Outs and Probability

In lesson 5 we discussed straight and flushdraws when playing drawing hands in poker online. Now we are going to look at the chance for you to make your hand. In order to do that we have to consider the concept of outs.

The out and what it means

An out is a card that you need to make a hand. It is based purely on statistical probability and does not necessarily need to be a huge burden for the beginner to remember. We already mentioned in an earlier lesson that the chance of making a set when holding a pocket pair is going to happen in roughly 1 in 8.5 times. Let us say that you got 88.

When you are counting outs you are not to consider what has already been dealt to the other players preflop. Maybe one of them got an 8, maybe one of them got 88 also, and maybe both of the remaining eights are still live in the deck. Since you have no way of knowing if there are any eights in the deck left it is not of any importance what so ever. It has no influence on the statistical probability you have of getting an 8 on the flop.

Let us assume you are in a hand and you are trying to draw for a flush (and a flush only). This means that you have 2 cards of the suit in your hand and 2 cards of the same suit in the flop. Let us say they are hearts. We know there are 13 hearts in a deck of cards, but we have already used 4 of these, leaving 9 left in the deck. These 9 cards are our outs, and the chance of hitting any of those 9 cards on the turn or river comes to roughly 35 percent. So a little more often than 1 in 3 you will make your draw here.

Straights has few outs

If you are drawing for a straight you have fewer outs. Let us say you are holding 8-9 to a flop of A-7-6. Your outs here are any 10 or any 5, and since there are 4 tens and 4 fives left in the deck, now you got 8 outs. The chance of hitting any of these outs on turn or river comes to 31.5 percent. So a little fewer than 1 in 3 times you will make your draw here.

Since a flush beats a straight anyway it is obvious that drawing for a flush is better than drawing for a straight. In one area the straight draw has the advantage though: Other players are less likely to put you on a straight when you make it than they would be if three of the same suit came on the board. This deceptive value for a straightdraw actually makes it almost as good a play as drawing to a flush.

Important: When you are drawing for a hand be aware of hands that might beat you even if you catch one of your outs. Let us assume you have 6-7 of hearts and the flop comes 8-9-9 with 2 spades in it. Good for you, you have a straightdraw, but someone can have a better straightdraw, someone can have a flushdraw and someone can have a 9 looking to make a full house. Occasionally someone might already have a full house on flop which means you are drawing dead (even if you hit your outs you are still going to lose the hand). In a small pot draws like these should not be pursued, but if the pot is large enough there might be value in staying in.

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