An out in poker is a card that can or will give you a winning hand. Obviously, there are times when you thought you had the winning hand only to be beaten by your opponent's down cards. Speculating what an opponent's down cards are is a different kind of poker skill, no less valuable than understanding and using the idea of outs.
When you know how many outs you have you can calculate the odds of getting an out. Then you can use pot odds to help you decide whether to call, raise, or fold.
It is important to remember than an out is supposed to give you a winning hand. After the flop in community card games, if you have three to a straight or three to a flush you have zero outs. In fact, unless everyone else checks or a notorious bluffer is betting, now is a great time to fold. If you have four to a straight or flush after the flop, then you have outs.
When we count outs, we disregard our opponents' down cards. Since we can't see them we don't know what they are. So, for the purpose of counting outs, it's as if they weren't dealt.
Click for details on history, hand rankings/nicknames and poker terminology/glossary.
Here is a useful chart to show you the number of outs for given hands you want to make after the flop or before the draw:
|Combo open-ended straight plus flush
|When holding three-of-a-kind: to get a full house
|When holding two pair: to get a full house
|When holding three-of-a-kind: to get four-of-a-kind
True Outs & Potential Outs
A true out will give you a winning hand no matter what any other player may have. It takes much practice to be able to read the board quickly and accurately.
A potential out can give you a winner but it can also give your opponent an even better hand depending on his hole cards.
So, in a given hand, you could have as many potential outs as true outs. Learning to read the board and to read your opponents is no less important than being able to count outs.
When you know how many outs you have you can convert that number into the odds of hitting your winning hand. Then you can compare those odds to the size of the pot. If the pot is smaller than the odds of getting a winning hand, it is often not worth calling a bet.
Let's say that you have eight outs. You have seen five cards, your hole cards and the flop. There are 47 cards left and you have eight outs. The odds against getting an out are 6-1. If the pot is $100 and the bet you must call to stay in the hand is $10, then the pot is giving you 10-1 odds. This is a strong call signal.
The biggest trap is counting a card as an out for your hand when it is, in fact, an out for your opponent's hand. This often happens when you go for a straight and your opponent can use one of your so-called outs to fill a flush.
Another big trap is imagining that you have outs when your opponent already has you beat. Here you have to be able to anticipate your opponent's possible hand and know their tendencies.
The third big trap is not paying attention to cards that were dealt and folded. In order to correctly count your outs you have to remember if any of them were folded. It is common for inexperienced players to make this fundamental mistake.
The fourth basic trap is over-valuing the information counting outs gives you. You also have to read your opponents, manage your money, anticipate what the other players who bet after you might do, and many other calculations you have to be making all the time in order to succeed at poker.
By Denise Marie