Poker Pot Odds & Outs
If you want to become a solid, highly profitable poker player, you first need to start your education with the basics, or, outs and pot odds. Poker outs and pot odds are easy to learn. This article should get you off to a fast start. Below I will be teaching you exactly what outs and pot odds are, how to figure out how much you have and where you’ll use the knowledge.
Poker Outs: The What, How & When
By definition, poker outs are the cards left in the deck that can improve your hand.
For example, say you have Ak of hearts on a flop of Q-T-2 rainbow. An ace or king will improve your hand to one pair, and a J will improve your hand to a straight. An ace, king and jack are your “outs.”
What we need to know is how many outs we have, which is very easy. You know that there are 4 of each card in a 52-card deck and we don’t count the cards in our hand. So we know we have 4 jacks, 3 aces and 3 kings — 10 outs.
Note:Be sure not to double count your outs. For example, an out might improve your hand to a flush, but the same card could also improve your hand to a straight. This is still only one out, not two.
A common question that beginners ask is, what about the cards that your opponent’s are holding or that might improve their hand. Good question. However, unless you know that your opponent has a specific card or hand, I wouldn’t worry about it. Besides, we’re not trying to be perfect, but just as close as possible.
Once you know how many outs you have, the next step is to turn these into a percentage. We’ll later compare this percentage to our pot odds to determine if we’re getting a good enough price to call an all-in, or to draw to a better hand. There are a couple of ways that you can do this:
- The 2 | 4 Rule. With the 2 | 4 rule, all you do is multiply the number of outs you have by 2 if you want to know how you’ll improve over one street, and by 4 over two streets. So in our case, from the flop to the turn we’ll improve about 20% of the time, and 40% of the time from the flop to the river. This process isn’t exact, but it’s very close.
- Manually. If you want to use the manual method, what you do is subtract the number of cards you can see (your hand plus the flop) from the number of cards in the deck (52-5=47). Then take the number of cards left in the deck and subtract your outs. Then divide that number by your number of outs — (47-10) / 10 = 3.7. You’ll be left with 3.7 (to 1), or, 21%. About the same as our x2 rule.
I recommend sticking to the 2 | 4 rule since it’s much faster than doing it manually. Speed will be a factor since you’ll also need to figure out your pot odds before making a decision about what to do with your hand.
Pot Odds: Are You Making Profitable Plays?
Pot odds is the amount of money in the pot compared to how much you need to invest to win it. In other words, if there is 100 chips in the pot and you have to invest 100 chips to win it, you’d be getting 100 chips for 100 chips, or 1:1.
Pot odds are important because when compared to your outs (or your opponent’s range), you’ll be able to determine whether calling (or shoving) is a profitable play or not. I’ll give an example to show you what I mean.
Say I’m in the same situation as above — I have Aks on a Q-T-2 rainbow flop. The blinds are 100/200 and the pot is 1100 on the flop. My opponent is first to act and bets 750. My goal now is to figure out my pot odds so that I can figure out if I can call and draw, or if I need to fold.
To figure this out, what I do first is take the 1100 in the pot and divide it by the amount I need to call (1100/750). What we get is 1.5. This is written out like 1.5 to 1 or 1.5:1. It’s like saying that for every $1 we invest, we stand to win $1.50.
The next step is to turn this into a percentage. So I take my investment and divide it by the total amount of money in the pot — 1 / 2.5. This tells us that my pot odds are 40%.
All that’s left now is to compare the percentages. As long as my pot odds (percentage) are smaller than the odds of hitting my hand, then the call is profitable. The wider the margin between the two, the more profitable it is. In my case, calling here would not be profitable over one street, and breakeven over two streets. The correct play would be to fold.
That’s all there is to it. Easy, right? If you find that you’re having a difficult time figuring out your outs and odds while playing, there are numerous outs and pot odds charts available online. They should help you out until you have your outs and odds memorized.