Poker Outs and Why They’re Important
Everyone remembers this quote from Rounders: Always leave yourself outs. But Doyle Brunson was thinking about outs well before that film came out in 1998. In Super/System (1979), Brunson talked about the value of outs when you’re betting with a draw. You’d like your opponent to fold the flop or turn, but if she calls, at least the next card might complete your hand. Outs can even turn a made hand into a better one, like when a pair becomes a set.
Brunson was talking about live poker at the time, but outs are just as important when you play online poker – real money is at stake in both cases. Any poker strategy worth its salt will take outs into account. The more outs you have, the better your chances of winning the hand. You can even estimate your chances by counting your outs. That’s if you know what to look for, of course.
Recognizing Outs in Online Poker
At the most basic level, the key to understanding outs when you play online poker is to know what strength your hand is now, see what hand it can improve too (see Poker Hand Rankings here), and identify which cards will help you get there – those cards are your outs. For example, if you’re playing Texas Hold’em (as most people who play poker online do), and you’ve got a pair of Sixes with the flop showing Ten-Eight-Seven, you have four outs to an inside straight, the four Nines in the deck. You also have two outs to a set of Sixes, for a total of six outs, assuming there are no additional flush draws available.
You can use the “Rule of 4 and 2” to estimate your chances of improving by the river. When you’re on the flop, take your six outs, multiply by four, and you’ve got a 24% chance of making a bigger hand once the board has run out. When you’re on the turn, multiply your outs by two instead, for a 12% chance in this case. Knowing those percentages will help you make smarter decisions on every street.
In the above example, you have four outs and a 16% chance to make your inside straight, but look again: You’ve got the dumb end of that straight. If a Nine comes out on the turn, you have to be worried about someone having a Jack for a bigger straight – or worse, Queen-Jack for the nuts. Some outs are worth more than others. You’ll learn this as you continue your online poker journey, but for now, concentrate on learning how many outs you have, and estimating your chances of improving using the Rule of 4 and 2.