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5 Card Draw Poker Rules & Strategy

12,806 Views on 9/7/15

Although 5 Card Draw Poker has lost a lot of its popularity during past two decades, it is still a great variant that can be played as a part of your home games, and a rumor has it that it might be making a return to the WSOP as well.

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5-card poker plandraw originated in the wild west in the very early 19th century, perhaps earlier. It's debatable whether it could be called 5-card "draw" at this stage since no drawing actually occurred. Each player was simply dealt 5-cards followed by a round of betting. The game was also played with a 20-card deck as opposed to the modern 52-card deck. Hand rankings were the same except straights and flushes did not yet exist.

It wasn't until 1820 or so that the 52-card deck was used to play the game. This allowed more players to play at one time. Straights and flushes were added along with the opportunity to "draw" further cards. The option to draw caused a huge surge in popularity and it quickly became the most commonly played poker game in America. It wasn't until the turn of the 20th century that 5-card draw was overshadowed in popularity by 7-card stud, and now in more recent years by Texas Hold'em.

5 card draw is still somewhat popular in home games due to its simplicity and can also be found on online gaming sites such as Pokerstars.

The Objective

Naturally like all poker variants the objective is to win our opponent's chips. In a cash game these chips have a monetary value and can be exchanged for real money after the game is over. In a tournament the objective is to be the last player standing with all the chips.

The Rules

5-card draw is most commonly played as a short-handed game due to the number of cards in a deck. With only 52 cards it can get complicated trying to play with 10 players. If no-one folds and one player wants to draw 5-fresh cards the game will simply not work. It's possible to run into similar difficulties even 6-handed but they can be solved very easily.
  • Position - Position is essentially exactly the same as in no-limit-hold'em. There is a dealer button which moves clockwise around the table and indicates the relative positions of the players. The BTN is the strongest position and is always the last to act postflop. The blinds are last to act preflop but always first to act postflop. The blinds make a mandatory payment before the hand starts known as β€œblinds”.
  • The Deal - Each player at the table is dealt 5-cards which they show no-one. In a home-game the player with the dealer button is the one who deals and he deals starting with the player on his left in a clockwise motion.
Before any drawing takes a place a round of betting occurs. The SB is first to act each round and the BTN is last.
  • The Draw - Once all the betting has taken place, players still involved in the hand (i.e didn't fold) have the opportunity to discard any of their existing cards and replace them with fresh cards from the deck. This again occurs in a clockwise motion based on the position at the table. Assuming a player wishes to keep all of his current cards he has the option to "stand pat", which means he does not discard or draw any additional cards.
  • Final Round - Once the drawing stage is complete players have an additional opportunity to bet based on the strength of their hand. Once all bets are complete players see a showdown. Each player reveals the strength of their hand and the strongest hand takes the pot.

Hand Rankings

Hand rankings are the same as in NLHE, from weakest to strongest,
  • High-Card
  • Pair
  • Two-Pair
  • Three-of-a-Kind
  • Straight
  • Flush
  • Full-House
  • Four-of-a-kind
  • Straight-Flush
  • Royal-Flush


