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When counting outs, you need to first make a guess (hopefully it's an accurate guess) about what cards your opponent is playing.
The specifics of your opponents hand will greatly affect the number of outs you may or may not have.
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 ten.
Your straight draw is to the nuts (a nutshot as I like to call it), 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 ten outs (the nutshot along with any queen or jack).
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're going to 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 nut.
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, 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.
The How Not to Suck at Poker series:
- 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