How to Crush $1/$2 No-Limit Redux: True Out Value

Not all outs are built the same.

When it comes to playing a drawing hand in $1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em, you need to evaluate the different values of all of your outs.

Before you can begin to assign values to your outs, you need to have a handle on three concepts:

These concepts are fundamental to understanding how to affix value on your outs. Once you're comfortable with the ideas in the above articles, read on.

An Odd Relationship

Beginners - and even most intermediate poker players - have a very one-dimensional view of outs.

In this view, outs are very black or white. You hit the out to win the hand, or you don't hit and lose. Some poker players will never progress beyond this simplistic view.

The next step in thinking about outs comes with the understanding of pot odds and implied odds.

In the early stages of poker thought, these will do nothing more for a player than to allow a logical reason for when and why to chase outs and a basic understanding of when to fold.

The truth is, not all outs are made the same.

The Value of Outs

Take a look at the following hand:


Your Hand:   

Opponents Hand:    

In this hand you held 17 outs to the best hand:

  • Flush draw: 9 outs
  • Over cards: 6 outs
  • Gutshot: 3 outs (we counted one of them already for the flush draw)

As you can see, this adds up to 18 outs. Subtract the one club in our opponents hand and we're left with a total of 17 outs.

Thinking one dimensionally, we can say your 17 outs gives you a 59% chance of winning the pot ( (17*4)-(17-8)=59% ).

The only question worth asking at this point is how the 59% translates into $.

Poker Manga
This gives a new meaning to being drawn out on.

If we assume our opponent is a tight-aggressive "decent" player, and we're seen as being about the same, we can make the following assumptions:

  1. If we hit the flush draw, our opponent will check/fold the following streets.
  2. If we hit a pair, we might get one or two small bets out of our opponent.
  3. If we hit our gutshot, we stand to make a lot of money.

Once the outs are broken out like that, you can see that in #1, the flush draw must be played exclusively on pot odds. Our opponent will not put in a single dollar after we make the flush, meaning our implied odds are effectively zero.

If we hit a pair as in #2, we have a chance at making a little bit of money, but not much at all. No tight-aggressive player is going to commit large amounts of money to a pot with nothing but second pair.

We need pot odds, since our implied odds are small. But this makes #2 applicable to both types of odds.

Finally, #3 is our meal ticket. If we hit the nine for a straight, there is a good chance that we will get one or two medium to large bets out of our opponent.

There's even a chance they'll assume we're bluffing after a raise, giving us a large pot - or even his stack. Situation #3 will almost never have pot odds involved, but the implied odds can be through the roof.

In this hand, you're hoping to hit your gutshot. This is one of the only scenarios in which you can draw at a gutshot, since you have the pot odds on your other draws to make the long shot gamble profitable.

Basically, you're subsidizing your gamble at an infrequent big pot with the semi-regular small-to-medium pots you'll win from your other outs.

Jonathan Aguiar
The look of a man deciding what outs are live.

  • Flush draw: 8 outs: 26%: Small pot
  • Over cards: 6 outs: 20%: Small-to-medium pot
  • Gutshot: 4 outs: 13%: Medium-to-large pot

41% of the time you lose money, but if you have pot odds for the call, you make a small amount of money in the long run by hitting your flush.

Every time you hit an overcard for the win, you win a little bit more money. Finally when you hit your gutshot, you get paid. This is the biggest secret to a poker professional's success in cash games.

Although it may seem like players are getting lucky chasing gutshot draws, they're actually putting you on a specific hand and counting all of their outs to beat that hand.

Simply put, once you understand how each out helps you and to what degree, you'll be able to make stronger decisions in your play and more acute value bets when you hit.

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