In this article we will analyze a particular Texas Hold’em hand situation and then extrapolate from that to better understand how to “correct your outs”. So let’s say you’re playing hold’em in a brick and mortar casino or perhaps online or on your mobile device via one of the Pennsylvania casino apps. After the flop you may find yourself holding a draw to a flush – four cards of the same suit – or a draw to an open-ended straight – four cards in sequence open at both ends. Those are both great hands with which to see the turn and river. If either one connects, the chances are that you are well ahead of your opponents and highly likely to win the pot.
Let’s focus on a draw to the flush…
With four cards of the same suit, there are 9 more cards of that suit unseen (presumably remaining in the deck). You have 9 outs, any one of which will complete your flush. Based on the number of outs, you can readily determine your card odds – the probability of making your hand with two cards to come.
Using the 4-2 Rule
You can do the math to estimate the card odds by using the 4-2 Rule. Multiplying your 9 outs by 4 gives you the approximately 36 percent chance (probability) of filling your flush on the turn or on the river. Then your card odds are (100 – 36) ÷ 36 which is equal to approximately 2-to-1 against you. After the flop, an early position opens the betting and is called by two other players. Now, you must decide your action. Let’s say it’s a $4-$8 limit game. That amounts to $12 you need to call after the flop in addition to the $15 already in the pot, for a total of $27. By calling that $4 bet, the pot odds are $27 ÷ 4 which is approximately 7-to-1. The rule with a drawing hand is that the pot odds must be higher than your card odds to make it a profitable “investment” – as is the case here.
If you miss your flush on the turn, then multiply your outs by 2. This gets you a reasonable estimate of the odds of making your hand on the river. Once again, compare your card odds to the pot odds.
There are handy charts available in many poker books, but the 4-2 rule is probably the easiest way to do this math. Or you can memorize it: With 9 outs on the flop, your card odds are 1.86-to-1 against connecting either to the turn or the river, and 4.33-to-1 on the turn to the river.
What if Your Outs Are Overcards?
In addition to your 4 cards to a flush, let’s take the case when both of your hole cards are higher in value than any of the cards on the board – they are overcards. Each gives you an additional 3 outs to pair up – 6 outs in all. Instead of just 9 outs to the flush, you would have 15 (9 + 6) outs; and the card odds against you would be only 0.85-to-1– favoring you to connect to take that pot. That may seem great, but don’t get carried away. There is a mean sharp hook here: Catching top pair is much less likely to win the pot compared to filling the flush. For example, one of your opponents may have been calling or betting with two-pair, leaving you second-best.
But you do have the option to protect against this. Since those overcards are less valuable, you should reduce their “effective outs” by a factor of three. Now you would add only 2 outs to your 9 outs for the flush draw. And now your card odds are back up to 3.18-to-1 against you. That could make a big difference since the bets on the turn are doubled for this limit pot ($8 instead of $4) and the pot odds may be lower as some opponents decide to muck their hands.