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# How Many "Outs" Does Your Poker Hand Have?

22 July 2006

Anytime you're in a poker pot and you don't have the best hand, your chance to win it depends upon how many "outs" you have. An "out" is a card that will improve your hand to a winner if you catch it.

An easy illustration of this occurs in the simple game of 5 Card Stud. At the beginning of the hand there were more players in, but by the fourth card it's come down to just you and one opponent. Here are your hands:

OPPONENT

? / Kh-Qd-Ac

YOU

Js / 10s-9s-2s

Your opponent has been betting all the way. No other spades have shown on anybody else's boards. With one more card to go, you're positively beaten at the moment. But if your fifth card is any spade, your flush will definitely win the pot since the best hand your opponent could possibly make would be a straight. If you pair at the end, that might win -- yet it'll just cost you more money if your opponent has a bigger pair.

So worst case scenario, you have at least 9 "outs" to win the pot with (the 9 remaining spades). Since the pot contains several bets by now, it's worth calling one more bet to see that last card.

Those are the basics of adding up your outs in a poker hand. But how do they apply to today's popular games, like Texas Hold'em? Well, in most one-winner games (no hi/lo split), you need about 6 outs to make your hand worth playing when there's one more card to come.

This "6 out" rule, however, is merely an average. In small pots with not much to gain, you'll need more outs to make it worth calling. In big pots, you don't need as many, since a rare occasional win will cover a lot of losing calls.

Let's look at a typical situation in Limit Texas Hold'em. Suppose you have 10/J unsuited and on the turn, the board is:

9h-Qc-3d – 6s

Any 8 or King on the river will make you the sure winner (a straight). That gives you 8 outs among 46 unseen cards – about a 5-to-1 shot. Since the pot almost always contains more than five bets at this point, you've got an easy call.

Adding up your outs in Hold'em becomes much trickier when you have lesser hands, like maybe middle pair with an inside straight draw. For instance, say you have 7/8 unsuited and the fourth street board is:

Q-8-6 – 10

You originally flopped middle pair with a "back door" straight draw, so you called. Your pair of 8s were probably no good at that point, but now on the turn you pick up a draw to an inside straight. There's a bettor and a caller in front of you. Should you call too?

All in all, you have 9 outs to improve your hand (four 9s for the straight, two 8s to make trips and three 7s for two pair). But how many of those nine cards will win the hand for you? That is, how many actual winning "outs" do you have?

In these cases, you should look at your most likely wins first. If one of the two remaining 8s comes, making the board Q-8-6-10-8, your trips will most likely take the pot. Let's count those as 2 winning outs.

Next, if a 7 comes giving you two pair, anybody holding a 9 will have a straight with that board (Q-8-6-10-7). Somebody won't always have a 9, but it is a distinct danger. It's probably safe to assume you'll win the pot one third of the times that you make those two pair. So let's count just one of those three 7s as a winning out.

Finally, what if a 9 comes to make your straight (Q-8-6-10-9)? Now, anybody with a Jack in their hand will have a higher straight. And lots of logical holdings like J/J, Q/J or 10/J might be out there. Cautiously, let's count just one of those four 9s as a winner.

So realistically, it seems that 9 outs to improve your hand boil down to maybe 4 outs that'll win the pot. Those are seldom enough outs, and you should generally fold this hand.

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Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009