Extra Outs

Just as many players overlook the effects of position and exposed cards to lower the value of a hand, so too do they sometimes overlook extra outs to increase the value of a hand. An out is a way of improving your hand. With four hearts your only out is another heart. But suppose you have two pair along with the four-flush against what looks like aces up. Now you have two outs - making a flush and a full house. Suppose you have a four flush, two pair, and an inside straight draw. Now you have three outs - that is, three ways of beating your opponent with the aces up, assuming that player doesn't fill. Each extra out increases the value of your hand, and it increases it considerably more than may at first be apparent. Starting off with a two-flush and a pair in seven-card stud is significantly better than starting with a pair and no two-flush. In hold 'em, a back-door straight (that is, a possible straight requiring two perfect cards at the end) or a back-door flush draw along with a pair may be enough to change a fold to a call.

To see how much effect these extra outs have, let's say we assess our hand as a 7-to-1 underdog. Now we notice we have an extra out that is about 20-to-1 against coming in. By itself that extra out is a long shot, but it adds tremendously to our chances of improving. Changing those 7-to-1 and 20-to-1 odds to percentages, we have a 121/2 percent chance and about a 5 percent chance, which, added together, comes to approximately 171/2 percent. Returning from percentages to odds, we see that the extra out has dropped us from a 7-to-1 underdog to a 43/4-to-1 underdog. With pot odds of, say, 5-to-1 or 6-to-1, a hand we would have folded now becomes one worth playing. Always be aware of extra outs. Otherwise you may fold hands with which you should have called.

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Keep in mind that there is a difference between opinions and facts. For the most part, though, most poker players would achieve much better results if they would follow The World According to S&M. I think that's where your poker education should start, although it should not end there.

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There are other forums, but these three should be enough to keep you busy for, at a rough guess, the next 42.042 years.
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