A Straight Against a Nut Straight
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A Straight Against a Nut Straight

This article will detail how to determine the highest possible Straight on a Hold'em board.

In poker, the next time you play a small connector such as a 7-6 or 5-4, you have to be careful when the community cards evolve in such a way as to make waiting for or playing a Straight risky. Let us suppose that you have 7-6 and the Flop is A-4-5. A 3 or an 8 coming out will make you hit the nut Straight (the highest possible Straight on the board) and you'' ensure that the sucker who has a 3-2 will hurt so badly.

Your 7-6, however, is in a different spot in a Flop of 8-9-A. Although you have an open-ended Straight draw, if a 10, J, or Q comes out, you are in danger against someone playing these hands: Q-J, Q-10, and J-10. They will net a bigger Straight against you. And even if a 5 comes out on the Turn, you will be worried about the 10, J, or the Q coming out in the river, and you might be faced with a difficult decision for most of your stack.

The problem is avoidable, though. Try to determine what the top end of the highest possible Straight is. For example, in a Board of 4-7-2-8-10, all these hands could give a Straight:

  • 6-5 (yielding a 4-5-6-7-8 Straight with top end 8)
  • 9-6 (yielding a 6-7-8-9-10 Straight with top end 10)
  • J-9 (yielding a 7-8-9-10-J Straight with top end J)

The one which could yield the highest possible straight is the J-9, so the highest possible top end is the Jack. In a Board of 10-J-7-4-5, a 6-3, a 8-6, or a 9-8 could all yield a Straight, but the 9-8 will yield the nut Straight, and its top end (the highest possible top end) is the 10. Now, if your Straight contains the highest possible top end card among all possible Straights that could be formed, then you have the nut Straight.

***

Here are some tests to determine whether you can catch a nut Straight or not. Remember, Straights are powerful hands in Hold'em, and a Straight facing off against a Straight will often lead to players throwing all their chips in the open. Here are the questions:

A. What pair of hole cards could form the highest possible Straight in the following Boards:

1) 3-6-7-9-10

2) 4-3-7-8-5

3) 10-J-7-A-8

4) J-J-10-Q-8

5) 10-7-Q-6-J

B. Do you have the nut Straight if:

1) You have a 5-4 in a Board of 7-7-8-6-3.

2) You have a 9-9 in a Board of 10-6-7-8-J.

3) You have a 8-6 in a Board of 3-5-7-9-A.

4) You have a 10-9 in a Board of 6-8-4-Q-Q.

5) You have a 9-8 in a Board of 10-7-J-K-6. 

C. In the following Boards, which cards should you be wary of when they come out:

1) You have a 9-8 in a Board of 10-J-4-7.

2) You have a 6-5 in a Board of 7-8-4-A.

***

Identifying nut Straights is a key to advanced players' long-term poker success, because if they have a Straight, they deserve to win money with it instead of losing. A Straight and a nut Straight are worlds apart - and winning players know why.

***

Answers to questions:

A. What pair of hole cards could form the highest possible Straight in the following Boards:

1) 3-6-7-9-10 ---> J-8

2) 4-3-7-8-5 ---> 9-6

3) 10-J-7-A-8 ---> K-Q

4) J-J-10-Q-8 ---> A-K

5) 10-7-Q-6-J ---> A-K

B. Do you have the nut Straight if:

1) You have a 5-4 in a Board of 7-7-8-6-3. ---> No. A 10-9 yields the nut Straight.

2) You have a 9-9 in a Board of 10-6-7-8-J. ---> No. A Q-9 yields the nut Straight.

3) You have a 8-6 in a Board of 3-5-7-9-A. ---> Yes.

4) You have a 10-9 in a Board of 6-8-7-Q-Q. ---> Yes.

5) You have a 9-8 in a Board of 10-7-J-K-6. ---> No. An A-Q yields the nut Straight.

C. In the following Boards, which cards should you be wary of when they come out:

1) You have a 9-8 in a Board of 10-J-4-7. ---> The Queen. Someone might run you over with A-K. And if an Ace and another face card comes out, you are one card away from turning your Straight into toast. (This makes 9-8 especially dangerous to play.) Also, the Ace and the King, when they come out, could worry you a bit (K-Q and A-Q respectively).

2) You have a 6-5 in a Board of 7-8-4-A. ---> The Nine (someone with J-10 will take the lead), the Ten (someone with J-9 will win), and the Jack (someone with 10-9 will win; this is the most worrisome card, because the most likely pair of hole cards to play along with you will be the 10-9 because the player holding it has already an up-and-down Straight draw on the Flop).

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