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Playing Five Card Draw

Playing five card draw can be fun.  You get to pretend you're Doc Holiday playing in a saloon somewhere.  Most poker games are games of incomplete information, but five card draw is a game of no information.  If your opponent stands pat (doesn't take any cards on the draw) they could have a made flush, or they could be on a stone-cold bluff.  You have no idea.

Due to this uncertainty, five card draw is labeled as a gambler's game.  Fortunately for these gamblers, there isn't much betting in this game.  Here are the rules for five card draw:


While you may remember everyone putting in an ante when you played this game growing up, most online casinos that offer five card draw will have blinds.  There are two rounds of betting with four bets being the maximum number of bets in a given round.  The four bets possible in each round are the original bet, the raise, the re-raise, and the cap.  Here's how the game would play at a $1/$2 table.

  1. The player on the dealer's left posts the small blind and the player to the left of the small blind posts the big blind.
  2. The dealer will deal one card to each player starting on his left and dealing clockwise.  This step is repeated until all players have five cards face-down.
  3. The first round of betting starts with the person to the left of the big blind.
  4. After the first round of betting, each player chooses how many cards they want to draw.  The maximum number of cards you can draw is determined by the house, but a popular “school yard” rule is that you can draw up to three cards unless you hold an ace; then you can draw four.   
  5. After the draw, the person to the left of the dealer starts the betting.  Remember that this round of betting is at the higher rate.
  6. After the last round of betting, the remaining players showdown and the highest hand wins.  If there is a tie, the pot is split.


It's hard to give tips for a game like five card draw, but there are a few things you can do to make your play more profitable.
Watch your opponent in live games.  People will do all kinds of stupid things when they play five card draw live.  One of my favorites is moving their cards around.  If your opponent moves one card, they most likely made a pair; if your opponent moves several cards, they're probably drawing to a straight; and if they don't move them at all, they could be drawing to a flush (or they figured out that moving their cards is a massive tell).

Playing five card draw online is a bit more difficult.  Be ruthless in selecting your starting hand, don't make moves out of position, and pay attention to how many cards your opponent takes.  If they take three, they'll have a pair; taking two could mean trips, and taking one could mean two pair or a draw.