Explain it to me like I am 5
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:
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♦.
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!
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!