At the end of the day Texas Holdem is a maths orientated game and there is really no getting away from that fact. The game is packed full of situations where the player will need to have at their disposal a clear knowledge of not only the pot odds but also of how many outs they can hit to make their hand (assuming that they are behind) and what the chances are of hitting those outs. The bad news is that you are not really going to be able to produce winning poker without a proper knowledge of the concepts discussed in this article. The good news is that you certainly do not need to be a maths wizard to comprehend pot odds and outs either.
What are “outs” and how to calculate them?
Texas Holdem is obviously a game with four betting rounds and because of that then many hands are played from the flop onwards. This then creates a situation where your hand is either winning or losing in all probability. If your hand is losing then you need your hand to improve and to improve then it needs to catch further cards either on the turn or river and these cards are called “outs”.
Firstly you need to deduce whether your hand is in front or behind and if you are losing then you then need to try and calculate how many outs you have to overtake your opponent before you can then calculate your pot odds. Calculating outs is not an exact science because of the fact that the very outs that you are chasing may in actual fact make you a second best hand. Like for example if you had a small flush draw on the flop. You may calculate that you have nine outs to make the flush but if you end up losing to a higher flush then your outs were not clean outs.
So unfortunately there is a low of guesswork with regards to calculating outs and this brings a lot of the skill into poker. Another example could be if you were drawing to a straight with two to a flush on board. In this situation then two out of your eight outs make a potential flush and so a quarter of your outs are not clean outs to the nuts. With experience then you will learn how to factor in these situations and many leading players slightly scale down their number of “outs” if they are not drawing to the nuts. Some players for example call a hand with eight outs a seven out hand if it is not drawing to the nuts to allow for the times when they hit their hand and are still losing to a bigger hand.
There are two basic rules for calculating outs in Texas Holdem and they are as follows. If there are two betting rounds to go (turn and river) and you know that you will be able to see both rounds then you simply multiply your outs by a factor of four to get a very close approximation of your chances by way of a percentage. For example a nine out hand like a flush draw would equate to 36% if you could guarantee seeing both the turn and river cards. An example could be if you had say the Ks-9s and the flop came As-10s-4d giving you the nut flush draw. Your opponent bets say two thirds of the pot and you shove all in which guarantees that you will see the river. In this scenario then yu will win the pot exactly 36% of the time assuming that no other outs like the king or the nine or running cards make you the best hand. The other rule is that you simply multiply your outs by two if you intend on only seeing one more betting round or there is a strong possibility of it. These percentages while not mathematically exact will get you pretty close and will be more than good enough in the heat of battle.
Pot odds are not the same as calculating outs. If you have a flush draw then you know that you have nine cards to make your hand. This can clearly be calculated by looking at the two cards in your hand and the two of the cards on the flop. There are thirteen cards of the same suit and so this leaves nine cards. If you are not sure of seeing the final card then you can simply use the rule of doubling your outs if the chances are that you will see only one more round of betting. So in this instance then you have an 18% chance of improving on the turn. Converting this to odds means that you are roughly around 4.5-1 to make your hand on the turn!
This is where pot odds come into play because your opponents will simply bet different amounts of money into the pot. For example if there is $100 in the pot and your opponent bets $20 then the pot becomes $120 with it costing you $20 to call. This makes your immediate pot odds 6-1 and taking the previously mentioned flush draw as an example then we can see that our pot odds are higher than the actual odds of us making our hand and so a call can be considered here. You can be fairly close with your pot odds calculations and that is good enough in actual play but you do need to have a very good approximation of where you are in the hand, how many outs you need and what your pot odds are to be a solid poker player.
Written By: Carl “The Dean” Sampson – Poker author, poker writer and online poker pro