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5-Card Draw Rules: How to Play Five-Card Draw Poker

Five-Card Draw Poker


  • The classic poker variant returns! Learn rules and basic strategy for 5-card draw poker.

  • 5-card draw is one of many variants available online, and it's growing in popularity. Learn and play!

One of the simplest variants of poker, and one that is many poker player’s first introduction to the game of poker, is 5-Card Draw. More common in home games than it is in casinos, 5-card draw has been overtaken in the popularity by games such as Texas hold’em and Omaha. But there are still plenty of 5-card draw fans around the world — particularly in the online poker world where several sites offer cash games and tournaments.

How to Play 5-Card Draw Poker

If you have played any other form of poker, 5-card draw rules are similar in that the aim of the game is to make the best five-card poker hand. Like Texas hold’em, the hand rankings, from weakest to strongest, are as follows:

  • High card
  • One pair
  • Two pair
  • Three-of-a-kind
  • Straight
  • Flush
  • Full house
  • Four-of-a-kind
  • Straight flush
  • Royal Flush

When it comes to preflop betting, there are two different methods used in 5-card draw. Either all players pay an ante before receiving their cards (this is more common in home games), or there is a small blind and big blind similar to hold’em and Omaha games (this is the most common in online poker and in casinos).

Three different betting structures exist for 5-card draw, too. You can play fixed-limit, pot-limit, or even no-limit 5-card draw. While all three formats play to the same rules, the different betting structures mean your strategy needs to be adapted. For example, some hands that you wouldn’t play in fixed-limit 5-card draw become playable in no-limit 5-card draw because in the latter you can bet enough to force your opponent to fold. Regardless of the betting structure, this is how to play 5-card draw.

Once everyone has paid the ante or the blinds, each player receives five cards face down. A round of betting then occurs. If more than one player remains after that first round of betting, there follows a first round of drawing. Each active player specifies how many cards he or she wishes to discard and replace with new cards from the deck. If you are happy with your holding and do not want to draw any cards, you “stand pat.”

Once the drawing round is completed, there is another round of betting. After that if there is more than one player remaining, a showdown occurs in which the player with the best five-card poker hand wins.

As you can see, the rules for 5-card draw are simple and make for a fast-paced game, which is why the game is popular with new, less experienced players.

Basic 5-Card Draw Strategy

One trap lesser-skilled 5-card draw players often fall into is playing far too many hands, particularly hands drawing to a straight or flush. In many cases, the saying “tight is right” applies when it comes to starting hand selection in 5-card draw.

As in games with community cards, your position in relation to the button is also important in 5-card draw poker. The closer to the button you are, the wider the range of hands you can play profitably. Regardless of your position, you should almost always enter the pot with a raise because limping in usually results in several other players limping behind, which in turn means you need a much stronger hand to win the pot.

Play tight from early positions and raise with hands such as aces or kings. As your position improves, you can add other high pairs such as queens, jacks, tens, and nines, so long as the latter has a good kicker to back it up.

Those of you fortunate enough to have been dealt two pair or three-of-a-kind should always come out raising whether you’re under the gun or on the button. Meanwhile be wary of holdings such as four to a straight or flush, because these are hands with which some players bleed away their bankroll. With one card to come, you’re around a 4-to-1 underdog to hit your hand, and often you won’t have the correct pot odds to attempt filling your straight or flush, particularly in a short-handed game.

What Should I Discard in 5-Card Draw?

Knowing what cards to discard during the drawing round is what makes and breaks a 5-card poker player. On a basic level you should consider the following:

  • Holding one pair — draw three cards
  • Holding two pair — draw one card
  • Holding three-of-a-kind — draw two cards

The above list is only scratching the surface of what you should draw in 5-card draw, but adhering to it, particularly in low-stakes games, should yield positive results.

Advanced 5-Card Draw Strategy

Once you have a grasp of the basics and are feeling more confident with how to play 5-card draw, you can start applying some more advanced strategies to your game. There is a large psychological element to 5-card draw thanks in large part to the drawing element of the game.

For example, while it is statistically the best play to draw three cards when you hold a pair, if you always make this play your opponents will be able to read your hand easily and alter their strategy to defeat you. Therefore, you need sometimes only to draw to one or two cards with a pair in your hand — or even to stand pat — in order to represent a holding stronger than what you actually have.

Unlike in games such as hold’em, there is rarely any stone cold bluffing in 5-card draw; players usually have at least a playable hand when betting even if they are indeed bluffing. This is why it is vitally important to take detailed notes when playing 5-card draw because they are extremely helpful. Should you make a note that a player only opens with a pair of jacks or stronger on the button, you can easily fold a pair of nines in the blinds instead of calling.

Where Can I Play 5-Card Draw Online

As mentioned at the start of the article, 5-card draw is not a game that enjoys as much popularity as the likes of hold’em, but there are some places where you can play 5-card draw online.

PokerStars is your best bet for finding both 5-card draw cash games and tournaments at a variety of limits. It is also possible to hone your skills at the play money tables there and play 5-card draw online poker free of charge with no risk to your bankroll.

Photo: Flush Poker Hand - Hearts, Guts Gaming. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

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