Essential "Outs" Calculations for Beginning Poker Players

Essential "Outs" Calculations for Beginning Poker Players

Odds Calculator

Are you ready to get serious about your game? A poker player who sincerely wants to improve his game must learn to apply mathematical concepts and considerations to his strategy. Math-based decisions are crucial in all forms of poker, from low limit cash games, to ten thousand dollar buy-in tournaments. You don't need a calculator, and you don't have to be a math whiz. Just follow these simple steps and improve your game today.

One of the most crucial aspects of making decisions in No Limit Hold'em is calculating how many cards are left in the deck that will give you the best hand at showdown. Many beginning players overlook, or are overwhelmed by, the process of determining how many "outs" they have. While it may seem very complicated, or perceived as something only mastered by players with years of experience, it is really a simple process that all players can and should learn.

Your decisions in poker should always be a combination of a math based calculation, and a psychological determination. However the mathematical element is weightier online. Although there are some online tells, overall in online play, the physical evaluation of your opponent is lacking as a resource for making decisions. Therefore your math based logic will be your most useful tool, particularly in the later stages of tournament freeze outs. The actual calculations for your decisions need to be based on tested statistical results.

Put on your third grade thinking cap. A deck is divided into 52 individual cards, separated into four different suits with thirteen different cards in each suit. The simplest way to present the concepts used in calculating your odds of catching the winning hand is to show examples, and examine the process involved in making the optimal decision for as particular set of cards.

Let's say you are involved in a heads up pot holding the 2 of hearts, and the 3 of hearts. The flop has been dealt and the board reads: Ace of hearts, 4 of clubs and Jack of hearts. You are facing a bet from your opponent and you need to determine if you are getting the proper odds to call. In order to make this decision, you must determine how many cards remaining in the un-dealt deck will improve your hand.

At this juncture, you have heart flush draw, as well as an inside straight draw. Because we know that there are thirteen hearts in any deck of cards, we must assume that these cards are all still remaining in the deck. This is a tough concept to understand, because often a person would try to consider what a player not in the hand folded with their earlier action, but the information we use to make these calculations can never be perfect because of such variations. Our computation must be based on the information that we have.

We know for a fact that we hold two hearts from this deck, and that two of the additional hearts from this deck are on the board. With this complete information, we subtract four from thirteen and deduce that there are nine remaining "outs" to make our flush. We can also determine that a 5 of the three accompanying suits would give us a 5-high straight. There are 4 5's in the deck, but we will subtract the 5 of hearts because we already included it in our heart count. Add the nine heart outs to the three remaining 5's, and you have a total of twelve outs to make a winning hand. Keep in mind though that holding low hearts as you are, catching your flush may be no guarantee of a win.

Now we must compute our odds. These numbers come from calculating how many outs we have, by the number of cards to be dealt on each future street. We multiply our twelve possible outs by the number 4 to figure out our turn percentage, and by the number 2 to determine our river percentage. (If we are faced with this same decision on the turn we use the constant 2 as a multiplier.) With our twelve outs to make our hand at showdown, we have a chance to make a flush or a straight 48% of the time on the turn, and that chance diminishes to 24% on the river.

(Note: We can also assume from this information, that making a pair of 2's or 3's will not improve our hand significantly enough to win at a showdown. Based on this assumption, we can not include these cards in our final win rate percentage.) Now that we know our odds of catching a potentially winning hand, we must compare them to the pot odds. In order to make the call, the pot odds must be greater than the drawing odds. If the odds of catching are 4:1, a good poker player will only call a bet if there is already 4x that amount in the pot. So if you are playing a game of $5/$10 limit, then there would need to be at least $40 already in the pot to justify your calling a $10 bet to see the river.

So how about those inside straight draws that you are tempted to hang onto? You have 4 outs, with 46 unknown cards on the turn. Fourty-two cards are no help, and four make you the winner. 42/4 = 10.5! You would need over ten times the amount of your call in the pot to justify this decision.

If you follow these simple methods in decision making, you will profit from poker in the long term, even if you are making a marginal calls for the given situation in individuals instances. Poker is mainly about taking those small edges, and your variance should even out over time.

The conclusions of statistical poker theory have proven these formulas. The next time you need to make an important decision, you will have better knowledge to make a more optimal play.
<< Back to Poker Strategy page