Knowing how to count poker outs and calculate card odds is one of the first fundamentals that poker players should learn. Below, I explain what outs are, how to count them and how to turn them into (card) odds so you can figure out how likely you are to complete your draws.
What are Poker Outs?
Outs are the cards left in the deck that will improve your hand. For example, if you have Qs9s on a Js-Kd-3s, any spade (flush), ten (straight), queen (pair) or nine (pair) would be an out.
But, that doesn’t mean your outs are to the best hand. In other words, if you’ve improved that Q9s to a flush, you don’t have the best flush. You have the second best flush. So when counting your outs that’s something you’ll want to keep in mind.
How to Count Poker Outs
Counting outs in poker is simple. All you need to do is figure out what cards will improve your hand, count them and subtract any of those outs that you can see.
For example, with my Q9s I know that any spade will give me a flush. There are 52 cards in a deck, 4 of each suit. That means 13 spades.
However, there are 2 spades in my hand and two on the flop, so that means there are only 9 remaining spades left in the deck. 9 outs.
Any ten will give me a straight, too. And there are 4 of those in the deck. However, since one of those tens is a spade we only want to count that card once. So that means we only have 3 additional outs. Our grand total now is 12 outs.
I would not bother counting the queens or nines as outs. The reason why is because a queen or nine would be 2nd, 3rd or 4th pair, and that’s not worth drawing to in this case. If hitting a queen or nine would give me top pair then I would count them as outs. And the difference to drawing to 2nd or 3rd (or worse) pair versus the 2nd best flush is that it’s more likely for someone to have a king, better queen or nine, than (also) having the (best) flush.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Counting Poker Outs
Counting poker outs is easy, yet there are some mistakes that are easy to make if you’re not aware of them.
Double counting outs. I mentioned this in my example above. I have a flush draw and a gut-shot straight draw. A ten of spades will make both hands. Some players will count this as two outs since it makes two different hands. However, there is only one of those cards (you can only hit it once), so you only want to count it once.
Discounting outs. Discounting outs is removing cards as potential outs because you think that your opponent might have them. For example, if I thought my opponent was on a flush draw too, then I might figure that I have 7 outs instead of 9. But unless you 100% know they have them, discounting outs is a waste of time. And you might pass on an otherwise profitable spot.
Calculating Card Odds: How Often Will You Hit Your Draw?
Counting outs is only half the battle. For it to be useful you need to take your outs and turn them into odds. I don’t think there is a technical term for these odds, but I refer to them as card odds.
The reason why you want to turn your poker outs into card odds is so that you can figure out how likely you are to hit your draws. Once you calculate your card odds, you can then compare them to your pot odds (which I explain in another article) to determine if drawing to your hand is profitable or not.
Calculating card odds is relatively easy to do. There are a couple of ways to go about it, so to make it easy on yourself I recommend sticking to one method.
Lets look at both methods now.
The Rule of 2 and 4
The rule of 2 and 4 is the easiest way to figure out your card odds. What you do is this:
Multiply your outs by 2 to figure out your chances of improving your hand over one street, like from the flop to the turn or the turn to the river.
Multiply your outs by 4 to figure out your chances of improving your hand from the flop to the river.
Then add 1 to your total.
That’s it. Using my example above, with 12 outs on the flop my (card) odds of improving my hand is 24%. Add 1 for a total of 25%.
You’ll see how close this (quick) method is when you look at 2nd method.
Do the Math
The other way to figure out your card odds is to do the math manually. If you choose to do it this way, I highly recommend coming up with the most common spots before you play and memorizing the percentages. It just takes to long to do while playing, especially if you’re playing multiple tables.
Here’s how you do it:
Take the number of cards in the deck (52) and subtract the number of cards you can see (on the board and in your hand). Then take the number of outs that you have and divide that by your answer.
For example, on the flop you know there are 47 cards left in the deck. In my example above I have 12 outs. So my equation would look like this: 12/47 = 25.5%.
Almost dead on. Only off by .5 percent. I hope you see now why I recommend using the first method. It’s both accurate and much faster than doing it longhand.
The Next Step
Knowing that you’re 25.5% to hit your hand is good. However, you’re still missing an important element – pot odds. You need to understand pot odds and how it relates to poker outs and card odds to be able to determine when it’s profitable to chase your draws. So I recommend learning that next.