Explain it to me like I am 5: What's an out

In every day English, the word "out" is used to describe a way from escaping a problem or dilemma. For example, "Mike was in such deep financial trouble, his only out was to file for bankruptcy". In poker we use the word in a similar way:

An "out" is a specific card we are missing, that will considerably improve our hand.

That's it! Anything that helps our current hand is considered an out. Let's look at a few examples to solidify our understanding of this simple concept:

Example 1:

At a later stage of a tournament, Alice goes all-in with A♠Q♠. Bob calls with A♦J♣. Ouch! Bob will need some help to win this one. He currently only has three outs: J♠, J♥, J♦.

Flop: A♣2♦2♣

The bad news is, Bob did not hit any of his outs. Alice is still ahead. The good news is that now any 2 or a K will improve both players to the same five-card poker hand (AA222 and AA22K respectively) for a chop! (Recall that in hold'em, only the best five cards matter)
Bob's current outs: J♠, J♥, J♦, 2♠, 2♥, K♠, K♥, K♦, K♣. (9 total)

Turn: A♣2♦2♣  7♣

Once again, Bob missed his outs. But what a turn that was! Bob now has a flush-draw, meaning that any ♣ is now an out as it would give him a flush.
Bob's outs on the turn:  J♠, J♥, J♦, 2♠, 2♥, K♠, K♥, K♦, K♣, Q♣, T♣, 9♣, 8♣, 6♣, 5♣, 4♣, 3♣. (17 total)

River: A♣2♦2♣  7♣  3♥

Bob missed all his outs and Alice wins the hand with AA22Q vs Bob's AA22J. Good for her!

Example 2:

The ever-aggressive Alice goes all-in on a flop of: J♥9♥5♣ holding A♥Q♥ (a flush draw). Bob calls with K♠K♦. This time it is Alice who is behind holding just A-high at the moment. Luckily for her, she has outs. Lots of them! For starters, any A would give her a better pair. Also, any ♥ would give her a flush. To sum up:

Alice's outs on the flop: A♠, A♦, A♣, K♥, T♥, 8♥, 7♥, 6♥, 5♥, 4♥, 3♥, 2♥. (12 total)

For the record, the board ran out: J♥9♥5♣ 8♠ K♥ and Alice won with a flush, versus Bob's set. I guess Alice was running good that night!

After Dr. Palamourdas helped us with reducing the rake, we asked him to write a regular column where he will explain various poker concepts in a way that players of all levels and backgrounds can understand. His expertise in poker education can help us further cultivate an environment where poker players come first!

Don't Miss these Strategy Stories
    Join the most trusted US poker site since 2001 and get a 100% bonus on your first deposit, up tp $1,000!
    Stay up to date on the latest poker news through social media. Join us at Facebook/americascardroomnet and follow us @ACR_POKER on Twitter. We invite you to share ideas and reactions.