Guide to Five-Card Draw Poker

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Five-Card Draw Poker

As you probably already know, five-card draw poker has long since given way to Texas Hold’em, as the latter is generally considered the number one game worldwide. However, it used to be rather a popular pastime in the Wild West, when nearly every cowboy was ready to match their strength with each other at the local saloon over a schooner of beer. But as time went on, things began to change; and now draw poker is perceived as more of a home entertainment than a casino one. However, it is still around, and it is still well-liked by many players who are ready to prove their skill at this exciting game.

The central feature of draw poker is that participants get a complete hand from the jump, and then exchange cards to achieve the best result.


Many people believe that draw poker is the predecessor of all known poker types; and the stud version most probably originated from draw poker. So the backstory of California poker, as it is often called, is inseparably associated with the onset of modern poker.

Right from the very start, and up to 1930s, draw poker was the top favorite among card game lovers, and it was played much more often than other poker types. Such popularity arose from certain occurrences in the early 20th century in Nevada.

For the state of Nevada, the year 1910 was marked by a new prohibition on gambling activities; all except draw poker, which had a lot of fans among men of high status. The truth is that the California Department of Justice made a statement that draw poker ought not to fall under the anti-gambling law; since the outcome of game of draw poker is not based on luck, but on the skill of people who play it.

All varieties of stud, the main rival to draw poker, were banned in Nevada; as it was believed that this particular version of poker based on luck, and therefore posed the biggest risk to those players who were more prone to gambling addiction. Thus, thanks to the law, draw poker has turned into the prevailing variation for many years.

Today more complex variations have replaced the time-honored boodle version. However, when speaking about poker, it is often the opening for newbies and is a basis for video poker widely played by its admirers.


Five-Card Draw Poker Hand RankingIn this type of poker, the gameplay is divided into two main stages: before the exchange (pre-draw), and after the exchange (draw). It all starts with choosing a dealer and starting bets which include blinds or antes. After that, each player is dealt five cards facedown, and the game begins. As with no-limit hold’em, the participants may apply all the main types of actions you would expect to see in a game of poker: check, call, raise, pass, and all-in as well as use the same hand rankings.

At the end of the first round of betting, players begin to replace their cards, and this can be done only once. Gamblers exchange between one and five cards, and then they start the last round. The winner, as with other games of poker, is considered the one who knocked out the rest of the players with their bet, or collected the best combination (from the kicker to Royal Flush). In addition to the basic rules, two more features are applicable only to five card draw poker:

  • Before the ante appears in the game, the player after the big blind is the first to bet. After the obligatory bets, the first player to bet is the one next to dealer, that is, the SB position. This is one of the basic rules of draw poker, but most rooms no longer apply it.
  • Another feature of five-card poker is the possibility of a do-over. This rule, like the previous one, was an original feature of this type of game, and it only died out with the advent of online gambling. The bottom line is that if nobody raised the bet before the exchange, the round has to be replayed. The dealer must collect all the cards back into the deck and deal them again, so the players pay all the blinds and antes one more time. Do-overs can take place endlessly until someone raises, while the pot is continuously increasing in accordance with the required bets.

Also, several types of 5-card draw poker can be distinguished:

  • fixed-limit variation,
  • pot-limit variation,
  • no-limit 5-card draw variation.

As for Fixed-Limit Draw Poker, the rules are as follows: players bet and raise a strictly defined amount, which is determined by the table limit. That is, at the $2/$4 table in the first round of betting, the bets are equal to $2. After exchanging, the bets have to be proportional to $4, and players can make no more than four bets ($8 in the first round of betting and $16 after the draw, respectively. Gains and losses are generally small.

Pot-Limit Draw Poker: in both betting rounds, players can make bets ranging from the amount of the big blind or of the previous bet (if playing with blinds) to the current sum of the pot (including the total amount of bets made before the player, plus their call amount). When playing with ante, participants can make bets ranging from the amount of the bet made by the player with the weakest door card to the current value of the pot. For example, if in the first betting round the pot is $10, and the bet before yours was equal to $5, then you can raise in the range from $15 to $20).

No-Limit Draw Poker – in each of the rounds, players can place a bet of any size (but not less than the table limit). So a player can go all-in any time. Here you can face the maximum variance and the considerable losses and wins.

Basic Strategies

For each stage of five-card draw poker, there is a separate strategy that will help you to end up a winner. Each of the offered tips is a recommendation, based on the advice of some professional players, each having their own approach to shaping a poker guide. Whether to adhere to this strategy or to develop your own is, of course, entirely at your discretion.

1. Before the Draw

  • If you have a pair of aces or a stronger combination, enter the game by raising.
  • Act more aggressively against the limpers, in order to avoid giving them a chance to collect the hand they need. In this case, we do not recommend slow playing, as this may lead to unpredictable consequences.

2. Drawing

  • If the starting hand contains a pair, then all three remaining cards must be changed.
  • If you have a set, then discard only one card. These are basic recommendations that work in 70% of cases.
  • For all other hands, you must act according to the situation. For example, if you have a pair of aces and four cards of the same suit, it is better not to wait for the flush, but to exchange three cards. Here the proverb about a bird in the hand is worth remembering.
  • With limpers at hand, you should raise even if you have an average combination. All this is needed for leaving all your cards (stand-pat) during the draw and bluffing the rivals in the last round by pretending that you have nuts.
  • Don’t forget about the fish! Some players do not see what is happening around and look only at their cards. If they have at least two low pairs, they will often call.

3. After the Draw

  • At this stage, it is necessary to infer the approximate range of the opponent from the actions they took before the exchange. If your opponent played a limp-call, changed one card and behaves too aggressively in the last round, then they most likely had some kind of advantage.
  • If the opponent had been playing aggressively before the exchange and then kept down their enthusiasm, then most likely they have a set or two good pairs. In any case, it is necessary to watch the actions of your opponents, as these will tell you what your rivals are playing with.

Five-card draw poker may be old hat in the world of poker, but even so, it has managed to play an important part. Up to now, the various poker communities out there cannot afford to ignore this particular variation of the game, due to the simplicity of its rules, and the thrill the gameplay offers; and they really do love and respect the 5-card draw. However, it is important not to be misled by its simple rules; because getting a winning strategy is much less simple than learning the rules! Those who want to learn not only to play but also to win, will have to work hard.

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