Five Card Draw: Rules & Strategies

Five Card Draw is one of the oldest poker variants around. It used to be very popular in casinos and home games alike a few decades ago, being the game of choice of many professional and amateur players alike. The game can be very exciting and entertaining because the amount of information about other players’ holdings is very limited as there are no cards facing up (like in stud games) and no community cards (like in Texas Hold’em or Omaha). Thus, bluffing and being able to read your opponents is crucial to your success. While this variation is no longer as popular in casinos it is still played quite often in home games.

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Five Card Draw rules explained

Like the name suggests, the game is played with a standard deck and five cards being dealt to each player. The draw part of the name means players can exchange some of their holdings during a hand to try and improve their hand. We’ll now briefly explain Five Card Draw rules focusing on the most important bits such as dealing the cards, betting, and determining the winner.

Dealing cards

As mentioned, all players will receive five cards each to play with. The deal is done face down with no exceptions. In most casinos, the deal is done clockwise, starting with the first player seated to the left of the designated dealer. Every player receives one card, then the second round of dealing beings, with another card being dealt to each player, etc., until everyone at the table have five cards in their hands. In a casino, it is common for players to keep cards on the table instead of holding them in their hands, which is a common practice in home games.

Betting Structure

For the most part, Five Card Draw is played as a pot limit game, which means the biggest bet and / or the raise a player can make equals the size of the pot. There are exceptions, of course, and sometimes you’ll find games played in limit and even no limit formats, like Texas Hold’em, but most Five Card Draw online games feature pot limit structure.

The most popular variation these days is the one that’s played with blinds, i.e. the small and the big blind posted by the two players seated to the left of the dealer. Sometimes, the game will be played with the Five Card Draw ante instead, where everyone posts the predetermined ante amount before the dealing beings.

Once bets are posted, the deal is done like described above. When all players have five cards, the first betting round begins starting with the first player seated to the left of the dealer (in ante games) or the first active player seated to the left of the big blind (in variants featuring big and small blind).

Like always, players have options to call, matching the amount of the blind, check (in ante games), raise (up to the size of the pot), or fold, giving up on the hand. The betting continues as standard, with players betting, calling, and raising and there is no cap on number of bets or raises like in limit games.

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The Draw Round

Once all the betting is done on the initial round, the draw ensues. All players have the right to exchange anywhere from one to all five cards in their hand. The goal of the draw is to try and improve your hand. For example, you could have four hearts and exchange one card to try and get the fifth for the flush. Players who are happy with their hand can also choose not to exchange any card, which is referred to as “standing pat.”

Once everyone has completed the exchange from the deck as requested, another round of betting begins, following the same rules as during the initial round. A player can win by betting and forcing everyone else to fold or by having the best hand at a showdown.

The Showdown Phase

When the second betting round is over, if there are two or more players still active, they will turn over their hands and show them down. At this point, the player showing the best hand according to Five Card Draw poker rules wins the pot. If two or more players have the same winning hand, they will split the pot equally.

Five Card Draw hands rankings

Players familiar with any type of poker that follows rules of high poker variations will have no problems understanding Five Card Draw hands rankings. These rankings are uniform across all high poker variants but we’ll quickly go through them just the same as there are always those looking to get started with poker for the first time.

  • Royal Flush – a straight flush from 10 to A (10, J, Q, K, A)
  • Straight flush – a hand containing five cards of the same suit in a sequence
  • Four of a kind or Quads – four cards of the same ranking (i.e. J J J J)
  • Full boat (full house) – three cards of the same ranking + two cards of the same ranking
  • Flush – five cards of the same suit (hearts, diamonds, clubs, or spades) in no particular order
  • Straight – a card sequence with no regard to any suits
  • Trips (three of a kind) – three cards of the same face value (ranking)
  • Two pair – two cards of the same face value + two different cards of the same face value
  • Pair – two cards of the same ranking (value), i.e. 9 9

In the event where two players have the same hand, like two same pairs, the side (kicker) card is used to determine the winner. The player with the higher ranked side card will win the pot. Suits are never used to determine the winner in Five Card Stud, i.e. an Ace-high flush in spades is worth the same as Ace-high flush in clubs.

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Five Card Draw strategy tips

This particular poker variation is arguably one of the least skillful of the bunch. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain Five Card Draw strategy tips you should be aware of. Like all poker games, this one has its rules and dynamics and knowing about them will definitely help you win more when playing in a casino and online.

The first tip is to do with your starting hands. You should only get involved in a pot if you have a strong starting hand, such as a solid pair or better. Getting involved with three to a flush or three to a straight is very optimistic and you should only do it if you can get to the draw for free or very cheaply. Otherwise, your Five Card Draw odds to actually make the hand you’re looking for aren’t very good.

When it comes to drawing, you should exchange one card if you are looking to make a straight or a flush or if you have two pair. When you have three of a kind, always exchange both side cards to try and improve. With a single-pair type of hand, discard all three side cards.

Finally, pay a lot of attention to what your opponents are doing. Since you don’t have nearly as much information about their likely holdings as you have in Texas Hold’em, the only way to try and figure out their likely Five Card Draw combinations is based on the number of new cards they request from the deck.

Five Card Draw Poker FAQs

Five Card Draw is one of the oldest poker variations out there. It is played with the standard deck and using Five Card Draw chips. These days, the game is no longer very popular in live casinos but you can still find it at various online poker rooms or have fun playing it with your friends in a home game.

As mentioned, all you need to play the game is a standard deck (with no joker included). Every player is dealt five cards and the goal is to try and make the best possible five-card poker hand according to standard poker rankings. You can find all the rules you need to get you started right here on this page.

Yes, you can. Although the variation has lost a lot of its popularity, it is still offered by many online poker rooms out there. You’ll find many tournaments and cash game tables featuring this particular format and with the best operators, you’ll also be able to find the stakes that fit your style and bankroll.

Five Card Draw has a significant element of luck about it. However, you can still improve your results and win more by adhering to some basic strategies. We’ve shared some of the most important strategic tips in this article but you can also find more resources yourself and learn from your own experience.

Most poker rooms these days offer a mobile app as well, be it a standalone app or a web-based one. Either way, if the operator offers the game on its desktop client, you’ll usually be able to play it on your phone and tablet as well.

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While Five Card Draw isn’t the game you see around that much these days, you’ll still find plenty of cash game tables and scheduled tournaments on our recommended poker sites. This can be a very entertaining variation to play and with a bit of strategy, you could actually do quite well against most players. So, even if you don’t have any experience, why not check out what these poker rooms have to offer and give it a try on small stakes to see how you do? If nothing else, it can be a nice change of pace from your usual poker routine.
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