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by Ashley Adams

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Losing With the Second-Nut Flush

The king-high flush is often referred to as the second-nut flush. Assuming a straight flush isn’t possible, and there is no pair on the board, only the ace-high flush can top it. It is a powerful hand but can lose more often than you might think.
On the button in a lively low-limit hold’em game at a local casino, I looked down at Kc-5c. According to our Hold’em Algorithm, that’s a very marginal hand and usually is best folded before the flop, with a few exceptions. If it is a multi-way pot with no raises and you’re in late position, calling the blind to see the flop makes good sense. For one small bet, you can see more than 70 percent of your final hand.
With three or more opponents staying to see the flop, the implied pot odds are substantial, and even with high card odds against you, it’s a prudent investment. You are hoping for two more of your suit on the flop. The odds are about 8-to-1 against it happening. But if you are fortunate to catch two more, the odds are now only 1.86-to-1 (less than 2-to-1) against making a flush on the turn or the river. The pot odds are bound to be attractive, giving you a high positive expectation.
Five opponents called the blind with no raises when the betting reached me. So I called, hoping for the best. And, indeed, it was a good flop—or so I thought:
My hole cards: Kc-5c
The flop: Qc-8c-2h
The blind bet out and was called by three others. I considered raising as a value bet but decided to just call along with the others. I was hoping for one more club, preferably the ace of clubs, to fill the flush. The turn didn’t help. There was an early-position bet followed by a raise. With 4-to-1 card odds against completing my flush on the river, the pot odds were far more than enough to warrant my calling the raise.
Sure enough, the river was 6c. Now, I had the second nut flush! With no pair on the board, only an ace-high club flush could beat my hand. I was already counting the chips I expected to add to my stacks.
A young lady two seats to my left, checked. I felt somewhat relieved. She had been catching river cards to beat my hands all evening. I had labeled her my nemesis. A lovely young lady with a beautiful smile, I was happy to see her winning—except when she beat me out, which happened too often as far as I was concerned.
Her check gave me confidence that my king-high flush was the best hand. A gent to her left, a loose player, made the big bet. Thinking I had the best hand, I raised to get maximum value from my flush. My “nemesis” examined her hand and appeared ready to fold (that was wishful thinking on my part) when she announced “re-raise!”
She check-raised—something I did not expect from her. In hindsight, I can readily understand her strategy; it worked perfectly. Both of us called her. You guessed it: She turned up Ac-3c for the nut flush! The other gent had a middle flush. It’s very unusual for three players to make flushes in the same hand, but it happens—perhaps more often than we realize. Fact is low-limit players usually stay in with “any ace” to see the flop, so it can happen more often than you might expect. Oh well, that’s poker.
. . . So readers, what’s YOUR opinion?
George “The Engineer” Epstein is the author of The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners! and Hold’em or Fold’em?—An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision and teaches poker at the Claude Pepper Sr. Citizen Center in Los Angeles. Contact George at

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