Poker Tips by George: Odds and Outs – Playing a Draw

By George Epstein
September 24, 2021

Playing hold’em, on the flop you have connected to a drawing hand. It happens often. To be a more consistent winner make good use of your card outs and odds, along with the pot odds. This is especially important in middle/small limit hold’em games, where it is more difficult to scare off opponents with a big semi-bluff bet. According to (among other poker sites), the same principle would apply in other mixed game poker variants.

Outs are the cards in the deck that will improve your hand. Suppose you were dealt Qh-10h in the hole, and the flop put Jh-6h-5d on the board. You now have four-to-a Queen-high flush – nine outs (13-4). Whether you use the 4-2 Rule or an odds chart, with both the turn and river yet to come, the card odds against you are 1.86-to-1. (If you miss on the turn, you can still connect on the river; although the odds against you are almost double.)

Cardplayer Lifestyle Poker Tips By George: Know How to Use Your Outs - Cardplayer  Lifestyle

The Pot Odds vs. Your Card Odds

There is a bet before you on the turn. Count the number of chips in the pot (estimating is okay, too). Divide that by the number of chips you invest to see the next card. The pot odds are the number of chips already in the pot divided by those you add. Example: An opponent bets $4 before you, leaving $20 in the pot. Calling his bet, the pot odds are 5-to-1 ($20 ÷ $4). In this case, calling is a viable decision since the pot odds (5-to-1) are higher than your card odds against you (2-to-1).

Let’s focus on selected odds you can expect to encounter. In all cases, we will assume it is a full table (nine players). The more players, the more likely you can expect favorable pot odds. (Reference: Texas Hold’em Textbook by Tom Green;

  • If you do not have an Ace in the hole, at least one of your eight opponents will hold an Ace about 80 percent of the time. If an Ace falls on the flop, consider folding unless you have at least six good outs.
  • The odds are 2.3-to-1 that the best hand before the flop will still be the best hand after the flop. And the odds are 2.8-to-1 it will be the best hand on the river.
  • Starting with a made hand (A-A, K-K, Q-Q) or A-K, the odds favor you 4-to-1 that you will beat any one of your opponents. But it becomes an underdog against four or more opponents. Raise preflop to thin the field.
  • With a non-pair in the hole, the odds of flopping a pair are 2-to-1 against. Expect to pair up on the flop one out of three times. (That’s why high hole cards are preferred.) Further, if three or more opponents stay to see the flop, expect at least one to have a pair and it could be higher than yours.
  • Starting with a pair in the hole, the odds of flopping a set are 8-to-1 against – a long shot. To make it a sound investment, your small/medium pairs are best played in multi-way hands with no raises. (We label this the Hold’em Caveat.)
  • Starting with two suited hole cards, the odds of flopping a flush are 9-to-1 against. It is best to have high cards for additional outs. Should you flop four-to-a-flush, the card odds become only 1.86-to-1 against catching the flush on the turn or the river. Assuming higher pot odds, the flush is well worth pursuing.
  • Holding two-pair on the flop, the card odds are 5-to-1 against catching a full-house. If you miss on the turn, the card odds increase to 10.5-to-1 against you. Even so, your two-pair could still be the best hand.

READ MORE: The Odds of Different Rare Card Hands

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George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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