According to many poker experts, the oldest term players use to describe an unbeatable hand is “the nuts.” If you are not well versed in the workings of the average wagon, this might not make clear sense. Think back to the times of the Old West and imagine how very much a wagon would have meant to your livelihood and you might begin to get the idea.
In early America, your horse and wagon ensured that you were able to travel, farm, and move goods. Without them, survival would have been pretty precarious. Not everyone could make their living playing cards. If a player was short on cash money, he might decide that his hand was good enough to take the risk of betting his horse and wagon.
For insurance, when betting on his life, so to speak, that player would have to unscrew the nuts from his wagon wheels and put the nuts into the pot. If it came down to it and the player lost, he wouldn’t be able to jump into his wagon and take off with what should have been someone else’s winnings.
Betting your horse and wagon was a pretty grave act and all across the prairie betting “the nuts” became synonymous with a player having an unbeatable hand. A cowboy was highly unlikely to make this bet unless he was completely convinced that he had the best hand at the table.
We have come a long way since the Old West. Even if it comes down to betting your car in a game, most likely you’ll put your keys in the pot instead of running out and unscrewing all the nuts from your wheels. So with each passing generation, this classic vernacular becomes more obscure.
We also have a wider variety of casino card games now, as well as a larger amount of poker terms and slang. When playing Omaha/8 split-pot games, “lock lock” is used to describe having the both the best possible high and low hands. Similarly, a “lock” is used more often to describe a sure-to-win hand.
But in the days of wagons, horses, saloons, campfires and cowboys, “nuts” was always used to refer to a player’s absolute hand. “Nut air” meant a poker player had the best hand without holding a pair and “nut nut” was used in place of today’s “lock lock.”
Like the famous quote from an unknown poker player says, “Who needs balls when you got the nuts!”