Hi this is probably going to seem like a dumb question but I don't fully understand how you calculate outs and feel I must be missing something.

Say I have 2⋄ 2♣ and the flop is 4♥9♠Q⋄.

The sites I've been on suggest that is 2 outs (both the remaining twos) but surely if any of the remaining 4s,9s and Queens would improve my hand to two pair so why are they not counted to make 11 outs?

I keep seeing these terms eg Inside Straight Draw, Flush Draw etc but again they just seem to be counting the Outs for one specific winning hand and ignoring the pairs. Is there a reason for this?

Apologies if this seems like a really basic question, but just need to understand looking at purely my cards and the flop how to I know what the winning hand will be and thus the "outs" to achieve it?

Many thanks

  • 5
    Outs are only relevant against some other particular hand, presumably one that currently beats you. In your scenario a 9 or Q does nothing to improve your hand relative to any other--that pair belongs to your opponent as well. But a 2 helps only you, so it's an out. Dec 22, 2014 at 21:25

3 Answers 3


The concept of outs is to count the number of cards left on the deck (outs) that will improve your current hold cards (together with board) to a hand that will beat other hands.

For example consider you have the hand A♥Q♥

The board comes 7♥3♠9♥

This case is one of the most typical for the outs concept. You need one ♥ to complete your flush, which will be the winning hand (nuts).

Of course you don't have to have a calculator on your side for this. There is a simple formula to commit to memory; The 4-2 rule. For the above flush case you just need to do:

cards that improve my hand on next card (turn) * 2

9 flushes out there * 2 = 18

Why 9 flushes? because there are 13 cards per rank, we hold the 2 and the board has the other 2 (13 - 4 = 9). 18% is a percentage, so you have 18% to hit the flush out there. (Some people likes to add +1 into the above and get 19% but i personally makes it 20% and be done with it).

Now you're knowing the odds you need something to compare to. The whole concept of card odds is to compare them to pot odds. There's no point of just knowing that you have a 18% to win. How to calculate the pot (let's say the pot is 100$ and need to call 20$):

amount to call / (current pot + amount to call)

20$ / (100$ + $20) = 0.16 -> 16%

You card odds = 18% (or say it's %20, no big deal)

Your pot odds = 16%

Since your card odds > pot odds, then you call.

It's not really difficult, it just takes practice.

Another kind of card outs is the straight gutshot, like having K♥J♠ and the board comes T⋄9♣2♠ You're missing the Queen to make the highest straight (nuts) so you're missing 4 cards (outs), so you replace the 9 above with 4 (thus having about the half percentage, 9% to 10% i would like to say in my thought)

but just need to understand looking at purely my cards and the flop how to I know what the winning hand will be and thus the "outs" to achieve it?

Obivously the concept of outs gets interesting (or useful) only with specific type of hands, since you need a considerable number of remaining cards to get something of use. It's a waste of time, to get the outs for everything since everything is not a hand that can win everyone else. You have to get a hand that works well with the board for this.

Also this example you gave:

Say I have 2diamonds and 2clubs and the flop is 4hearts, 9 spades and queen of diamonds.

So 2⋄2♣

on 4♥9♠Q⋄

It's correct that you have 2 outs (the 2 remaining de(o)uches) because these will hit your set. Still there are 2 problems with this: 1) your outs are far too few to even compare 2) there's no guarantee that someone has not a bigger set already. The concept of outs is to try to hit the lock hand (or close to it) In this specific example you just don't calculate the outs; it's a hit or fold. (read about set mining)

  • 2
    Good answer. It should be noted that the 4/2 rule should only be used on the flop IF AND ONLY IF you intend to go to a showdown. The "4" part of the equation assumes you are going to see 2 streets, not just one. If you use this rule on the flop but don't call the turn then you could actually be taking bad odds to begin with. That's an important distinction of the 4/2 rule that many people forget. Some of us use a "2" instead (on the flop) if you only intend to see one street. Dec 22, 2014 at 16:12
  • 1
    @Jim Beam, fully aggree. In fact i use the 4 only on planning about calling a shove like having TT and the flop is 987 i multiply with 4, since this is one-time move, the final "street" is actually the showdown (assuming heads-up), thus i must add the 2 streets = 2*2. Most of the time the very next card is used (=2) since this is the street the current bets are related to. Of course there are other topics related to this like implied odds, but let's keep it here :)
    – user1165
    Dec 22, 2014 at 19:16
  • What if in the flush scenario you have K♥Q♥? You have the same chance of making a flush, but your opponent could hold the A♥ and have a better flush than you, even if a heart shows. Can you even count outs in this case, and if so, how does this affect your calculation?
    – user1934
    Sep 8, 2015 at 17:47
  • @Michael, personally i play Axs and Kxs the same. So, for me at least, they play the same, have the same outs, down to J. My reasoning is that it's harder for an opponent to hold an Axs to Qxs, both suited. This reasoning is not true when i have 1-flush like KhQd on a 3h8hQh. There, while you have a flush-draw, is way weaker than having a flush draw with 2 suited cards and i play it more conservatively.So, for me, 2 suited cards of A,K play around the same, where Q,J with more controlled aggression, but eager to put money as well.
    – user1165
    Sep 8, 2015 at 18:00

In the case you described you have 2 cards that improve your hand specifically. Pairing the board doesn't improve your hand specifically compared to any opponent you have. Those are your outs.

Example: Your opponent holds 54 suited, and you both check the flop. A queen lands on the turn. Now you have 2 pair, but so does your opponent, so although your hand improved, it didn't improve in a way different than your opponent's did. Both hands improved in the exact same way, so the queen is not an out.

  • Just in case, it's cool to provide comments when you decide to downvote an answer.
    – user1165
    Sep 8, 2015 at 18:02
  • I just tried to be a little more concise, and answer the question as asked. Don't get your feelings hurt. Sep 8, 2015 at 20:21

It only counts as an out if it helps you but does not help your opponent

And you can improve and still not win. That is called drawing dead.

Some times pairing the board does help one but not the other
Consider this You: 2⋄ 2♣
Opponent: A⋄ K♣
Turn: 4♥9♠4⋄
You have 2 outs but you are ahead so you only need to improve if your opponent improves (redraw) Your opponent has 9 outs - any AK9
Two pair on the board would counterfeit the pair in your hand and you would be out kicked

And can have outs killed because they help your opponent more
Consider this You: 2♥ 2♣
Opponent: A⋄ K⋄
Turn: 4♥9⋄Q⋄K♣
The 2 diamonds is dead as your opponent would make a flush
You only have one out - the 2 of spades

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