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Poker Strategy: Knowing Your Outs in Texas Holdem

Poker Strategy: Knowing Your Outs in Texas Holdem 0001

A question

: The flop comes J102, with two hearts. You can choose either to hold KQ of hearts and give your opponent J10, or the reverse. Which is the better to hold; King high or two pair?

  • You have AK of spades, and the flop comes J92, with two spades
  • AK of spades again, and this time the flop is J102, with two spades.
  • You hold QJ offsuit, and the flop comes 1092, three different suits.

See if you can work them out for yourself, before checking the answers…..

  • You are drawing at the nut flush, and there are 9 spades remaining to give you the flush. 9 outs
  • 9 spades give you the flush, and 4 queens give you the top straight. Of course, we have now counted the queen of spades twice, and so to take one off. 12 outs
  • Any one of 4 kings or 4 8s gives you the nut straight. 8 outs

Calculating the chance of a hand winning from the number of outs

The next thing we need to know is of course the chance that a draw with each number of outs will successfully hit. There is a very good rough rule for this, which is worth remembering.

  • On the flop, count 4% for each out up to ten, and then 3% for each subsequent out.
  • On the turn, with just one card to come, count 2% for each out up to ten, and 1.5% for each out over ten.

So, let’s have a look what this means for the various draws we looked at. Here are the chances of the draws hitting after the flop

Gutshot straight draw4 outs16%
Open-ended straight draw8 outs32%
Nut flush draw9 outs36%
Nut flush and gutshot straight draw12 outs46%
Nut flush and open-ended straight draw15 outs55%

With this knowledge, let’s go back to our original question, on the flop of J102, with two hearts. The KQ of hearts is not drawing at the nut flush, but of course we know thatit is drawing at the winning flush. With the open-ended straight draw as well, the KQ of hearts is drawing roughly at 55%, and so is the favorite, even over top two pair, to win the hand.

Changing situations- how the situation can be better than it seems

When you are drawing to the nuts, there can often be other advantages in your favour. These figures for nut drawing should actually be thought of as a minimum, for the following reasons:

  • Outs which you cannot count for certain will actually often be working. With AK of spades on the flop of J92 with two spades, 9 outs will give you the win for sure, but you may also win the pot with an Ace or King.
  • Some small extra outs can come into play, which increase your chance slightly. Though it would be a fluke, a running queen and ten gives you the nuts with AK on the J92 flop. With KQ on the J102 flop, a running two pair can give you an unusual victory.
  • When your opponent holds a more marginal hand, you may will be able to bluff him off by betting or raising. This technique of semi-bluffing is one of the most important is poker, and we’ll talk about it later.
  • The main advantage you have is thus. When you are drawing to the nuts and miss, you will not lose an extra penny on the river. However, if you do hit your nut draw, you may well be able to win an additional big bet on the end.

This theory means that you can often afford to draw when you are not getting the correct pot odds to do so, and is a concept known as implied odds.

So, when you are drawing to the nuts with extra possibilities, the implied odds are working at their max and you should rarely let go of your hand. There must be situations, then when factors are working against you and should be less eager to draw. This aspect of poker is known as reverse-implied odds, and here are some examples:

  • Things become more dangerous when you are not drawing to the nuts. If you opponent’s hand is unknown and you have the king high flush draw, disaster can strike if the your opponent is drawing at the nut flush, and you both hit. Not only will you lose the pot, it will be very difficult to get away without an extra big loss on the end.
  • Similarly, be more careful about drawing to the bottom (or “sucker”) end of a sraight. If you hold 65 on a board of 782,a 9 could give you a straight and another player a higher straight, and spell disaster for your stack.
  • Beware drawing to a straight when there is a possible flush draw on the board. You should definitely think of your outs as being redcued by two (the cards that will make your straight and a possible flush), and even if you hit your straight with a safe card, there is another card for the flush to possibly hit.
  • Even drawing at the nut flush can have its dangers. The fact that your opponent’s set or two pair could simulatneously turn into a full house makes the situation dangerous.

For this reason, many people say to never draw to a straight or flush on a paired-board. Not only has your opponent more chance of making a full house, he may already have one, leaving you drawing dead.

Ed note: Now that you can calculate outs, use your knowledge to your advantage when you play with the $50 FREE at Titan Poker

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