“Outs” is a term commonly used while playing poker. Though it’s usually discussed with regard to games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha, outs are also relevant to a casino game like video poker when in reference to the likelihood of catching the cards you need when drawing (e.g., to a straight or flush). Simply put, outs are the unseen cards remaining in the deck that will significantly improve a hand that is not deemed as the best hand at that point. Hopefully, catching one of your outs will gain you the winning hand.

This concept is best used after the flop, when your hand is better defined. (Then, you see your two holecards and the three cards flopped – over 70 percent of your final hand.)

Suppose you hold two hearts, and the flop gives you two more. Now you have four hearts; you need one more for the flush. Of course, it’s best if one of your hole cards is the Ace of hearts; then you can make the “nut” flush. Accounting for these four hearts, there remain nine more hearts – 9 outs!

poker outs

What are the odds against completing your flush?

There are charts available that list the card odds based on the number of outs; or, you can use the 4-2 Rule, which I prefer: With two cards to come (the turn and the river), assuming you would stay to the river, simply multiply your outs by 4. With 9 outs, then, the probability of making your flush is approximately 36% (9 x 4). So, expect to catch your flush about 36 out of 100 such hands. Then, the odds are approximately (100 – 36) divided by 36 = 1.8-to-1 against. (The more precise number is 1.86-to-1.) Round it off to 2-to-1 against making the flush. If you play much hold’em, you soon know this information without doing any math.

How do these card odds compare to the pot odds?

In this example, before the flop, let’s assume there are 4 Big Blind (BB) bets in the pot. An early-position opens the betting on the flop and is called by one other player. Now there are 6 BB bets in the pot. Should you call to see the turn? Compare the pot odds, 6-to-1, to your card odds, 2-to-1 against. Since the pot odds are so much higher than your card odds, calling to see the turn is a “Positive Expectancy” bet. Most of the time, it will be highly profitable.

Raising on Your Flush Draw

If there are three (or more) opponents staying to see the turn, you might even want to raise. Most likely, all of those opponents will call your raise. Thus, you are getting 3-to-1 “betting odds” on your raise versus your card odds of 2-to-1 against – thereby increasing your expected profit. In that case, the only time you might just call the bet on the flop is:

  1. if you are drawing to a small flush, or
  2. if the board suggests an “enemy” might be drawing to a full-house or better

Missing Your Flush on the Turn

Of course, you could easily miss on the turn. Now you have just one more shot at it. Your card odds increase to about twice what they were before the turn. (Multiply your outs by 2 instead of 4.)

Now, it is appropriate to recognize the “implied” pot odds: How many more bets would go into the pot after you (hopefully) catch your flush on the river? You can only estimate (guess) that number, primarily based on the types of opponents still in the pot – loose versus tight – and the range of hands they might be playing. So long as the implied pot odds are higher than your card odds, you have a Positive Expectancy. By all means, call to see the river – and hope…

MORE, BY GEORGE: What about Your Outs?

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