five card draw poker straight flush on table

How to Play 5 Card Draw Poker: 5 Card Draw Rules

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 more complex than 3 Card Draw Poker, it is simple to learn the game. In fact, Five Card Draw Poker serves as the basis for video poker and several table poker games. 

How To Play 5 Card Draw Poker

How the betting starts in a game of 5 Card Draw Poker may depend on the setting. In brick-and-mortar poker rooms and poker clubs, you 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.

  • First Round of Betting: Home games often use an Ante wager. In a new hand, each player is dealt five face-down cards. The first betting round starts with the player to the dealer’s left.
  • Second Round of Betting: The second round starts with the player who opened - that is, made the first voluntary bet during - the first round. Once players have the opportunity to review their hands, the second round of betting begins.
  • Decisions Available: 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).
  • Discarding Cards: 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.
  • Burn Cards: 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.
  • Final Round of Betting: 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.
  • The Showdown: 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.

5 Card Draw Strategy and Odds

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.

  • Which Cards to Discard: While some 5 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.
  • Low Pairs: 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. With a low pair, you might draw a set.
  • Flush and Straight Draws: There are 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.
  • Keep in Mind the Odds: 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.

What Should I Discard in 5 Card Draw?

5 Card Draw poker rules often stipulate a player cannot draw 4 new cards unless they hold an ace. The table below takes into account those rules.

Also, exceptions exist to the advice below when you hold a flush draw or straight draw. These give a player a chance to improve their hand significantly. If you have two to a straight or two to a flush, it's often the best strategy to play for a draw. Remember that you won't hit the draw most of the time, so you're likely to end up with a simple high card hand. 

One PairDraw Three Cards
Two PairDraw One Card
Three-of-a-KindDraw Two Cards
Ace HighDraw Four Cards


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.

  • Includes Lowball Poker: Where traditional Five Card Draw is based exclusively around competing for the strongest hand, the Hi-Lo variant adds an additional strategic dimension.
  • How to Play 5 Card Draw Hi-Lo: 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?
  • More Complex 5 Card Draw: 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 5 Card Draw Poker game that incorporates elements from Texas Hold’em.

  • 4 Cards Dealt: As opposed to initial hands having five cards, four are dealt to players.
  • Betting and Discard Phase: There’s a betting round, following by players discarding cards and redrawing. You can draw up to two cards.
  • Second Betting Round: Another betting round happens after the redraw.
  • 1 Community Card: 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.

2 Hands to Win

"2 Hands to Win" is a 5-card draw variant in which a player must win two hands before winning the pot.

  • No Payout on the 1st Win: If you win one hand, all the money stays in the pot and the dealer deals another hand. 
  • Play Until You Win 2 Hands: If the player to your right wins a hand (but hasn't won two yet), the chips remain in the pot and a new hand is dealt. This continues until one of the players at the table wins a second pot.
  • Accumulated Poker Pot: As soon as this happens, the winning player wins the accumulated pot. 
  • Why Play 2 Hands to Win?: One virtue of 2 Hands to Win is it builds big pots, even in low-stakes poker games. A second virtue is it (supposedly) rewards skilled players, since a single lucky deal doesn't assure a big payout. A third virtue is that the special rule is simple enough that it can be applied to any other variant of poker. 

Playing 5 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.

  • Poker Software: If you are unsure of what to do next, the software will keep things moving, often with instructions for what you should do next.
  • Five Handed Poker Rules: 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.
  • Online 5 Card Draw Poker: 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.
  • Picking the Right Online Poker Room: As always, before you commit to gambling online, you should research things like game selection, banking option compatibility, and the quality of poker bonuses. Read reviews that detail these factors. 
  • Sign Up at an Online Poker Site: 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.
  • Desktop and Mobile 5 Card Draw Poker: 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.

Five Card Draw Poker FAQ

What are the rules for 5 Card Draw?

Five Card Draw starts with all players making an initial bet. Five cards are then distributed to each player, with players able to raise or fold. If they raise, they can choose to discard any number of cards and draw any number of new cards. They can choose to fold or raise again, at which point the remaining hands are compared in a showdown, with the best hand winning the pot.

Can you draw five cards in poker?

If you're completely dissatisfied with the cards that you're initially dealt, and you want to move onto the second round of the game, some Five Card Draw poker games will let you discard your entire hand and draw five new cards. However, there are some notable drawbacks to doing so, since whichever new cards you're dealt are as random as the initial batch, there's no guarantee they'll be any better.

How many rounds are in a 5 Card Draw?

Five Card Draw poker consists of three rounds of betting. The first is the initial wager, before the cards are dealt. Another round occurs after the cards are dealt but before players can choose to discard and draw new cards. Finally, there is a third round of betting after the draw, which is followed by the showdown. Whichever player wins the showdown wins the game.

What’s the difference between 5 card draw and 5 card stud?

The biggest difference between 5 Card Draw poker and 5 Card Stud poker is that in the former, only each individual player knows which cards they have in their hand. In 5 Card Stud, three total cards are dealt face up, while each player has two hole cards known only to them with which to make their hand.

Is poker and 5 Card Draw the same?

5 Card Draw is a variant of poker, but many other variants exist. Texas Hold'em is the most widespread form of poker. Omaha and Seven-Card Stud are popular forms of organized poker, too.

While 5-Card Draw isn't popular in land-based poker clubs and online poker sites right now, it's found in many casinos in less-familiar forms. Caribbean Draw is a popular table game based on 5-Card Draw, while draw poker is the main inspiration for most video poker games. 

How do you set up 5 Card Draw?

5-Card Draw is played with a standard 52-card deck of cards. Anyone playing a home game needs a deck of cards and a stack of chips, though many home items can be substituted for chips: toothpicks, beans, coins, or even cash.  

How many US online poker sites offer 5 Card Draw Poker?

Not many of the US online poker sites that we recommend. At the moment, we don't recommend any US poker sites that feature 5 Card Draw poker. Keep checking back for the latest info on five handed poker. For now, consider playing Texas Hold'em, Omaha, or Omaha Hi-Lo. 

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