Counting the outs

Your poker questions answered by pro Willie Tann


One thing I’ve never understood about working out the number of outs you have is that it doesn’t seem to take into account any of the cards the other players have folded. If you’ve got pocket Aces against someone who has Kings and they hit two more Kings on the flop, you’re said to have two outs. But surely if it’s a ten-handed table, the Aces have probably been spread out amongst the other eight players? How can counting your outs be an accurate way to determine your probability of winning the hand?

Unfortunately, even if you suspect certain cards have already been and gone, we must work on the premise the deck still contains 52 cards. You can try to predict what cards have been and gone but because you haven’t actually seen with your own eyes, it’s a mistake to make your plays based on those predictions. Siding with favourable odds is a long-term plan – even if it’s not always evident on one or two hands.


Last week I was in a freezeout tournament and although I hadn’t picked up any monster hands, I was playing pretty solidly. There were about 20 players left out of the original 40 and the blinds were at 100/200.My chipstack was just over 3,000. I picked up Queens in early position and raised it to 600. Everyone folded to the big blind, who had about 1,500 chips left and after about 30 seconds he went all-in. It was pretty obvious he had an Ace rag. Even though I was over 70% favourite, I had an inkling an Ace would come up and I’d end up short-stacked. I did call him but in typical fashion the Ace was the first card on the flop and my hand didn’t improve. Should I have gone with my initial instinct and folded my hand?

You did the right thing – you cannot pass Queens in that position. The only time you pass them is when there has been a re-raise or re-re-raise – because that tells you they’ve got Aces or Kings. In this case, your call of his all-in didn’t even mean your tournament life, but even if it had, you have died with your boots on.


I’m always at a loss as to what to do when I connect with the flop with top pair or top two pair but all three flop cards are of the same suit and I don’t have any of them. Do I have any ‘cheap’ ways of finding out whether my opponents have actually hit a flush? Does a re-raise usually mean they have?

If you always fold top pair when there’s three cards of the same suit when the flop comes, you will never win anything big. You have to play it and see what happens without going broke on it. Say there was no raise pre-flop, there are three callers, the flop comes J…-4…-2… and you’ve got A;-JÚ. They check to you, you bet and someone comes over the top and moves all-in. What do you do? Well, it depends on whether you believe he has made a flush already or is drawing to one. Someone with a made flush is unlikely to go all-in because he’ll want to eek out as much money as he can – so he’s either bluffing with nothing or he’s drawing to a flush. Some players wouldn’t move all-in on a draw, others would – so ask yourself how well you know this player. And if he’s on a draw, do you want to gamble. Sometimes you have to be prepared to lay down hands even though you know you’re ahead. If someone calls you on the flop and the turn comes 3: (with no pairs on the board), and you bet again and he moves all-in, then it’s likely he does have the flush – or you’d have to give him the benefit of the doubt depending on your relative chipstacks. People ask me whether it’s them that should be representing the flush even when they have nothing when it’s checked to them, but the problem is that they’re running the risk of getting called when they don’t really have any outs. Why would you want to put your tournament life on the line like that? If you had A…J:, it’s a different story. You have top pair and a chance of making the nut flush.

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