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How to Play 5 Card Draw Poker

Rules for the Original Poker Game – 5-Card Draw

Many people associate Draw Poker with tales of the Wild West. The image of cowboys and gunfights associated with this form of poker might be caricatured from movies – though historical tales of Deadwood, South Dakota show they are not too far from the mark.

Draw Poker is a closed card game. Players only get to see what their opponents are holding when there is a showdown. This is a big contrast to the popular poker formats of today. Omaha and Holdem both use community cards, and Stud variations have ‘boards’ where you can watch your opponent’s hands take shape.

This means that Draw poker involves playing close attention to the tendencies of your opponents, and figuring out what their bets, calls and re-raises mean.

Draw Poker can be played with a variety of betting formats. The original games were played with fixed limit betting, while pot-limit and later no-limit betting have been introduced. In addition to 5 Card draw, several other draw poker variations can be played online. These include 2-7 Triple Draw, 2-7 Single Draw and Badugi.

This page focuses on the original game – 5 Card Draw. Below you will find a walk-through of a hand, starting before the deal and going through to an eventual showdown.

Playing 5-Card Draw: Before the Deal

This game is played with a dealer button and blinds. This is the same pre-deal setup as Texas Holdem. Draw is usually played with a maximum of 6 players.

The dealer button rotates clockwise around the table, moving one spot to the left after each hand. The player sat to the left of the button pays a small blind, and the next player left a big blind. The amount of the blinds varies and is usually equal to one small bet. In a $1 / $2 game, the big blind would be $1 and the small blind 50c.

Next each player is dealt 5 cards face down, visible only to the individual player.

First Round of Betting in 5-Card Draw

Betting action starts with the player sat to the left of the big blind. This position is known as ‘under the gun’. To remain in the hand, players need to match the big blind. There is also the option to fold, or to raise in units of one small bet. There are usually a maximum of 4 raises per round of betting allowed – though some casinos allow more.

To remain in the hand, all players need to match the last raise – or exercise the option to re-raise. If everyone folds to a bet, then the player holding a live hand wins the pot. That player does not need to show their hand.

If a player runs out of chips while others are still betting, their hand remains live. The pot that they contributed to is separated, and new bets are placed into a separate side-pot. This player can only win the pot to which they contributed at showdown.

The Draw and Second Betting Round

After betting is completed, players can draw any number of cards to replace those in their hand. The first player to draw is the active player to the left of the dealer button. If all the cards are used up, then the discarded cards are reshuffled to allow each player to draw as many cards as they wish. This is a very rare occurrence in a real money Draw game. Players do not have to draw any cards. Staying with the hand you have is known as ‘standing pat’, this represents a strong made hand, and should be used rarely as a bluff!

When everyone has completed their draws, betting starts again. This is now at double the stake of the initial betting round. In the $1 / $2 game example, bets are now at $2.

If nobody has yet bet, players can check (bet nothing) which passes the action to the next player. If bets are made, the options are to call, raise or fold.


Once betting is completed, hands of remaining players are shown down to see who wins the pot. The first player to show is whoever made the last bet.

The player with the best hand using the standard poker hand rankings will win the pot. In the rare event of a tie, the pot will be split.

Tips for Starting 5 Card Draw Poker

All poker games have an element of ‘playing the player’, in 5-Card Draw this is very important. If you play more hands when you have the dealer button, and fewer from early position at the table, then you will have a big information advantage on your opponents. Seeing the number of cards that they draw and how they bet before you act can give you information to assess the strength of their hand. When you act first, you have to bet or draw before you know what your opponents are going to do.

As you gain experience with this form of poker, you will learn to recognize patterns in the number of cards drawn. Swapping out 3 cards and keeping 2 will usually be with a pair, while swapping just one card could be with a draw to a flush or a straight, or could be with 2-pair. By combining bets, the number of cards drawn and the tendencies of each player – you will start to get a feel of how often you are facing strong hands, and when people might be bluffing.