Counting outs

Learning how to count outs is another step on your poker journey to becoming a proficient player. Did you ever wonder what all the maths that professional poker players doing in their head? Well this is what they do be doing some of the time; but don’t worry you don’t need to be ‘rain man’ to do it. Counting outs is just basic addition and multiplication.

Counting outs basics

So what is an out?

An out is any card that will improve you to a hand which you believe is betting than your opponents.

A simple example is when you have a flush draw such as AK of hearts on T72hh – you currently only have Ace high but any heart will give you a flush. There are 9 hearts in total which will complete your draw however one of those hearts may give your opponent a full house.

You can also hit an ace or king but these cards aren’t always guaranteed to give you the best hand.

Counting outs: the process

The first question you need to ask yourself when counting outs is ’How many cards in the deck will give me the hand I want? ‘

For example if you have a flush draw you will have 9 outs, if you have a gut shot you will have 4 and 8 outs with an opened ended straight draw. A table below summarizes each draw with equity and number of outs. 

Counting outs table

Now that you know how many outs you have you need to actually use that number There is no point in calculating your outs if we aren’t going to use it in our decision making process.

The easiest way to do this is using the rule of 2 and 4…

The rule of 2 and 4

This rule is pretty simple. To work out your equity or chance of winning when seeing the turn you multiply the number of outs by 2. Thus if we have 9 outs we will multiply that by 2 to get 18% equity. For example if we are on the turn and want to know our chance of hitting by the river this is the method we would use.

To estimate your equity or chance of winning when on the flop you multiply the number of outs by 4. Again, if we have 9 outs we will multiply that by 4 to get 36% equity. For example if we are on the flop and want to know our chance of hitting by the river.

The rule of 2 and 4 is only an estimation for our equity but it is usually accurate giving our equity to within a percentage or two.

Part of counting your outs is understanding if you are ahead or behind (and by how much) so it is important to understand your opponent’s range. For more information on ranges see the following link.

When we know our equity we can make a decision whether our hand is worth continuing with.

To surmise:

The overall poker outs counting process

  1.       Determine what hand you have or could potentially have. If you are not sure of           the hand rankings make sure you check them out
  2.       Count how many cards will give you that hand
  3.       Calculate your equity using the rule of 2 and 4
  4.       Determine if your hand is worth continuing vs a bet by weighting your equity vs          pot odds

Considerations and additional points when counting outs

Double counting outs

One must always be careful not to double count outs. With a big draw such as a straight and flush draw we will have 9 outs to the flush and 8 outs to the straight. However, of the straight draw outs there will be two which also complete the flush; thus we must remove these double counted outs.

As a result we no longer have 17 outs (9 flush + 8 straight), we now have 15 outs (9 flush + 6 straight)

The double gutter

One interesting hand type is the double gutter. A double gutter is as the name suggests a double gut shot.

An example is when you have JT on AQ8 board. Any 9 or K will make you a straight. A double gutter can sometimes be difficult to spot, even for experienced players.

However, that makes them more powerful than other draws, as when you hit your hand it is more disguised. A more disguised hand is more likely to get paid off when you hit.

The monster draw

Another interesting hand type is the ‘monster’ draw. These are draws with typically 12 or more outs such as a flush draw + straight draw, or a flush draw plus pair type hand. These hands have so many outs that it almost never wrong to commit all your chips (given you have a reasonable stack size).

The most powerful of all these hand types is the open ended straight flush draw- JThh on Qh9hXx.

With this hand, not only do you have a flush and a straight draw but you have two cards which are the absolute nuts – you cannot ever be beaten. The importance of these 2 outs cannot be underestimated.

One issue with monster draws is that the rule and two and four begins to break down- the rule overestimates the equity. Although there will be very few situations where you will be folding a big draw.

All outs are not equal

Another aspect we need to take into account is that not all outs are created equal. Outs to the nuts (the strongest hand possible) are always the most sought after type of outs; unfortunately we won’t always have outs to the nuts.

In most cases we will count our flush draw out as a normal out but it can complete a full house for our opponent. Take for example our opponent has 77 on Th7h2s: we will count the 2h as an out when we have a heart flush draw. However, it will improve our opponent’s hand at the same time as ours; unfortunately for us that will be to a full house which beats a flush. We will lose a lot of money if that scenario occurs.

A further example of drawing to not nutted outs is the ‘dummy’ or bottom end of the straight. When we have the bottom two cards of a four to a straight, for example 87 on T9x flop, we will be dominated by a hand such as KQ; if a jack hits we will both complete a straight but KQ will have the nut straight, beating our lower straight.

As such drawing to the upper end of the straight is much more powerful. Although, it is not always possible to avoid drawing to the dummy end of the straight. However, take into account they are less powerful than other straight draws.

We can apply a similar thought process to overcard outs: AK on T52 board. If we hit our Ace or King on the turn we may not still have the best hand. Someone may have a set or two pair already or might make two pair with the card which helps us.


Counting outs is not the most difficult of tasks a poker player must perform; however but it is one of the most useful. Counting outs allows you to understand how likely you are to win the hand. This allow you to decide whether you want to continue versus a bet or raise. The more likely to win the hand, the less likely you should be to fold.