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Calculating Outs

Many poker calculations begin with counting your outs - here's a definition of an "out" and how you count them with a flush draw, straight draw and a combination of both.

One of the most outdated perceptions of poker is that it is played by shady characters with strange psychic powers, who read opponents' minds by staring deep into their eyes. These days poker - especially online - relies more on very solid understanding of the mechanics of the game, combined often with a thorough working knowledge of mathematics. It is a far less mysterious business.

There is no doubt that the very best poker players have actually taken matters even further into the mathematical realm. Some players analyse hands incredibly closely and make numerous in depth mathematical calculations to determine how they will play.

But not everyone needs to approach the game like that, particularly not beginners.

As the many PokerSchoolOnline courses progress, some of the mathematical aspects of the game will become more prominent. But at this stage, it is only really necessary to have a general idea of some of the core concepts.

One of the very easy calculations you should learn even at this stage in your poker career concerns counting your "outs". 

WHAT ARE OUTS?

We have already seen how the relative strength of a poker hand can increase or decrease as flop, turn and river is dealt. For example  is a big favourite against  pre-flop, but becomes a huge underdog if the flop comes .

If you have a hand that is probably losing, but has the potential to improve to a winner, (ie, a drawing hand) you need to decide whether it is worth continuing with it through the various stages of the pot.

In short, you need to identify the cards that will improve your hand - known as "outs". In later lessons you will learn about making further calculations based on your "outs", but first you need to identify what is an "out".

The best definition is simple: "outs" are the cards left in the deck that improve your hand, ideally to make it strong enough to win the pot at showdown.

Example With a Flush Draw

You are holding  and the flop is: . Although in some circumstances your ace high might be winning already, you do not actually have a very strong hand. Not yet, at least.

However if another heart appears on the turn or river, you make a flush, and unless another player has a full house or better, you will win the hand. (The board isn't paired, so none of our opponents can have a full house yet.)

There are 13 cards of each suit in the deck. You hold two of them, and another two are on the board. Four of the 13 hearts have therefore already been dealt, meaning that there are still nine hearts left in the deck.

This means there are nine cards that can improve your hand to a (probable) winner. You have nine outs.

Example With a Straight Draw

You have  and the flop is . Now any ace or nine will complete your straight. There are four aces and four nines in the deck, so you have eight outs.

If one card is missing to complete a straight, you have four outs. For example, if your hole cards were  and the flop was , your outs would be .

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