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How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
Part 3 in our 10-part beginner series on How Not to Suck at Poker, here's how to count the exact number of outs you can hit to win a hand.
If you ever want to get a handle on Texas Hold'em poker odds, it's imperative you learn how to count all your outs.
An "out" is any card that can come which will give you the best hand. Obviously, before you can begin to count outs, you have to know the poker hand rankings forward and backwards so start there if you don't know them.
After you know the poker hand rankings you need to be able to read the board. Are there possible straights or flushes? Is the board paired?
All of these things may affect your outs. Here's a simple outs cheat sheet covering the most common situations you'll be in after the flop (definitions for the terms are below the list):
|Open-ended straight draw||8|
|Gut-shot straight draw||4|
|Open-ender & flush draw||15|
|Three of a kind to make a full house||6 on the flop, 9 on the turn (add one out for quads)|
|Pocket pair to hit a set after the flop||2|
- Open-ended straight draw - You have four cards in a row.
- Hand:8♠ 9♥ | Board:6♥ 7♣ 2♠
- Gut-shot straight draw - You need one card in the middle of four.
- Hand:8♠ 9♥ | Board:6♥ 10♣ 2♠
- Flush draw - You have four cards of the same suit.
- Hand:8♠ 9♠ | Board:6♠ K♣ 2♠
- Open-ender & flush draw - You have both and open-ended straight draw and a flush draw.
- Hand:8♠ 9♠ | Board:6♠ 7♠ 2♥
- Three of a kind to make a full house - You have three cards of the same rank.
- Hand:8♠ 8♥ | Board:8♦ 7♠ 2♥
- Pocket pair to hit a set after the flop - You have a pair in your hand.
- Hand:8♠ 8♥ | Board:6♠ 7♠ 2♥
The more time you spend practicing counting your outs the simpler it will become.
Any card that will bring you the best hand is considered an out. But be careful not to count outs that will potentially give your opponent a better hand.
For example, if you have an open-ended straight draw but there's two to a suit on the flop, you only have six outs since two of your outs will bring a flush to anyone holding the flush draw.
When counting outs you need to first make a guess (you hope an accurate guess) about what cards your opponent is playing.The specifics of your opponent's hand will greatly affect the number of outs you may or may not have. Some examples:
How many outs do you have? Depending what you put your opponent on you can have as few as four outs or as many as 10. Your straight draw is to the nuts so unless you run into a full house or backdoor flush you have four rock solid outs.
If you put your opponent on just a single pair, such as A♦ 9♦, then you have 10 outs. Unfortunately it's near to impossible to know what your opponent's kicker is with their 9. If they're holding J♦ 9♦, then you're down to only seven outs.
You need to take into account all situations and play the hand accordingly. When in doubt it's always better to assume you have the least number of outs rather than the most.
It's always a less expensive mistake to fold when you're good than to call when you're behind.
In this hand you span the gap from drawing dead all the way to 15 outs depending on your opponent's cards. If your opponent has a full house (or quads), you're drawing dead or practically dead (technically you could catch running JJ or QQ for a higher full house).
If your opponent has a higher flush draw you're drawing to 6 outs and you have to dodge 7 hearts as well as as many as 6 higher pair outs.
If your opponent had just a pair you're sitting with as many as 15 outs (assuming a J or Q doesn't give your opponent a better two pair).
In order to count your outs here you need a strong read on your opponent. For all the beginners out there, stick to the two following golden rules:
1. Only pay for a draw if it's a draw to the nuts.
2. Never draw to a straight or flush on a paired board.
There are times when you can ignore these rules in poker but as a beginner you should follow them almost 100%. In the long run you're going to lose a lot of money chasing flushes on paired boards and you're going to suffer from winning a small pot or losing a big pot by chasing flushes not to the ace.
In general these are the kind of situations you want to avoid. If you can take this draw to the river for cheap then it's still a decent hand but it's not one to get your whole stack in play with.
In this hand you have a gutshot straight draw and a flush draw. But how many outs do you really have?
Let's look at the gutshot. Even if the board was rainbow (rather than all spades), you're drawing to a one-card sucker end of a straight.
If the 9 comes you have 8♠ 9♦ T♠ J♠ Q♠ while anyone with a king in their hand has a better straight 9-K. If a spade comes you're sitting with an 8-high flush, the third nuts.
Really, the best out you have is the 9♠ for a straight flush -- and even then the K♠ has you crushed. Your outs are effectively zero so this hand is a must fold.
When counting your outs it's crucial to look past the outs your hand has to improve. If improving your hand will make a better hand for your opponent that out is actually an anti-out.
To learn more about anti-outs head to Anti-Outs and Money Cards.
How to Count Your Outs -- Video
Being able to count your outs is the first step towards figuring out basic poker odds. If you want to win at poker it's something you need to learn to do. Luckily, it's dead simple.
Check out this video for step-by-step instruction for counting your outs and figuring out the odds of hitting your draw and winning the hand.
More on How Not to Suck at Poker:
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Bankroll
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Your Mouth Shut
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Records
- How Not to Suck at Poker: Discuss the Game