A lot of players will count their outs, find a high number of them and immediately decide it’s worth paying the pot to see the next card. It can be a costly mistake if you’re not taking the time to put your opponent on a range of hands and discount invaluable outs.
Discounting outs is when you eliminate one or more outs from your pot odds equation if the out will not improve your hand enough, or will help your opponent enough to leave you with second best hand anyway. Knowing when to discount outs is the hard part.
Your opponents and current situation are key factors in discounting outs. Some situations are more obvious than others.
Let’s say after the flop, you have an outside straight draw. However, the flop dropped three clubs. Sure, you have 8 outs to a straight, but your opponents could already have a flush, or at least 9 outs to a flush, that will beat you in the long run. Your 8 outs just dropped to 6 outs anyway, because 2 of them are clubs that will almost assuredly provide the flush to your opponent.
In a situation like this, if there are several opponents staying in the pot, the correct move is to discount all outs and fold the hand. If you’re only up against one opponent, and you’ve read him or her pretty well thus far, you may decide it’s a good idea to move on. Just keep in mind that he/she probably has more outs than you do, and the basic rule of thumb with a 3-suited flop is to fold unless you have at least one of the suit in your hand, preferably one of the highest two of that suit not already on the board.
Discounting outs based on your opponent takes keen observation skills. You need to be able to put your opponent on a range of hands. The wider that range is, the more outs you can hold onto. For example, a player who calls to the river on a regular basis – the infamous “calling station” – two high overcards could give you 6 worthy outs. A hand of Ks-Qd would gain value over a Ts-3c-4c.
This same hand played against a tight, skilled player – one who has shown the patience to wait for a concrete starting hand, folding at least 65% of the time – should convince you discount at least some of those outs.
Let’s look at it this way; your opponent could have already made two pair, or even a set, or he could be running on a straight or flush draw. If your opponents hand range leads you to believe you have a 50/50 shot at winning by hitting an out, 50% of your outs should be discounted. Instead of 6 outs, you only have 3. Your pot odds and value bets, based on outs and expected value, should be calculated thusly.
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