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Five Card Draw Poker

Wondering how to play five card draw poker? Let our comprehensive breakdown give you a hand.

A less common feature in casinos and online poker rooms than the likes of Texas Hold’em, Five Card Draw still has its fans — particularly among home players and video poker fans. With every hand that is played in Five Card Draw, players make betting decisions largely on reading the expressions and playing style of others, with very little community information available on each hand. It’s only by observing how other players are behaving, as well as being strategic about forming your own hand, that players can gain the edge. Here’s how it works:

Five Card Draw Explained

As the name suggests, each player is dealt five cards — face down. Once each player has had a chance to review their hand, the first round of betting gets underway in the usual fashion. Where multiple players are still in the game after the first round of betting, players have the chance to ‘draw’ from the deck — switching out as many of their cards as they want from the deck, dealt in turn in a clockwise direction.

The draw allows players to ditch the weakest cards in their hand and to concentrate on creating a winning hand. After players have had their hand restored to five cards, another round of betting takes place, immediately followed by the showdown. Players who are still involved at this stage are expected to declare their hands, and the player with the best hand wins the pot.

The simplicity of Five Card Draw is a large part of its appeal, but for serious players this can make it more difficult to read. Often, it comes down to reading player psychology, and getting to know how your opponents play — difficult at the best of times, let alone in an online environment. Nevertheless, with fewer rounds of betting, the pot in Five Card Draw often doesn’t ramp up as quickly as in Texas Hold’em, for example.

Probability is Your Friend

Math fans will no doubt already be thinking about probability here. Pre-draw, it’s good to think about percentages so you can get a feel for how your hand might be standing in the rankings with others, and whether other players may be bluffing, especially in the first round of betting.

Players hoping for a royal flush, straight flush, or four of a kind could be waiting a long time, with probabilities of less than 0.001 percent, less than 0.002 percent and 0.02 percent, respectively. If a player refuses to switch out any cards in the draw, or starts making noises about these hands, you can use this to assess their credibility. Of course these hands are possible pre-flop, but the odds are firmly that no player around the table will be sitting with one of these hands pre-draw.

On the contrary, 50.1 percent will have no pair pre-draw, with one pair clocking in at 42.3 percent. We can deduce from this that you need to be building on a strong pair to have much confidence in your hand pre-draw. Two pair is a 4.75 percent probability and three of a kind comes in at 2.11 percent, so you know if you’re drawing these hands straight away you’re in an incredibly strong position to (probably) win the hand.

Understanding these probabilities and having them in mind in the early rounds of betting can be a shrewd move. Obvious probability doesn’t mean certainty, and you can still get burned here if you’re not live to what’s happening with other players at the table. But by combining pre-draw probabilities, monitoring the draw for tells and watching how others bet post-draw, you’ve got virtually all the information available to play the best game.