand easier. For the most part, with the second nuts on the turn, you are going to be aggressively betting but your experience and knowledge of the game and the players can help you to know when to limit your exposure against big bets and raises along with how you respond to them.
Folding the Second Nuts on the River
Making it to the river on the second nut is a good position. At all times, the information that you have gathered on the other players, from previous hands, will help you to determine your best course of action. The betting action on all of the previous streets will help you to determine your best move. If you are in last position with the second nuts and a tight player has just called your bets on all previous streets and then checks to you on the river, you may want to just check for a show down because he wouldn’t likely call you with a hand that you could beat and could be setting a check raising trap. If there is a big bet or raise to call with your second nuts on the river you have to consider the previous action, what you know about the other player, and the pot odds.
STOP and THINK
It is always your best course of action to stop and think before you take you next action in a hand. Whenever the action gets to you take a moment to review the pot, the previous play of the hand, and the players. If you make this a regular practice then you will have better success at folding a great hand against the greatest.
Understanding and putting into practice advanced poker strategy such as this is one way of making money in poker, another way is bonus whoring.
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