How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs

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Counting outs to stay alive is never good.

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):

Hand Outs
Open-ended straight draw 8
Gut-shot straight draw 4
Flush draw 9
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. 

Related Reading:

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Example 1

Your Hand:    

Board:      

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.

Example 2

Your Hand:    

Board:      

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.

Example 3

Your Hand:    

Board:      

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.

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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:

  1. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
  2. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
  3. How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
  4. How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
  5. How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
  6. How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Proper Bankroll
  7. How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
  8. How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Talking So Much
  9. How Not to Suck at Poker: Track Your Results
  10. How Not to Suck at Poker: Talk to Better Players

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Aqeel 2013-07-14 13:13:14

wait for the flop!!!!! if you are on the button, it wont cost you to see the flop .lets say you have a pair of fours and there is mariangl betting which shows you the rest of the table have so-so hands and want to see the flop too ..with a pair of fours you may get trips or low cards for a possible straight and bet heavy on the river always remember the face cards will beat you .stay in if the betting is light if a player comes out heavy, (if not bluffing) he may be holding high cards such as A_K..if the flop doesn't come your way, throw them away, the odds go down to make a straight or a trip by the river and any pair above fours will beat you .stay if the betting is light and the flop, turn card and river card produces a pair, particularly a low card pair..watch your opponents and their betting style to indicate they hit trips or hold two pairs larger than yours ..if not, bet if so throw away by the turn cardReferences : player Was this answer helpful?

peggie pearson 2011-10-25 20:21:47

any help on which cards to hold or not beforethe flop

Arty Smokes 2011-05-30 23:38:19

I doubt many people bother counting the outs when they are drawing to a full house or quads, as those hands are fairly rare, and top 2 pair is usually enough to win a pot. One of the more common possibilities not listed here occurs when you not only have a flush draw, but also have one or two overcards.
e.g. You have Ah Qh and a flop of 7h 9h 3s.
Not only do you have the 9 outs for the nut flush, but any queen or ace could well be good enough to win the pot. A flush draw plus two overcards has 15 outs, and even though you don't even have a pair, you can make a large bet (even all in) in many circumstances to force a fold. You're even a favourite against someone who already has top pair and a backdoor straight draw (e.g. 9d 8d with the flop mentioned above) if they choose to call. Sometimes it's OK to be losing on the flop, as you're still favourite to win the race.

Luiz Frank 2011-03-06 16:16:07

Qual o saite que eu aprendo referente ao dinheiro virtual que eu ganhar, Como faço prá coloca-lo na conta corrente e dispor dele fisicamente?

Sean Lind 2009-12-04 01:50:13

Keenan,

On the flop you have three of a kind. There are two cards on the flop which if they pair on the turn will give you a full house.

2 ranks, 3 cards each = 6 outs.

On the turn (assuming you don't make your full house) there are now 3 cards that can pair to give you a full house. 3 ranks, 3 cards each = 9 outs.

To make quads, you have a far worse chance than you do to make a full house. There is only 1 card left to make them.

What I meant by (add one out for quads), is that you have 6 or 9 outs + 1.

So you have 7 or 10 outs to make a fullhouse, or better (quads)

Keenan 2009-12-03 06:02:58

Hi i was just wondering how come the outs for a full house increase after the turn? and why are the odds for a quad greater thana full house? You would assume quads are higher value therefore would be harder to hit.



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