One of the most misunderstood and debatable terms in Poker is “Checking the nuts”. This term came into lime light in 2009 during the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main event. A female poker player(who had apparently won a contest to get entry into the event) was taken aside and was penalized & patronized for “Checking the nuts”. She had Before we jump on the conclusions & inferences about what exactly happened and were it right or wrong, we should understand the term in detail. The slang originates from term “Nuts”.
Nuts – strongest or best possible set of cards a player can have in any poker hand. Similarly second poker nuts & third poker nuts are second and third possible best hands any player can have and so on. Mostly applied in community card games like Texas Hold’em, nut hand can be identified by players with set of cards they have and on table. For example, 5♠ 6♠ A♣ 9♠ 5♥ cards are dealt on the table and any player who is holding 7♠ 8♠ then has the nut hand because he has 9-high straight flush of spades, so he will never be on the losing side. In the same game if any player has 5♣ 5♦, he would be having the second-nut hand because of four of a kind fives; any pair of the left three aces, will make a full house, aces full of fives would be the third-nut hand.
So that’s what Nuts is for poker but why it is treated as breach of rules in live poker? Coming back to WSOP event the lady was told “You see, you had the best hand possible, so if someone bets you have to raise and if someone checks you have to bet, you have to create action. See, if you don’t, then it’s more like a home game, with everyone just checking and all friendly”
As obvious this lady was stunned and disappointed, On top of that she was penalized too. It was later learnt that this lady was a newbie to poker and had won this Main event seat through a contest. She even claimed that she didn’t even know that was holding the ‘nut’ and didn’t know that she should’ve raised.
This rule’s major objective is to avoid collusion in the game where in the end last players can’t keep checking the hands. But in which situations it is fair to consider this as remedy of collusion and how much it is fair for the players is a debatable topic. This is one of the most common incidents in the circuit and often accused for being a rule favouring tournament organizers. Many poker players debate whether it is right to penalise anyone for not noticing they have the nuts. There may be the odd incident where the player doesn’t notice that they are holding the best possible hand and check even when on the button. But is penalty the right way to go? Even if the player was caught unaware, warning and instructions are a better thing to do than penalty. On the other hand, if any seasoned player is using this soft play tool then he can be strictly warned and even penalised on repetitive action.