Poker Tips – Outs & Odds
Poker is a game of both skill and chance, but our long-term results are dictated entirely on our ability to make better decisions than our opponents.
The first step towards increasing your skill level at the tables comes with understanding the basics of poker math. The more we understand the math behind the cards, the bigger the edge we will have on our opponents.
Here we’ll go over how to calculate outs and odds quickly and effectively at the table. This will give you a much clearer picture of when to chase draws and what bet sizing you can profitably call against in the long run.
The term “outs” is used to describe the number of cards left in the deck that will improve your hand. The reason we call them outs is because they’re what you need to “suck out” and win the pot with your draw.
Each poker deck contains 52 cards. If we see a flop, we can subtract five cards from that number – our two hole cards and the three community cards on the board. Since we don’t know what cards our opponents hold or what cards the dealer has burned, we count them all the same.
Let’s take a look at an example:
You have 5♠ 6♠ and the flop is 4♣ 7♠ J♥ .
Out of the 47 cards left in the deck, either an 8 or a 3 will give you a straight. This is a total of eight outs, four of each card.
To find out the chance of hitting your straight on the turn, simply divide your outs (8) by the cards left in the deck (47).
8/47 = 17%
As a poker player you’ll often hear the term “pot odds.” This is a simple calculation to determine whether or not you’re getting the right price to draw to your hand. If you know how many outs you have, pot odds are very easy to calculate.
Let’s take the same situation as the example above where you hold 5♠ 6♠ on a flop of 4♣ 7♠ J♥ .
The pot is $100 and your opponent bets $50. This means you’re getting 3 to 1 odds on a call, calling $50 to win $150. Should you call or fold?
If everything ended right here on the turn the correct answer would be to fold, since you only have a 17% chance of hitting your hand and you’d need at least 33% equity to call the $50 bet getting 3 to 1 odds. However, there are several other factors to consider.
First, your opponent may decide to check on the turn, allowing you to see the river card for free. This means that you actually have more equity than 17% since sometimes your opponent will allow you to see two cards instead of just one.
While we only have 17% equity to hit our straight on the turn (roughly 5 to 1 odds), we have roughly double that equity if we’re allowed to see a river as well (approximately 31% or 2.2 to 1 odds).
Secondly, we also have implied odds – the possibility of making more money from our opponent after we hit our hand. This can happen when our opponent decides to bluff into us after we make our straight, or when they pay us off with a weaker holding.
Both of these factors allow us to continue more frequently with a strong hand like an open-ended straight draw, even if we aren’t getting direct odds to continue on the flop.
As a general rule, if you have a flush draw with two flush cards in your hand and two on the flop, you can call up to an 80% pot bet. Similarly, if you have an open-ended straight draw (like the example above) you can call up to a 70% flop bet.
Since our opponent in the example above only bet $50, or 50% of the pot, we have a strong enough hand to continue.
Quick Calculations in Game:
To quickly calculate how likely it is to hit your hand on the turn or the river, just follow this simple formula.
To figure out your odds of hitting your hand on the turn, take your outs on the flop and times them by two. If you have eight outs, you have approximately 16% equity (8 x 2).
To figure out your odds of hitting your hand by the river, take your outs on the flop and times them by four. 8 outs x 4 = approximately 32% equity.
These estimations aren’t 100% accurate, but they’re approximate enough to guide you effectively towards making profitable decisions. Remember that poker isn’t about trying to play perfectly, rather it comes down to making better decisions than your opponents. If you’d like to learn more about how to start studying poker click here: Studying Poker: Where To Begin.
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