Five-Card Draw: Rules, Strategies, & How to Play It Like a Pro

The five-card draw is a beginner-friendly variation of poker, as it’s simple and has straightforward rules. The game uses the standard 52-card deck and is played by two to five players; the goal is to create the highest-ranking poker hand, which is made up of five cards. 

This variation of poker is ideal for players who are just learning about hand variation, the game mechanics, and its rules. