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Counting Outs in Poker

Learning how to count your outs and calculate your chances of winning the pot are two of the most important skills winning poker players possess.  The whole process sounds a lot harder than it actually is but it does take a little study to get the hang of it.  Once you do, however, your outs and odds calculations will come without thought.

Outs Explained

"Out" is simply a term used to describe any yet-to-come card that will win the hand for you.  For example, if you have a diamond flush draw, any diamond remaining in the deck would be considered an out.  Because there are 13 cards of each suit in the deck and you have seen four of them already (2 in your hand and two on the board), you would have 9 outs in this example.

Another example would be if you had two pair but think your opponent has a better hand.  You have 4 outs to win the hand because there are 4 cards left in the deck that could improve your two pair to a full house.

Counting Your Outs

All your calculations are useless if you don't count your outs correctly.  Don't worry about what may or may not be in your opponents' hands; just count your outs as if it's just you and the deck.

The most common draws are pretty straightforward.  Flushes have 9 outs, open-ended straight draws have 8 outs and inside straight draws have 4 outs.  Other draws are harder to count because you might not know for sure what cards you need to win your hand.  These include draws like improving from one pair to two pair, two pair to full house, and so on.

With those less-defined types of draws, the weaker your opponent's hand, the more outs you have.  Say you have AK and missed the flop but you think your opponent only has a low pair.  You would have 6 outs - 3 aces and 3 kings - to beat your opponent.

Counterfeit Outs

Counterfeit outs are outs that don't actually help your hand - in fact they're quite dangerous.  For example, let's say you are still on that flush draw but your opponent has a set.  You need to discount any flush cards that pair the board because those cards would give your opponent a full house.  Counterfeit outs can give you very expensive second-best hands so make sure you never forget to discount these from your outs total.

Calculating the Odds of Catching an Out

There are two ways to calculate the chances of you catching an out.  One method involves a big, nasty equation and the other method is simple but not as accurate.  Long equations are useless at the poker table so we'll cover the simple method here.

After you know how many outs you have, multiply that number by 4 to get your approximate chance of hitting that card on either of the next two streets.  With a flush draw, you multiply your 9 outs by 4 to get 36%.  This is close enough and simple enough to be useful at the tables.

If you're on the turn and only have one card to go, multiply your outs by 2 to find the percentage of chance you have.  With a flush draw, you would take 9 times 2 to get an 18% chance to hit on the next card.

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