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What is a Poker Out?

Determining Your Outs in Poker

by Jesse Knight
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Poker Out
Out - A card that improves your hand enough for you to win at least a piece of the pot.


In a poker game, when you are on a draw, or are behind in the hand, all of the cards that you can catch that will cause you to win the hand are referred to as your “outs.” Depending upon your situation, you may have several outs, only a few, one, or none. The more outs you have, the better your probability of winning the hand will be. If you have only one, or very few outs, it is known as “drawing slim.” If you have zero outs, it is referred to as “drawing dead.” Drawing dead essentially means that there is no combination of cards that you can catch that will cause you to win the hand. For obvious reasons, you would like to avoid drawing dead whenever possible.

Determining the number of outs that you have is not an exact science. This is because you can never be sure about your opponent’s exact holding. Therefore, you have to make a guess at it, or at least estimate their approximate hand strength based upon the circumstantial evidence. Once you do this, you will have a rough idea about where you stand in the hand. Often, your opponents will give you clues about how strong they are by how aggressively they are betting their hands. Their betting patterns may also tip off whether they have a made hand or are on a draw. Getting a good read on your opponents is an essential component to effectively computing your outs. The more accurate you are putting your opponents on hands, the more effective you will be determining you true number of outs.

Since you can never be 100% sure about what your opponent holds, you can never be 100% sure about how many outs you have. That is perfectly OK. The entire game is base on uncertainty about what your opponent holds. This means you have to accept a certain level of uncertainty and act based upon what you know. When you put your opponent on a hand, you are incorporating both knowledge and uncertainty into the calculation. Good players use their knowledge about the game, their knowledge about their opponents, and their observational skills to slim down the amount of uncertainty about their opponents’ holdings. This leads to a more accurate calculation of outs, and more profit over the long run.

It is important to calculate your outs with a degree of accuracy, because in order for you to calculate pot odds or implied odds accurately, you need to know how many outs you have. Calculating pot odds accurately is critical, because this calculation will tell you whether or not it is correct to continue on in the hand. A pot odds calculation considers three things; the size of the bet you are facing, what you stand to gain if you hit one of your outs (pot size), and how likely you are to hit (your number of outs). In many poker situations, you will not know what the correct play is without performing at least a rudimentary pot odds calculation. In order to do this effectively, all of your inputs have to be accurate. It is easy to accurately determine both bet size and pot size by counting. However, your number of outs is based upon subjective analysis and is typically as accurate as the quality of your analysis. If you have a good idea about where you stand, and how many outs you have, calculating pot odds is a snap. If you do not, you are likely to make the wrong play.

Poker is a game of ups and downs; of winning streaks, losing streaks, and expectation. Because of this, your bottom line can only be calculated over the long run. Fundamentally, the way that you make money in a poker game over the long run is by consistently holding more outs than your opponents. This is called “taking the best of it,” and can be achieved both through excellent preflop hand selection, and through superior play after the flop. In order to get the best of it, you will have to hammer your opponents when you are in the lead, and get away from your hand when you lack the proper odds to continue. This fundamentally comes down to your ability to read your opponents, and to accurately determine your outs, and your opponents’ outs as well.

Usage: Bad Beat Suck Out, Four Outs Or Eight Outs, Hit A One Outer

Previous Poker Term: Option
Next Poker Term: Outdraw

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