Counting Your Outs in Poker (The Simple Method)

How to Count Your Outs in Poker
This article was written by contributor Frank Reese.

Learning  how to count your outs in poker is especially important for micro stakes beginners. Even many experienced players don't know how to count their outs properly though.

The reason why this is so important is because knowing how many outs you have to make your draw for example, helps you tremendously in knowing when to call, raise or fold.

So it is absolutely crucial that you understand how to properly count your outs in poker. In this article I am going to explain it all for you step by step.

How to Know the Likelihood of Making Your Draw

Drawing hands are very straightforward for a knowledgeable beginning poker player to play on the flop.

If you are around 33% likely to make your hand a less than pot-sized bet or call is correct, even if no one puts more money in the pot after you draw your winner.

That’s because the pot odds are 2:1 for a pot-sized bet while the odds against winning are 2:1 with 33% probability of winning.

If you are about 25% likely to make your hand, you need a bet of half pot or less to break even or better.

 A half pot bet or call gives you a 3:1 payoff. 25% probability of winning gives you odds against winning of 3:1. How do you know that probability of filling your draw though?

The Rule of Two of Four and Other Ways of Counting Outs

There are three ways to know: make an algebraic calculation, memorize chart that give the probabilities of various drawing hands filling or count your outs and apply the rule of two and four.

The rule of twos and fours conserves the most brainpower for other parts of the game. Below is the basic version of counting outs, a couple of advanced tips and one trick to make your drawing hands more likely to fill.

How to Count Outs on the Flop

Suppose you are dealt:

A 3

In the big blind. It folds around to the small blind who raises 3X. You call. Pot is 6BB

The flop comes:

2 Q T

At this point in the hand, you only have ace-high. On a board with two Broadways, an opponent who raised may well have a pair. But a heart will give you the nut flush, which will be the nuts if they board never pairs.

How many hearts are left? There were thirteen in the deck before the deal and now four have been exposed. That leaves nine. Those nine are your “outs” to the nut flush.

To use the rule of four and two, you multiply the number of outs times four on the flop, or two on the turn. This gives a very close estimate of your percent probability of filling to your nut flush by the river.

9 X 4 = 36

The actual percent is 34.9%, so 36% is close enough for poker. The reason that “close enough” is good enough, is that you should be looking for significant edges, not a percent or two difference.

With a 36% probability of making the nuts by the river plus non-zero fold equity if you are the bettor, betting the size of the pot is slightly profitable because it will pay two to one, even if no further money goes into the pot.

A half or three quarter pot bet will give you a significant edge. That bet will be reliably profitable in the long run, regardless of whether you win that particular hand.

At least it will be, as long as you see both the turn and the river. An open-ended straight draw has similar equity. If you have Q J and the flop comes T 9, any King or any eight will give you a straight. 

That’s eight outs.

8 X 4 = 32

The actual percent is 31.5%, so the rule of 4’s holds up. Bet somewhere between half and three fourths pot to be profitable in the long run.

Learning how to properly count your outs on the flop is an extremely important part of a winning poker strategy.

World class poker pro Daniel Negreanu actually talks about this at length in his Masterclass poker training program.

How to Count Outs on the Turn

If the turn does not improve you, the math is now less favorable, but you don’t have to give up. Apply the rule again and multiply eight or nine outs times two for 16% or 18%.

If you are in position and have the betting lead, you may be better off checking it through at this point to realize that 18% equity. For a bet or call to be profitable now, you need pot odds of a little more than 4:1.

To give yourself 4:1 odds, you would need to bet one-third pot or less. If you bet the pot on the flop, betting the same amount again is one-third pot. If you bet less than the pot on the flop, betting the same amount again is less than one-third pot.

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Counting Outs For Big Draws

Sometimes you will be drawing to more than one type of made hand. This is often called a combo draw because there are multiple draws that you can hit to win the hand.

Yesterday at 10NL full ring, I raised 4X on the cutoff with 7 9 after an under-the-gun limp by a half-stacked opponent. Only the limper called. Pot was then .95.

My pre-flop plan was to either steal the pot or isolate the limper and flop well for equity or bluffing opportunity. Only the limper called and I flopped really lucky.

8 6 K

I had a draw to a straight and a draw to a flush. To my surprise though, UTG shoved his remaining $2.43. So I quickly ran the worst case scenarios.

Worst cases were aces or pocket kings with one diamond, eights or sixes, or a draw to a better flush. What were my outs? Any diamond would give me a flush for a likely, but not sure win.

So seven diamonds to give me a flush and six (non-diamond) tens and fives to give me a straight. Two of the diamonds, 5 and T would have given a straight flush. Those are a total of fifteen outs. 15 X 4 = 60.

The actual percent is 54.1%.

With a greater than 50% chance of a monster, I’m calling any bet. In that spot, I turned a diamond to beat AK with one diamond, but it was a correct call no matter the outcome.

Counting Outs With Combo Draws

You may have noticed that in the suited ace example, Hero could also improve to top pair if an ace hits the turn or river. Hero would then have top pair, but a low kicker.

