How to play 5-card draw – rules, faq, strategy and tips

5-Card Draw is the oldest form of poker. The whole poker evolution started with this game over 200 years ago. Therefore, it is also the easiest type of poker.

This is a very simple draw poker game with one draw and two betting rounds. There is Little room for strategy and skill – most likely this is why no-limit hold’em and many other games have grown in popularity.

While it has long been one of the most commonly played versions of poker, it’s hard to find action these days, live or online. Many large poker rooms do not even offer 5-card draw to their users anymore. You’ll find it on PokerStars, where on a good day there are usually one or two games at a no-limit cash table. WSOP has not held 5-card draw events since 1982. It is also missing in all popular mixed games.

If you are more of a gambler than a poker strategist, we recommend 5-Card Draw.

How to play 5-card draw - rules, faq, strategy and tips

Basic rules

Each player receives 5 cards face down.

The player to the left of the dealer button posts the small blind, and the player to the left of that posts the big blind. These are blind bets to encourage trading in any hand. The big blind is usually twice as high as the small blind. The first person to act before the draw sits to the left of the BB.

Players have the option to fold, call the blind or raise. If you fold, you give up the chance to win the pot, but you don’t have to invest any more money. If they raise, the others must pay the raised amount at least to stay in the hand. If everyone folds, the last raiser wins the pot.

If there are at least two players left in the hand after the first round of betting, a "draw" takes place. players can between 1-5 cards discard and then draw 1-5 new cards. You can also choose to keep your hand and not draw any new cards at all. This is referred to by draw poker players as "Staying Pat".

The player sitting to the left of the button draws first. Action moves clockwise and always ends with the player on the button if still in the hand. After the draw there is a betting round. Players must act in the same order as in the draw. If it is "checked", meaning that no bet has been made, or if at least one caller has paid a bet, the showdown is next.

Whoever has the best 5-card hand at the showdown wins the pot. The classic Hold’em ranking applies, which is based on probabilities. Just a reminder, here is the overview from weakest to strongest hand.

Two of the same card. Odds: 1.37:1

Two pairs
Two cards of the same rank and two cards of the same different rank.

Three of the same card. Odds: 46.3:1

Five cards in a row in rank, off-suite. Odds: 254:1

Five cards of the same suit (suited). Odds: 508:1 ( all of the same suit)

Full House/Boat
Three cards of the same value and two cards of the same value have different values.

Four of a Kind/Quads
Four of a kind. Odds: 4.165:1

Straight flush
Five cards of the same suit, consecutive in rank.

Odds: 72,192:1. ( of the same suit)

Royal flush
of the same suit. Odds: 649,740:1

If the dealer has no more new cards, the discarded pile is reshuffled and dealt again. Since this is a draw game, this is a very rare scenario.

Basic strategy

In 5-card draw, you must try to give your opponent a range based on the number of cards drawn and betting habits. Showdowns are frequent in this game, and a hand takes very little time. This means that in a relatively short period of time you have a large amount of information about what kind of hands the other players are calling or raising with. You must pay attention.

Position is crucial. Not only can you bet after your opponents when you are in position, but you can draw after them as well. This means that you have much more information about your opponents’ hand than they have about yours. Therefore, you should play most hands on the button, where position is guaranteed after the draw.

A common move that poker players like to make is "Snowing". This means, playing "stay pat" with a weak hand to feign strength, then betting as a bluff.

Apart from that, 5-Card Draw gives very little information about your opponent’s hand compared to other games like No-Limit Hold’em, where the board is known to all players, and limits the possible hands the others can have. Or stud games – where parts of your opponent’s hand are exposed. In addition, there is only one draw and two betting rounds, which means that betting habits can be taken into account even less – compared to, for example, 2-7 triple draw. For all these reasons, at the 5-Card Draw only works out a slight advantage over the other players.


5-Card Draw is the oldest poker game ever. It has already been played before the American Civil War.

The early version of the game was the most primitive form of poker, where players are dealt 5 cards face down and then bet on who has the best hand. In those days, a deck consisted of only 20 cards: 10 aces of each suit. Flushes and straights didn’t count, just pairs, two pair, sets, boats and quads. Around the 50s of the 19. In the early twentieth century, people took advantage of the entire card game with 52 cards, to allow more players to participate in the game. Plus the flush and then straights, plus an extra round of draws and betting.

R.F. Foster described poker in the 1937 version of Foster’s complete Hoyle ;: An Encyclopedia of Games, he clearly felt that "poker" used to mean only 5-card draw, although it was less common than stud games at the time. Foster wrote: "The poker game first played in the U.S., in which each player is dealt five cards from a 20-card deck, is undoubtedly the Persian game of as-nas."

Although stud games gained popularity early on, classic draw poker also persisted for a long time, especially in home games.

You can see characters playing 5-Card Draw on popular TV shows like NBC’s Friends or CBS’s Two and a Half Men. There is also a draw poker scene in the Hollywood blockbuster remake of Ocean’s Eleven.

Despite all this seemed the professional poker community to never accept the game in a big way. High stakes 5-card draw cash games and tournaments have always been rare. The last WSOP 5-Card Draw event was held in 1982 under the name 1,000$ Limit Draw High instead of. Only five World Series of Poker series had it on the schedule between 1978 and 1982. In none of the popular mixed games there is 5-Card Draw.

Remarkable 5-Card Draw Games

The last 5-card draw WSOP tournament was won by David Sklansky in 1982. For this victory he received 15.000$, tiny by today’s standards. Sklansky is also a prolific poker strategy writer, having published or co-published 13 books on the subject.

Another well-known poker author, Mike Caro, also played 5-card draw frequently. In fact, he wrote the chapter on draw poker for Doyle Brunson’s famous 1979 strategy book Super / System.

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