Five Card Draw is a conceptually simple poker variant and one that has been in existence from the early days of poker. It is a fun game, there are no open cards so the information available to players is limited to their own cards and whatever reads they can make on their opponentsusing live tells and betting patterns. It is a game where bluffing features frequently.
Five Card Draw is also half of the game Sviten Special, or Drawmaha. This game is gaining popularity in Europe and the United States as a fun, gambling game that is probably a long way away from being solveable. Learn how to play Pot Limit Sviten Special by buying my book from Amazon.
As well as the basic game of Five Card Draw there are some variants, each with their own twist to make an already interesting poker game a little different. So, let’s get on with learning how to play Five Card Draw.
Basic Rules and How to Play 5 Card Draw Poker
Here is an excellent video we at Pokerlistings have prepared to give a full and clear description of how the basic game of Five Card Draw is dealt and played.
Blinds or Antes?
Any poker hand must start with some forced betting, so the players have something to play for.
Antes are small bet amounts placed by every player who will be dealt into the hand. Each player pays the exact same amount and once the dealer has collected each person’s ante, they will deal the cards.
Blinds are also small bets and usually these are posted by the two players to the left of the dealer button. Typically, the player to the immediate left of the dealer button will post the smaller amount, known as the small blind, and the person to their left will post an amount usually exactly double the amount of the small blind and known, unsurprisingly, as the big blind. When the two blinds have been posted the dealer will leave the blind bets in front of the two players and pitch cards to the players.
Playing poker using blind bets is of course very familiar to anyone who has played the most popular poker game, No Limit Texas Hold Em!
The Initial Deal
After the forced bets, whether antes or blinds, the dealer will now start to give cards to the players. Cards are given face down one at a time starting with the player to the left of the dealer button and the dealer continues this process in a clockwise direction around the table until each player has five cards.
First Betting Round
Once the players have all their five cards they can then start to fight over the money in the pot! The first player to make a betting decision is the player to the left of the dealer button in an ante game or the first to the left of the big blind in a blind game.
When antes are used, the first player to act can opt to check – that is, make no betting action – or to bet. Every subsequent player, in a clockwise direction, can also check if there has been no bet placed by a player. If a bet has been made the next player can choose to fold by discarding their hand and taking no further part in this hand. If they prefer to continue in the hand, they can do so by calling the bet – that is, placing a bet that matches the amount of the original bet – or by raising the bet to a larger amount.
Note that in some cases where antes are used the house rule is that a player must have at least a pair of jacks to open the betting.
When blinds are used, the player to the left of the big blind will act first and can choose to fold, call or raise. Just like in Texas Hold Em.
The betting round continues until all players have either matched the amount of the last bet made or folded their cards. A further complication can arise if one player or more does not have enough money in front of them to match the biggest bet, in which case they can continue in the hand but will be considered “all in.” A more comprehensive breakdown of betting rules can be found in our article on how to play Texas Hold Em.
After the first betting round it is time for players to draw cards.
All players who have not folded their hands can now change cards. This process starts with the player to the left of the dealer button. They can choose to keep the five cards they already have – in other words to “stand pat” – or to change any number of cards from 1 to 5. There are some home games where the number of cards one can draw is limited to three: this protects the weaker players – it is never advisable to pay money to draw four or five cards!
The dealer will “burn” a card – place the top card of the deck face down, to take no part in anyone’s hand – then replace the player’s discards with a matching number of cards from the top of the remaining deck. This process is repeated for each player in a clockwise direction until each player has had their one and only chance to exchange cards.
Note that if the house rule is that the player must have a pair of jacks or better to open the betting, the player’s discards will be kept, face down, close to the player so they can be examined if challenged: they might break a pair to try to draw to a flush or straight, even though it is not a good tactic. If this rule is not in play the dealer will collect all the discards.