There poker planare a few different variants of 5-card draw that are commonly played.
  • Betting-Structure – Five card draw is commonly played both as a fixed-limit game and a no-limit game. There is no reason it could not be played with other betting structures also.
  • Triple Draw – Why draw once when you can draw three times? Triple draw is the same as single-draw apart from there are a total of 4-streets of betting as opposed to just 2. The triple draw variant is in some ways more similar to NLHE where we have a round of preflop betting followed by an additional 3 streets of betting. Players may find this variant more exciting since it's more likely that they successfully complete some of their draws.
  • Stripped Deck – Five-card draw is sometimes played with a stripped deck containing only the high-cards between Seven and Ace. It is also played with the cards ranging from Six to Ace. Since there are less cards of each suit the probability of making a flush goes down while the probability of making a full-house goes up. As a result it is common for a flush to beat a full-house in this variant.
  • 2-7 single/triple draw – This is the lowball version of 5-card draw. The action occurs in exactly the same way as the high-hand version of the game but hand strengths are measured using the the low-hand ranking system where the strongest hand is A,2,3,4,5.
Similar to stud there are a huge amount of additional variants that can be played. To name a few -
  • Acey Ducy – Same as regular 5-card draw for the most part. Players may draw 3 cards, four if they hold an Ace. At showdown Aces and Deuces are wild meaning they can be used as a substitute for any other card. So for example 56782 is actually a straight.
  • Assassin – At the discard stage if players discard any 2's (discard them face up), they will receive an extra card for a total of 6 or more. At showdown if a player has a two still in his hand he will automatically lose (unless everyone folds).
  • Red and Black – Same as regular 5-card-draw but with a different ranking system. Each card is assigned a number of points which is calculated into a total. Broadways are worth 10, Aces are worth 1, and every other card is worth its face value in points. However, red cards are worth a positive amount of points while black cards are worth a negative amount of points.
  • Ruin Your Neighbor – Before showdown each player must pass one card to the player on their left.
  • Trees – Instead of drawing as usual, players may trade cards with each other until no-one wants to trade anymore. No information may be given regarding the cards traded except for the number of cards up for trade. After trading is over the 2nd round of betting takes place, followed by the showdown.
  • Slippery Elmer – A variant with 3 betting rounds as opposed to 2 or 4 which are the most common. After the draw, players bet as normal. A card from the deck is placed face-up in the middle of the table to indicate which card will be treated as wild. Another round of betting takes place before the showdown.


In most 5-card draw games there will be enough cards for everyone depending on the number or players. However there is always the chance that there are simply not enough cards left in the deck for everyone to draw the amount of cards they would like. Players should continue to take off the deck until it is exhausted (although in some casinos the bottom card is not dealt just in case it has been seen by a certain player). 

Once the deck is depleted, the next player to draw can take his cards randomly from those discarded by previous players. The dealer will likely shuffle these cards, along with the bottom card of the deck (and any burn cards) to create a new deck from which players can draw their replacement cards.

In some cases to help avoid deck depletion players are only allowed to draw a certain number of cards. In some games players are allowed to draw three cards unless they hold an Ace where they are allowed to draw 4-cards.

Some casinos allow a 5-card draw but request the player initially draws only 4-cards and then receives his final card after all other players have completed their draw. Card depletion is more of an issue in home games where players are more likely to stick around for the draw. In higher level games more preflop folding occurs and card depletion is way less of an issue.

Why You Should Play 5-card Draw?

There is a reason why this was one of the most popular poker variants. It's a simple and fun game to learn, especially for non poker-players. Explaining no-limit-hold'em to a friend can be a little complex, whereas 5-card draw is extremely simple to grasp. It's an excellent game for learning how to read the strength of poker hands.

There is also some interesting psychology to the game of 5-card draw. While it may at first seem a very simple game where we try to draw strong hands, there is an element of hand-reading involved. While we may not see any cards to make deductions from, we do see how many cards our opponent draws each round which can help us to guess what type of hand he is holding. We also can attempt to misguide thinking opponents by the number of cards that we draw ourselves. 

Similar to NLHE we also want to spend time analyzing our opponents' actions and looking for trends. Perhaps he likes to bluff too much, or perhaps he never bluffs. This is information that we can exploit. 

Since 5-card draw is often played casually there are plenty of weak opponents whom we can take money from. Many of the lower limit games online are extremely passive. Most players try to limp preflop in order to see a flop, and we can exploit this, especially if we have position.

5-card Draw Tips

  • Don't poker planLimp. If you want to play a hand come in for a raise. The only exception is the small-blind where it is OK to complete and the big-blind where it is OK to check-back.
  • Be careful drawing to straights and flushes, we usually don't get the correct price
  • The most standard draw is to hold on to a pair and draw an additional 3 cards to make three-of-a-kind
  • The strength of our pair does matter. Be careful playing TTxxx and lower, these are referred to as β€œshorts”.
  • We should use the amount of cards our opponent draws to help us hand-read
  • Always take note of opponent's tendencies, do they like to bluff etc
  • Be mindful of position. We should open a much stronger range of hands from UTG than BTN.



I am of British nationality and go by the online alias w34z3l. I am considered one of the top consultants in the field for technical analysis (i.e. database work) and application of game theory concepts to various card games. I make a ... Read More


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