How to Play a Nassau

The Nassau is the most popular wager in golf. The game originated at the Nassau Country Club in Long Island, New York around 1900. It is told that the club captain at the time, John Tappan, invented the game, however, the reason he invented the game is told in different ways. A popular belief is that John did not like being defeated by large margins and so he invented a method of scoring that wasn't entirely dependent on the final score.

The original Nassau gave one point for the winner of the front nine, one point for the winner of the back nine and one point for the winner of both nines combined. Winners of each nine and total were determined by match play (most holes won). The dollar value of a point was, and is today, determined by the participants. Thus, the $2 Nassau is a three part bet; $2 for the winner of the front, $2 for the winner of the back and $2 for the winner of total. This may also be referred to as "2-2-2".

Over the years the Nassau has become immensely popular and many variations of the game have been played. There are no set rules for the game which likely lends to its popularity. However the game is to be played is agreed upon beforehand by the parties involved.

It is not clear if the press bet was part of the original game or added later, however, this element of the game is very popular.

The Press is a new bet on the nine being played. It runs concurrently with the original bet for that nine. If a player is losing the nine being played, the player may request to press the bet. The opponent in the match has the option to accept or deny the additional bet. If the bet is accepted, the press bet starts on the next hole to be played and runs until the nine is completed. The wager for the press bet is (typically) the same as the original Nassau bet.

To illustrate the press bet, consider that during a $2 Nassau a player is down two holes with four holes remaining to be played on the front nine. The player requests to press the bet. The press bet is accepted and starts on the next hole, #6. At the end of the front nine the scores are tallied for holes 1-9 to determine the winner of the original Nassau bet, and then holes 6-9 are tallied to determine the winner of the press bet.

Variations to the press bet are numerous and can be complicated and expensive. Multiple presses may be played on each nine and an overall press may be played for total. A popular variation of the press bet is to play automatic presses whenever a player is two holes down.

Strategy plays a part in determining when to press. A press bet is a double or nothing bet that can repeat itself via additional presses. Press betting is a means by which a player who is behind in a match may hedge their bet in an attempt to break even or win the side or total.

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