STRATEGY

Poker Outs – Knowing Your True Hand Strength

If you’re still new to the world of poker, it can seem like there are an endless supply of tips, tricks, and rules that you should follow if you want to be the best at the game. While that is somewhat true, the fact is that everyone who knows the most about poker all started with the same foundation: learning about hand rankings, game mechanics, and poker outs. So, that means that if you put your mind to it, you can be as good as the rest of them. It takes time, discipline, and perseverance to rise to the top, just like with any other profession.

As far as the basics go, you should already be well versed in the poker rankings and understand the rules of the game. Once you’ve mastered those, then it’s time for you to start thinking about your betting strategy. While there are tons of different methods and procedures to make sure that you’re making the right move, one of the most basic is the concept of poker outs.

In this article, we will go into detail about poker outs and how they can affect your hand. Knowing how to play is all about figuring out the odds, and knowing your outs is the foundation upon which you will learn everything. Simply put, until you can master calculating your outs, then you won’t be able to get anything else.

What are Poker Outs?

As far as concepts go, this one is relatively simple. However, don’t let its simplicity fool you. Calculating your outs takes time and practice if you want to do it effectively. When you look at your hand, you can see what cards you need to make a winning hand.  Those are your outs. For example, if you have three of a kind in your hand (or with the board), then you can determine that getting another pair will give you a full house or getting the last card will create quads. To put it simply, poker outs are the number of unseen cards that will make you a winning hand.

Hidden Outs

When figuring out your outs, there are what are called “hidden outs.” These are cards that may not help you directly but will hurt your opponent. To fully understand them, we have to look at an example.

Your Hand: J♠, J♥

The Flop: 8♥, 3♣, K♦

Your Opponent: 8♣, 3♦

In this case, your opponent already has a better hand than you because he has two pairs to your one. If you were to count your standard outs, then you would normally count the other two jacks to make three or four of a kind. Unfortunately, there is nothing else immediate that can help your hand, or is there?

Considering that your opponent has a high pair of eights, that means that if a king comes out, then you will win the hand. Even though it’s not obviously something that will help you, it does hurt your opponent, so you can count it as an out. Thus, instead of having only two, you now have five outs when you count the remaining kings.

Obviously, you won’t know what your opponent has, which is why they’re called hidden outs. However, if you can accurately put your opponent on a range, then it will be easier to see if there are potentially any hidden outs.

How to Calculate Poker Outs

Even if you don’t have a great hand, it should be easy to figure out how many outs you have. Using the full house example above, we can determine the number of outs that are available to us. Looking at this example will help you understand the formula.

Your Hand: 10♦, 10♥

The Flop: 10♠, Q♠, 8♦

In this case, you already have trips, and now you are looking to get either another pair for a full house or the final ten to make quads. Because you already have two additional cards on the board, that means that you have seven outs.

How did we determine this? Well, there are three queens left in the deck and three eights left, which makes six. That, plus the final ten makes seven different unseen cards that will give you a winning hand. Then comes the turn.

The Board: 10♠, Q♠, 8♦, 5♥

In this case, now you have ten outs. There are three queens, three eights, and three fives left, which make nine, plus the final ten.

Once you have determined your outs, then you have to figure out the odds of getting one of them. This, in turn, will inform how to play the hand.

Odds and Outs

When playing poker, it’s imperative that you know how to calculate your odds for any given hand. The reason that it is so crucial is that it will help you figure out if you will be profitable in the long run. Poker is more of a marathon than a sprint. Especially when it comes to online play, you need to be thinking long term with regards to your strategy.

To put it simply, only make bets where you have good odds of coming out ahead. As long as there is a higher chance of making money on the hand, then you should have a net gain by the end of the night. Even if you lose a particular hand, odds will tell you if it was a good play or not.

So how can poker outs help you determine your odds? We’ll try to simplify this process as much as possible. To do so, let’s look at an example.

Your Hand: 6♣, 10♣

The Flop: 9♣, Q♣, A♠

Your Outs: you see four clubs so far, which means that there are nine additional clubs left in the deck.

Calculating Odds

To calculate your odds, you have first to figure out how many cards are left in the deck. Since we’ve only seen five cards so far, that means that there are forty-seven cards left that are unknown.

Once we’ve determined that, then we have to split the remaining cards into ones that can help us win and ones that don’t. In this case, we’ve already figured out that there are nine outs, which means that there will be 38 cards that don’t give us a winning hand (47-9).

To figure out our odds, we divide 38 by 9, which gives us a ratio of about four to one. That means that we have a one in four chance of making a hand.

Anti-Outs and Blockers

While determining your outs seems relatively straightforward on the outside, the fact is that you eventually have to take into account what your opponent is likely holding. Once you do that, then you can figure out how many anti-outs or blockers there will be. These cards are ones that could potentially hurt your hand, even though it seems like they will help it initially. Remember, an out only counts if it helps you win. To understand this concept, let’s look at another example.

Your Hand: A♠, 3♣

The Flop: 2♦, 4♦, 10♣

In this case, you have a high card and a four-card straight draw. Thus, your total outs will be seven, as there are three other aces to give you a high pair and four fives to complete your straight.

Unfortunately, however, you also have to consider that there are two diamonds on the board. That means that if your opponent has a flush draw, he can beat you even if you complete a straight. Thus, the ace of diamonds and the five of diamonds are now potentially blockers as they could help him complete a flush.

When figuring out your anti-outs, it’s always best to be cautious. Thus, even though you potentially have seven outs, you should only count five when determining your odds of winning.

The Rule of Four and Two

Above, we figured out how to calculate your odds based on your outs. Using the flush draw example, we saw that we had a one in four chance of winning the hand. But how can we translate that into a strategy for betting?

Well, this is where the rule of four and two comes into play. The way it works is that you multiply your number of outs by four on the flop, and then by two on the turn or the river. Doing so will give you an estimation of how likely you are to get a winning card.

So, using the flush draw example from above, we know that we had nine outs to make a winning hand. Thus, on the flop, we would multiply nine by four to get a rough percentage of making our hand. In this case, it would be 36%, which is not ideal, but not terrible.

Then, if you decide to call the bet and the turn comes out without you making your hand, then we multiply the number of outs (still nine) by two, which will give us eighteen percent. At this point, it’s much better to fold because the odds of making a hand on the river is too low to make it worthwhile in the long run.

Remember, you are not only playing for this hand, but instead, you’re playing for all the hands cumulatively. That means that, with an eighteen percent chance of winning, you will lose eighty-two percent of the time. Out of a hundred hands, that will add up substantially.

Poker Outs Conclusion

Overall, when it comes to calculating your odds, it’s crucial that you determine your outs first. Practice as much as you can so that you can get faster and more accurate at it. Once you have mastered the basic premise, then it will be time to figure out pot odds, opponent range, and other principles that can help propel you to the big leagues.  We hope you enjoyed reading about poker outs, and we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


I am a poker enthusiast who also enjoys sailing, rugby, and gaming. A relative newcomer to the world of online poker, I will be putting our strategy guides to the test as I start the Bankroll Challenge: how far can I get without depositing a single penny? Keep an eye out for updates.


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