Good BO Can Keep Your Poker Game from Stinking

7 min read

Forget Communism, organized crime, pollution, or the Vietnam War. Back in the 1960s and 1970s when I grew up, thanks to the incessant advertising campaigns of companies that sold deodorant, antiperspirant, and feminine hygiene products, body odor was public enemy number one in America. Body odor was so heinous, you didn’t even dare use its full name. It was politely referred to by its initials, BO. Wherever you looked, you saw warnings about the risks to job, social standing, and romance caused by that awful, irrepressible, offensive BO.

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This is good advice when it comes to personal hygiene, and bluffing at the poker table. (Image:reddit)

BO was never cured. You still hear it mentioned from time to time. But it’s been largely relegated to the stinkpot of history. Even so, there’s another type of BO that has relevance to poker players. Specifically, I’m referring to bluffing outs. They may change how you play your game and, when used correctly, this BO can help you win pots you’d otherwise lose.

Quick Refresher: What’s an Out in Poker?

An out in poker is a card that, if drawn, is likely to give you a winning hand. If you’re drawing for a club flush, for example, a club is an out. If you have two clubs in your hand and there are two on the flop, you are said to have nine outs – for the nine clubs that would give you a flush. Similarly, if you hold JT and the board is Q962 on the turn, any King or 8 will give you a straight. You’d have eight outs.

What’s a Bluffing Out?

A bluffing out is a card that will establish a credible opportunity for you to win the pot with a bluff. If, for example, a third suited card hits on the river, and you’ve been playing your hand as a drawing hand, you might win the pot by representing that the final suited card gave you the flush, even if it didn’t. The number of those suited cards is your total bluffing outs.

Sometimes, those additional bluffing outs might give your drawing hand sufficient value for calling a bet on the turn, even if the number of your true outs would require a fold.

Here’s how a hand might play out in a way that could have you using your poker BO to your advantage.

A Sample Hand with BO

You are playing $2/5 No-Limit Hold’em and start the hand with an effective stack of $500. You’re holding J♦ T♦ in middle position in a moderately loose and passive game. You have a moderately tight and aggressive image. A player in front of you calls the $5 big blind, as do you. A late-position player, typically fairly tight, raises to $25. You’re the only caller and there’s $62 in the pot before the flop.

Pot Odds and Drawing Odds

The flop is Q♦ 9♣ 2♣. You’ve hit an open-ended straight draw and a backdoor flush draw. You’re out of position and you check. The villain bets $40. You put him on a high pair, either with or without the Q. Considering all of your outs, you call. The pot is $142.

The turn is the 7♦. You’ve now hit a diamond flush draw to go with your open-ended straight draw. You check and the villain bets the pot of $142. You’ve got 15 outs for hitting the presumed winning hand with either a flush or a straight (nine flush cards and eight straight cards, two of which are also flush cards). You calculate that you will hit your hand roughly 30% of the time, giving you drawing odds of 2.3 to 1.

With your opponent’s pot-sized bet, you’re getting 2 to 1 pot odds. With drawing odds of 2.3 to 1 and pot odds of only 2 to 1, you realize that the pot isn’t giving you enough of a payout to justify the relatively long odds of making your hand.

Implied Odds

You’re a sophisticated poker player, however, so you then think about your implied odds. You think that, maybe, since you’ve got roughly $350 behind after the call, you might make extra money when you hit your hand by betting and getting called on the river. But you realize that your fairly tight opponent will almost surely fold to any serious bet on the river if a flush or straight card hits since they will assume, from the way you’ve played your hand, and your image that you hit your hand. And they will fold to a bet.

You reason that you can’t count on making any additional money on the river and conclude that you should fold to the bet.

But wait. You then realize that, in addition to winning by hitting your flush or your straight, you may also have an excellent opportunity to win with a bluff on the river.

Bluffing Outs

The way the hand has played out, it looks reasonable that you could have been drawing to a club flush. That being the case, you will probably win the hand if a third club hits and you bet on the river. That would give you nine more outs, for a total of 24 outs (11 remaining clubs, minus two that are already outs counted for hitting the straight.)

Realize that your bluffing outs are actually greater than your drawing outs for the diamond flush. With the diamond flush draw, there are nine unseen cards that give you the flush. But for the bluff opportunity with clubs — since you don’t actually hold any clubs — there are 11 unseen cards that will let you credibly bluff that you hit a club flush.

These would be bluffing outs, to be sure, as you would lose if you were called. But, if your analysis of your opponent was correct when you gauged them unlikely to call your bet when you hit your hand, your opponent would also be highly unlikely to call your bluff.

Total Outs

When you add the nine additional clubs as outs, that would give you a total of 24 outs on the turn. That translates to winning nearly 50% of the time or odds of roughly 1 to 1. With pot odds of 2 to 1, that makes a draw on the turn extremely worthwhile – meaning a call is in order. Your BO made the difference.

BO and Implied Odds

It’s also worth considering that the value of your BO tends to work in an inverse relationship to the value of your implied odds as it can make up for the lack of implied odds you may give up to opponents who are unlikely to call your river bet when you hit.

So, if your implied odds go down because you’re against a tight opponent who’s unlikely to call a river bet when the board makes it look like you hit a flush or a straight, your bluffing odds go up. But, if your BO is low because your bluff isn’t likely to be successful, then your implied odds will likely be higher since you’ll be likely to make money with a bet on the river when your opponent pays you off when you hit.


Don’t go crazy with your BO. You still need to think about how many credible bluffing outs you really have, add them to your regular outs, use them in calculating your total drawing odds, and then compare them to the pot odds. If the math still doesn’t justify a call on the turn, then fold.

In poker, knowing when you have BO can help make you a winner.

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