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Five Card Draw Poker Rules: Learn How to Play

five card draw poker straight flush on table

Five Card Draw poker is one of the most common types of poker, and the variant that the majority of players first learn to play. Despite being slightly more complex than 3 Card Draw Poker, it is a very straightforward and simple to learn game; in fact, Five Card Draw Poker serves as the basis for video poker.

How To Play Five Card Draw Poker

How the betting starts in a game of Five Card Draw Poker may depend on the setting; casino games may see the first betting round start with the player to the left of the big blind, with additional rounds starting with the player to the dealer’s left. However, home games use an Ante wager, with the first betting round starting with the player to the dealer’s left and the second round starting with the player who opened - that is, made the first voluntary bet during - the first round.

Each player is then dealt five face-down cards. Once players have the opportunity to review their hands, the second round of betting begins. Based on what a player has in their hand, they may choose to fold (forfeit their initial wager and remove themselves from the rest of the game), check (abstain from betting for the moment but retain the right to call or raise later in the round), call (match a bet or match a raise) or raise (increase the size of an existing bet).

Once the second round of betting is over, any remaining players may choose to discard any number of cards from their hands in exchange for new cards from the deck. In some games, players may only be permitted to replace three cards from their initial hand; if that hand contains an Ace, they may be permitted to replace all cards but the Ace. If any players want to discard cards in exchange for new cards, one card is taken from the deck and discarded as a “burn” card.

Once players have exchanged cards, the final round of betting ensues, beginning with the player to the dealer’s left, or whichever player opened the first round. This round of betting is followed by the showdown, where each player’s hand is compared; the best hand according to poker hand rankings wins the game and the pot.

Five Card Draw Strategy

Statistically, 50.1% of players will have no pair in their initial hand, with the odds of having a pair at around 42.3%. There is a much lower probability - 4.75% and 2.11% - that a player’s starting hand will have two pairs or three of a kind, respectively.

While five card draw rules allow you to discard your entire hand for new cards if you’d like, this generally isn’t the best move to make. As with video poker, the best strategy is to closely scrutinize the cards you are initially dealt and hold whichever cards would result in the highest hand ranking. Even if there is only a low pair in your initial hand, drawing five new cards might result in a worse hand, so generally the best play is to keep your strongest guaranteed hand.

Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. If you have three or four cards towards a royal flush, straight flush, or outside straight, it’s best to hang on to those cards - even if they don’t yet comprise a winning hand - because of the strength of those hands. However, it’s best to keep in mind that the odds of successfully completing these hands are incredibly low - a royal flush has less than 0.001% chance of occurring, and a straight flush is not much better with a 0.002% probability.

five card draw poker hand on green felt table with poker chips

Five Card Draw Variations

As with many poker games, there are a number of twists on the Five Card Draw formula that you may wish to try yourself. Specifically worth mentioning is Seven Card Draw Poker; while technically a different type of draw poker, it tends to be a bit more popular at online casinos and poker rooms because the extra cards create more opportunities for players to make high-ranking hands. Otherwise, it is mechanically identical to Five Card Draw poker.

Five Card Draw Hi-Lo

Five Card Draw Hi-Lo is an interesting variant where the pot is split between the owners of the highest and lowest hands. Where traditional Five Card Draw is based exclusively around competing for the strongest hand, the Hi-Lo variant adds an additional strategic dimension. Since the highest card in a player’s hand determines the strength of their low hand, should you keep cards that you would normally discard and attempt to go after the low pot? Are there any other players in the game specifically targeting the low pot?

If you’re looking for a Five Card Draw game that will give you more options without increasing the complexity of the game, Five Card Draw Hi-Lo is for you.

5 and 2

5 and 2 is a Five Card Draw Poker variation with a community card element. Two community cards are dealt with the initial hands, and those cards can be used to supplement or strengthen a player’s existing cards. However, if you choose to use them, you must use both of them, which provides a unique strategic wrinkle to how community card games are usually played.

Spit in the Ocean

Spit in the Ocean is a unique Five Card Draw Poker game that incorporates elements from Texas Hold’em. As opposed to initial hands having five cards, four are dealt to players. There’s a betting round, following which players can discard and draw up to two cards. Following this there’s another betting round. Lastly, one community card is placed on the table, and players need to use the four cards in their hand and the community card to compose their final hand, after which there’s another round of betting and a showdown.

Playing Five Card Draw Poker Online

One of the advantages to playing Five Card Draw Poker online, or really any variant of poker, when you’re just starting to play is that the game software can help you understand how it is played and structured. If you are unsure of what to do next, the software will keep things moving, often with instructions for what you should do next. There will also be a fairly consistent ruleset when playing online; as previously mentioned, there may be some significant differences in betting structure and how many cards you can draw when you play at a casino versus when you play at home.

Finding an online casino or poker room that offers Five Card Draw Poker shouldn’t be difficult, even if many have more of an emphasis on Seven Card Draw. As always, before you commit to gambling online, you should research things like game selection, banking option compatibility, and the quality of poker bonuses. When you find a gambling site that you’d like to use, you’ll need to sign up to play and add money to your account. While there may be a few free poker games you can play, the vast majority of poker online is played for real money.

If you’ve signed up at an online casino, Five Card Draw Poker should be available to play in your web browser, on desktop, mobile, and tablet. However, as an extra layer of security, many poker rooms recommend or require you to download their own software in order to use them. There is functionally no difference between these two approaches, but as some poker room software may not work on mobile, you should ensure that you have a compatible device to play Five Card Draw poker on.