TEXAS HOLD’EM A TO Z: "O" is for Outs by Bill Burton
In poker, your outs are the unseen cards that will complete or improve your hand to make it the winning hand. Each additional card or "Out" will improve your percentage of surviving the hand and coming out a winner. You can view outs as an indicator of success or failure when determining whether to continue with a hand. Your skill at reading your opponents and the board are important when figuring your outs. You need to assess your opponent's hands and try to determine what they may have. Your perception of their hands will form the basis for deciding what you need to beat them. You then need to read the board and determine which cards will give you the winning hand. The cards that you determine can improve your hand to a winner will be your outs. You can figure your odds of improving your hand once you determine your number of outs. Unfortunately, knowing your number of outs and the percentages for making a hand will not be much help if you do not read your opponent's hand correctly. Your opponent may have a hand that you can't beat even if you complete your hand. This is known as drawing to a dead hand. Some hands, such as a four-card flush, are fairly common and you will easily remember your odds for that hand. Other hands are less common and it will take a little thought on your part. Let's look at a few examples to see how to determine your outs. Example One If you hold two suited cards and the flop brings two other cards of the same suit, you have a four-card flush. There are 13 cards in each suit. You have four of them meaning that there are nine left in the deck. This means that you have nine "outs" to make your flush. With two cards to come you have a 34.97% chance of making a flush. The odds are 1.86 against you making it. After the turn, with only one card to come the odds are 4 to 1 against you. Example Two You have an unsuited queen and ten and the flop is A-9-8 rainbow (all different suits). You have an inside straight draw. The turn card is a "blank" which means it is no help to your hand. If you perceive that your opponent has a pair of aces, you will need to make a straight to beat your opponent. Four unseen jacks will give you a straight. You have four outs to make your hand. With one card to come, you have an 8.7% chance of making it and the odds are 10.5 to 1 against you. Example Three You have the king and jack of hearts. The flop is queen of clubs, ten of hearts and 2 of hearts. You have nothing at this point but you have an open-ended straight draw. You can get one of the four aces or one of the four nines left in the deck for a total of eight outs. You also have a four-card flush, giving you an additional seven outs for a total of 15 outs. There are nine hearts left in the deck but you have already counted the Ace and nine of hearts for your straight draw. With 15 outs, you have a 54.1% chance of making a straight or flush. The odds against you are only .81 to 1, which means you have a pretty good chance of drawing a winning hand. The math used to determine the percentages and odds of making a hand is not difficult if you have a strong math background but I found the calculations a little difficult to do without the benefit of a calculator. Let's look at the flush draw. You have four cards to the flush after the flop. You know there are 13 cards of each suit. You have four of them, which means there are nine remaining in the deck. You have two cards in your hand and there are three cards that were flopped so there are 47 cards remaining in the deck. First, we determine the odds for not making this hand. You have two chances to make the flush with the turn card or river card. For the turn, you subtract the nine flush cards from 47 and you get 38/47. For the river, you subtract nine from the 46 remaining cards to give you 37/46. Multiply 38/47 * 37 /46 = 1406/2162 = .65 or 65% of not making a flush. Subtract 65 from 100 and you see there is a 35% chance of making a flush. I know that I am not capable of figuring odds like that when I'm sitting at the table. Therefore, one of the alternatives is to memorize a chart for all the outs. The Out Chart below shows you percentages and odds for each number of outs after the flop with two cards to come and after the turn with one card to come. Out Chart
You will find that you can easily remember a few of the most common situations for outs such as the four flush or straight draw but there has to be an easier way than memorizing the figures for every number of outs. The good news is that there is a way to get a good estimation of the odds. The Rule of Four-Two. The rule of four-two as I like to call it is an easier way to figure the odds for any situation where you know your outs. It is not completely accurate but it will give you a quick "ballpark" figure of your chances for making a hand. Here is how it works. With two cards to come after the flop, you multiply your number of outs by four. With one card to come after the turn you multiply your number of outs by two. This will give you a quick figure to work with. If you have a four-card flush after the flop, you have nine outs. With two cards to come you multiply the nine by four and you get 36% chance of making the flush. The chart shows the true odds at 35 %. With one card to come you multiply nine by two and get 18 %. The chart shows that the true figure is 19.6. It is not completely accurate but it’s pretty close and it is an easy calculation to do in your head.
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