The Final Betting Round
Starting to the left of the dealer button, the players now have another, final, chance to bet on the strength of their hands. After that betting round, if only one person at the table has not folded their hand, they will be awarded the pot with no compulsion to show their cards. If at least two players have remained in the hand, there is now a showdown. The players show their cards and the person with the strongest holding according to the traditional ranking of poker hands will win the money in the pot.
The dealer button will move one seat to the left after the completion of the hand.
Here are a few tips to get you started with Five Card Draw:
- Don't play too many hands. Much like Hold'em the biggest mistake beginners make is getting in over their heads playing small pairs and drawing hands. For example, it can be tempting to pay to draw two cards to a flush, but this hand will be completed less than one in 40 attempts!
- Position is king. Again, much like Holdem position matters a lot in 5-Card Draw. It is not only about seeing how your opponent bets, but also seeing how many cards they draw.
- Come into pots with a raise rather than a limp. Giving the person in the big blind a free chance to draw cards is a huge mistake in this game.
- Avoid playing drawing hands unless you're in the blinds: even then, be careful not to pay too much. Drawing one card to a flush you will complete your hand only 19.1% of the time.
- If you have a pair, draw three cards. Draw two when you have 3-of-a-kind. Draw one when you have two pair.
A Few Variants of Five Card Draw
Five Card Draw poker with a “bug,” is popular in parts of the United States of America. This variant sees a joker added to the normal deck of cards, making a 53-card deck. The joker can be used as an ace, or to complete a straight or flush.
Example hands using a “bug:”
- J-J-5-5-bug is two pairs, jacks over fives, with an ace kicker.
- A 8 6 5 -bug is a flush, AK865 – as the ace is already present the bug acts as the highest card of the suit not in the hand.
- A-A-A-A-bug is five of a kind and this is the best possible hand in the game, even beating a straight flush.
Deuces Wild Variant
This variant is always of the type where the player must hold a pair of jacks or better to open the betting.
All the four deuces in the deck are wild cards and they can be used as any card required to complete their hand.
Example hands in deuces wild five card draw:
- A-A-A-2-2 is five of a kind, aces, and is the best possible hand in this game, beating a royal flush.
- A J 8 5 2 is a flush, AKJ85. The ace of hearts is already present in the player’s hand, and, in this variant, the wild card is used as the next highest-ranking card of a suit in completing a flush.
An unusual aspect to this game is that cards do not speak – the player must declare the value of their hand when showing down. This can mean that a player incorrectly declares the value of their hand and loses the hand as a result. For example:
- Player A declares “Aces full of fives” and shows down A-A-A-5-2. They have a hand that qualifies as four of a kind, aces, but incorrectly declared their hand and now they have only a full house!
- Player B correctly declares “Four of a kind, tens” and tables 10-10-10-7-2. They win the pot with four of a kind against a full house purely because Player A made the error.
Stripped Deck Variant
Five-card draw is sometimes played with a stripped deck, which means that some of the cards are removed from the standard 52-card deck. This variant is also known as "seven-to-ace" or "ace-to-seven" (abbreviated as A-7 or 7-A). It can be played by up to four players with cards of ranks ranging from 2 to 6 removed, leaving a 32-card deck. With five players, the sixes are added to make a 36-card deck. The deck thus contains only eight or nine different card ranks, compared to 13 in a standard deck. This affects the probabilities of making specific hands, so the ranking of hands at showdown is changed: a flush will beat a full house.
Still Looking for a New Following
Five-Card Stud is one of the last "dinosaur" games that has yet to catch a huge following online. While there are a few sites, like PokerStars, still spreading it operators have yet to find a way to popularize it like Five-Card Draw.
If you jump in a 5-Card Stud game online you'll find a strong but friendly community that will help you get the most from your playing time. You also stand a good chance of being the first in a new wave of players that love the game and bring it back to prominence!
If you like 5-Card Draw many popular casino table games draw on the basics of 5-Card Draw (see what we did there) so you might enjoy a punt or two playing games like Ultimate Hold'em, Pai Gow, Caribbean Stud or Video Poker.
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