Poker : Outs & Odds

With the flops we just assessed, our evaluation was a little ambiguous in some cases. Such an ambiguous assessment is a good idea, just to get a meaning of the situation. However, you will want to be more formal in the evaluation, considering an explicit count of outs and pot implied odds.

Counting Your Outs

An "out" is a card that will improve your currently losing hand into a winning poker hand. If you have AK and the flop is 975 then any Heart is an out for you. It is likely that any Ace or King will also win for you.

Now you have got between nine and fifteen outs. We are not sure exactly how many because we only want to count a card as an out if we are sure it will give us a win. We are almost sure a flush will win, although 9 might give someone a full house or 6 followed by 6 may also. We are not sure at all that making a pair of Aces or Kings will give us a winner. In counting your outs, should you consider this a hand with nine outs? Or one with fifteen outs? Or even one with eight outs (the 9? might not make your hand a winner)?

The answer depends basically on how many active rivals there are. The fewer the rivals, the less likely a card that helps your hand will help someone else's even more. However, the effect of this would be smaller than most players think.

Again considering the AK starting hand, let's look at our outs when the flop is JT7. Any Queen makes us nut straight, with the exception of the Q, which may make someone else a flush. Similarly, if we pair either of our cards, it makes us the top pair, but might take someone else a straight. Now we have three cards that make us the winning hand and seven cards stud that improve our hand but might improve someone else's hand even more. How many outs do we have? Three outs to win and ten outs to improve but waiting for an improvement would be enough to win? Take a look at the table and see.

With the flops, the AK has some features adds important value. It is that the hand might actually more likely with the 975 flop than with the flop of JT7. This is not obvious to most weak players would immediately be concerned that someone has flopped a straight either the flop but one has usually unlikely. The biggest concern should be that someone had flopped a pair and has an Ace or King kicker. It is much more than likely that someone playing a KT than someone is a playing a K7. Even many loose poker players are important pre-flop with a hand like K7.


No. of AK AK T9 T9 T9
Odds rivals seeing the flop 975 JT7 762 532 762
1-1(.50) 1 .77 .56
2-1(.33) 2 .65 .40 .25 .50 .29
3-1(.25) 3 .55 .31 .19 .45 .25
4-1(.20) 4 .49 .25 .16 .43 .21
5-1(.17) 5 .46 .23 .15 .40 .21
6-1(.14) 6 .44 .22 .13 .35 .20
7-1(.13) 7 .42 .20 .12 .33 .19
8-1(.11) 8 .41 .19 .11 .32
9-1(.10) 9 .39 .18 .10

Pot Odds Calculations

Always be careful of the pot odds. You can count the outs, comparing them with the money in the pot to estimate if calling has a positive expected value. Although it is a subjective estimate, knowing whether the pot is giving you the right odds to take the risk of continued play is the difference between winning and losing poker.

It is essential to keep track of pot odds in loose games. The reason loose games are so profitable is that you can play more hands profitably when you are getting the right price- so knowing the price is riskier. It is slightly important when playing heads-up. There it is more important to outplay your rival than outdraw him.
Pot odds should be figured straightforwardly. Just count the money that's in the pot, comparing it with how much it will cost you to remain in the pot for the next card. For example, four players each put $10 into the pot before the flop. At the flop, the first player bets $10, the other two fold. The pot has $50 and it costs you $10 to call so you are getting 5-1 pot odds. If you were second to act instead of last, then it gets a little more complex. You are still getting 5-1 odds but the betting round is not yet over. If both other players call, you end up getting 7-1. If one of the players gets in a raising war with the opening bettor, you will have to put $40 in the pot before it is over. The pot will be $120 so you will only get 3-1 pot odds.

Comparing your pot odds with your number of outs requires a little mathematical conversion. To convert the number of outs to your drawing odds, you compare the number of outs (good cards) with the rest of the remaining cards (bad cards).

For example there is a tight poker games and the flop is 975. We counted the outs as fifteen (when we held AKas out first two cards). Because there are forty-seven unseen cards, your drawing odds are about 32-15. That is approximately 2-1. As long as these odds are better than the pot odds, we should play this hand.

How Callers Affect Your Outs

When you are on a draw, it is important to be certain you have got enough callers to keep your pot odds or bet odds high enough to pay for the draw. How many callers you need depends on how many outs will make a good hand. Sometimes, however, more callers mean your effective outs are reduced. It is difficult to determine exactly how many your effective outs are reduced by more callers, but you can formulate some guidelines.

A good example is when some of your outs come from an overcard Ace. Suppose you have got an A6 and the flop is J95. You have got nine outs for your flush draw and perhaps three outs for your Ace overcard. The Ace is somewhat critical. If one of the other players has a hand like AJ or A9 or A5, then you will just have second-best hand if an Ace falls on the turn. In loose games, many players do play any hand with an Ace in it and you should give an Ace overcard in your hand full credit for outs. This is not much difficulty with the flush draw example, because with a flush draw, you will probably be playing the hand strongly even without the Ace overcard. However, in some situations it is of great significance.

An example is if you have AJ and the flop is KQ5. You have an Ace overcard and a gut-shot straight draw, but if you have more than one or two callers and they are betting aggressively on the flop, then it is possibly a mistake to consider this hand as having seven outs. It is suggested raising three callers if you have seven outs but not with these seven outs. The chances of an Ace making someone either two pair or a straight are too high for you to consider the Ace draw overcard as three outs in this situation. The importance to determining which of your outs are good and it should be counted in evaluating your hand depends on an evaluation of the probable outs of your rivals.

Counting Their Odds

We have discuss the strength of a probable best hand like the top pair or an overpair depends on the collective number of outs that the rivals have, but how do we know how many that is? We of course don't know but we can put a bound on it, a range for the number of outs that depends on the size of the field.

For example take a hand that we started with from the perspective of the overpair, the JJ and the flop of 973. If there is only one caller, he could have a hand like J9 or J7, where the number of effective outs is between two and four, or he could have a hand like A7 where his effective number of outs is seven. Other hands are possible like a gut-shot straight draw or a straight draw. A flush draw is of course possible but it is unlikely that a flush draw with two overcards would only call. The range of outs that one caller might have ranged between two and nine, with five the most likely number.

A second caller would likely add between five and nine outs. It is improbable that you would have two callers whose kicker matches your pair. So the cumulative number of outs with two callers is likely between seven and fifteen. A third caller will possibly add between four or five, which adds up to a range of eleven to twenty. A fourth caller will also add the same, which would again add up to a range of fifteen to twenty-five.

If there is a raise, you can add the possibility of a very strong draw such as flush draws with two overcards, bringing the range to about fifteen to thirty outs with a raise and four rivals and a range of about fifteen to twenty outs with a raise from a single caller.

Even if you know you currently have the best hand, it is just best call if you are raised because of the likelihood that the total number of outs against you is big enough to make you a money underdog to the field. However, until you get the raise you are still a money favorite and should bet this hand. The only thing you should raise with it.

Comparing Outs

Few players find it little difficult in conceptualizing the idea that the hand with a flush draw and two overcards (fifteen outs) is a favorite in heads-up confrontation with the top pair. The fact is that the draw has fifteen cards which can give it a win, but the thirty cards that don't hit the draw are wins for the top pair, so why isn't the top pair hand a 2-1 favorite? This is because there are two cards still to come.

The draw has two chances to hit one of his cards the turn and the river. The top pair also has two chances for the draw to miss, but for the top pair to win, the draw must miss both the times. For the draw to win, the draw only has to hit once.

continue: A Theory of Flop Play:Adjusting

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