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A Beginner's Guide On How To Play Draw Poker

How do you play draw poker?

People have played draw poker since the early nineteenth century. It’s a diverse game that lets players focus on both the gambling and strategy side of poker. There are many variants, but the basics of how you play draw poker remain the same in every game. Below we explain why it’s called draw poker, how you can play it, and who the game is suitable for.  

How do you play draw poker?

Draw poker takes its name from players being able to replace cards throughout rounds of betting – players do this by ‘drawing’ a new card or cards.

Games are often between two and eight people and use a dealer to issue the cards, along with keeping control of the gameplay. Betting in draw poker is made to the left of the dealer and there are a pre-defined number of rounds (sometimes called streets) in which bets can be placed.

The object of draw poker is to win by having the best hand, the value of hands depends on the variant that you play. Read on to discover how you can play the most popular version of draw poker – five-card draw.

How do you play five-card draw poker?

The most popular of all draw poker games, five-card draw is played between two and eight players and is the basis for the video poker games found at top-ranked online casinos.

At the start of the game, players are dealt five face-down cards. After this, each person is given the option to draw or to stick with the cards they have – if a player does decide to draw, they can replace any number of their cards (from one to five).

There is a total of four rounds of betting in draw poker:

  1. Opening round: Players are dealt five cards

  2. The draw round: People can draw new cards

  3. After the draw: Players are given their new cards

  4. Showdown: The winner is the person with the best hand

The strength of hands in five-card draw is the same as Texas hold’em, with a royal flush being the best hand and high card the worst.


Strength of hands in five-card draw & pre-draw odds

  1. Royal flush: 0.001%

  2. Straight flush (excluding royal flush): 0.002%

  3. Four of a kind: 0.02%

  4. Full house: 0.14%

  5. Flush (not including straight flush and royal flush): 0.20%

  6. Straight (not including straight flush and royal flush): 0.39%

  7. Three of a kind: 2.11%

  8. Two pair: 4.75%

  9. One pair: 42.30%

  10. High card/no pair: 50.10%

How to play popular versions of draw poker

Gardena jackpots

Played using the same rules as five-card draw, but with an important exception – one joker is added to the game and used as a bug (a wildcard).

California lowball

Calfornia lowball adopts the same rules as Gardena jackpots (using a Jack as a bug), but with ace-to-five low used for the hand values.

Kansas City lowball

Another lowball game, this draw poker variant doesn’t include a joker and uses deuce-to-seven low as the hand values.

How is draw poker different to other types of poker?

There are three main types of poker – draw, stud, and community. While there are many differences between the three (particularly when you consider their different variations), the simplest way to understand them is in how the cards are dealt and used.

  • Community poker: Some cards are shared between players

  • Stud poker: Players receive a combination of face-up and face-down cards

  • Draw poker: Cards are dealt face-down at the start of the first street of betting

Though draw poker deals a set of cards before betting commences, players do not have to keep hold of the same cards throughout the game – they are allowed to discard cards they don’t want and replace them with newly dealt cards.

Discarding cards is an important difference between how you play draw poker and the other types of poker. This is because players can choose to change the strength of their hands in draw poker, whereas hands in stud and community simply become stronger or weaker.

Is draw poker difficult for beginners to play?

One of the great reasons to play draw poker is that it allows you to alter the strength of your hand, giving you greater control over the game. The benefit of this is that it can make for a more fluid and engaging game, as you don’t have to sit waiting until you get a good hand. However, the downside is that it can make the game more complicated – because you need to make more decisions while you play.

Due to the added decision-making involved in the games, some people believe that draw poker is more difficult for beginners to play. What this does mean is that draw poker is popular among more experienced gamblers, as it gives them a chance to test their in-game play in a way that other alternative versions of poker don’t offer.

However, much depends on the variant of draw poker that you decide to play – some games are played slightly differently to others, but follow the basic principle of players receiving their cards face-down at the start of the game and then having the option to keep or discard them. This makes draw poker suitable for a wide range of skill levels.

Draw poker is so called because players are allowed to ‘draw’ cards from the deck to replace those they have been dealt. While this can make draw poker a more involved form of poker than stud or community, it adds something extra to the game which will really appeal to tactically-minded gamblers.

But draw poker isn’t only great for strategic players – being able to replace your cards adds another element of risk and danger the game, so if you like the gambling element of poker then draw is ideal for you.

While we’ve explained how to play draw poker, we’ve only covered a few of the great games that it covers. Once you tried the variants we’ve recommended, do a bit of research and try out some of the types of draw poker – Anaconda (‘Pass The Trash’) is a real treat!

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