What are Outs in Poker and Why Do They Matter

If you start to play poker regularly, youll soon encounter one term in particular that can be difficult to understand at first: ‘Outs’. Essentially outs is a poker term that is used to count the number of cards remaining in a deck that could improve your hand – though how they work may not be readily apparent at first.

Calculating Poker Outs

To count your outs in poker is actually really easy. For example if you have two hearts and are going for a flush because you feel you need that to win, then your outs are the cards that could help you to complete that flush.

Putting actual figures to it, lets say you have an Ace and Queen of Hearts and there is a Two and Three of Hearts on the table with only the river to go. That means that there are 9 Hearts (i.e. Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Jack, King) that are left in the deck and drawing any one of those could help you to complete your Flush. In other words in this example you have 9 outs.

That is really all there is to calculating outs, but the reason they matter is more about what they can tell you about whether or not you should call a bet.

Odds of Winning vs. Odds of Losing

Once you know your outs, you can estimate your odds of winning vs. your odds of losing. Going back to the previous example where you have 9 outs with only the river left to play – that means there are 46 unknown cards (some of which may be burnt or in your opponent’s hands but that is irrelevant).

Because of that, for the 9 cards that could help you to win, there are 37 other cards that will cause you to lose instead. What this means is that your odds of winning are 37:9 – which is close to 4:1.

Based on those odds, you can then decide whether or not it is reasonable to call a bet that is on the table. Assuming the payout (i.e. the pot) is better than 4:1 then calling it would be reasonable, but if it is not then there the risk does not match the reward.

To put numbers to it again, the pot stood at $50 and you needed to call a $10 bet to play then that means you would be essentially betting $10 to stand the chance to win $60 – which is 6:1 odds and is worth calling. On the other hand if the pot stood at $10 and you needed to call a $10 bet to play then youd be betting $10 to win $20 – which would be 2:1 odds and not worthwhile.

It may take time to get used to using outs when calculating poker odds – but it is one of the easiest ways to start to become better at poker strategy. The next time you play be sure to give it a go and see for yourself how well you do.
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