That is only three outs, drawing to a risky hand, fraught with opportunities for mistakes. But suppose Hero’s hand is A K on the same flop of 2 Q T

Now any ace or any king on the turn or the river will give him top pair/top kicker. There are three kings and three aces unseen in the deck. So what is his probability of making that hand?

6 x 4 = 24

So there is approximately a 24% probability of making top pair/top kicker.

Combine the nine outs to the flush and the six outs to TPTK and Hero has fifteen outs. 15 X 4 = 60, for an approximately 60% chance of TPTK or the nut flush.

Those combo draws are powerful and should be played aggressively. If your opponent has current top pair, he must either call when you have are likely to draw out on him or fold when he has the current best hand.

On the other hand, if the TPTK part of the draw fills and Opponent raises your bet, you have to consider that he may have a set or two pair. You can’t assume the 54% chance of filling is a 54% chance of winning.

In the above situation, hero also has a draw to a Broadway straight. But it is a gutshot, not an open-ender. Only the four Jacks are outs.

Applying the rule of twos and fours to a gutshot gives you:

4 X 4 = 16 on the flop and 2 X 4 = 8 on the river.

Actual percentages of 16.5% and 8.7%.

Absent other draws, gutshots are best played aggressively as semi bluffs against opponents likely to fold. Bets small enough to be profitable are likely to be raised, pushing you off that weak draw.

Knowing how to count your outs for big draws is extremely important. This is why I recommend studying these hands specifically in PokerTracker.

Solomon’s Rule

You may have noticed that the more outs you have the further away the rule of twos and fours result is from the actual percentage.

That is a flaw in the rule of twos and fours which is that, as the number of outs gets larger, the rule exaggerates the equity percentage estimate.

The patch for that is called Solomon’s Rule.

Solomon’s Rule states that when applying the rule of twos and fours to outs above eight, subtract one percent from the result for each out above eight.

With 9 outs, we subtract 1 from 36 for an estimate of 35%, which is closer to the actual percent of 34.9. With fifteen outs, we subtract 7 from 60 for an estimate of 53, closer to the actual number of 54.1%.

How to Get That Second Card

You can correctly make or call any bet less than pot with an up and down straight draw or a flush draw on the flop if you will see both cards for no additional chips.

But, if you call a three quarters pot bet and miss the turn, a bet of half pot has poor immediate odds (3:1) to call with one card to come. With one chance to hit one of nine cards, your equity is 18% by the rule of four and two. (19.6%).

Your odds against winning are about 4:1, worse than the payoff odds. You would have to count on implied odds against a player with a non-nut hand on a wet board.

Unlikely unless you have a bluffy image. If I am out of position, but have the betting lead in that situation, I like to make the same bet I made on the flop as I described above. If I get a call, I see the river.

If you have bet three fourths pot on the flop and gotten one caller, the same dollar amount will now be just under one third pot, for payoff odds just over 4:1.

Example: On the flop, you bet .75 into a $1.00 pot. With one caller, the pot is now $2.50 on the turn. .75 now is exactly 3/10 the pot, just under one third.

This play has several functions. It acts as a blocking bet if you are out of position. If in position may keep you from being bet into on the river if it bricks.

You may get a fold from a player who is also drawing.

There is a way to avoid having to pay for the second card, but you have to pay more to see the first. This is based on an old-school play from limit hold ‘em called the “free card play.”

It is not really free, nor was it in the days of limit. To make this play, you should be in position against one player, and Villain should be the aggressor on the flop. If Villain bets less than pot, you make a minraise.

A called raise in this spot gives you the lead in the hand, so long as villain does not bet out on the turn.

Say you have J T in the big blind. It folds to small blind who raises 4X. You call. Pot is 8BB.

The flop is:

A Q 9

Any king or any eight will give you the nut straight. Meanwhile the board is ripe for an opponent to have a strong pair or two pair that will likely pay you off.

Villain out of position who was pre-flop raiser bets 6BB. Pot odds are 2.33:1 with a drawing hand that has about 2:1 odds against winning. Favorable, if you see both cards.

This is a good spot to minraise for a “free” river. Raising to 12BB and getting called means you are risking 12BB to win 32BB for pot odds of 2.66:1.

You also get more money in the pot before your draw hits in case Villain correctly reads your hand.

You may notice that the math for that play is exactly the same as betting three fourths pot on the flop and then betting the same amount on the turn.

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Final Thoughts

Drawing hands should be a part of your range once you learn how to play them. Drawing hands will bust more often than they fill. You may find it hard to be paid off by skilled or nitty opponents if your draw fills.

So it is important to play them most often in position and ideally against opponents with whom you have either fold equity or implied odds, for more ways to make money that just these favorable equities and odds.

If you love poker math, we discuss it in much more detail in my BlackRain79 private poker Facebook group.

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This article was written by contributor Frank Reese. Frank has been playing poker part-time for two years, primarily 5NL and 10NL full ring cash games.  Frank (Seymourflops2020) is a middle school math teacher with a degree in psychology who finally found in poker a way to combine both fields.


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How to Count Your Outs in Poker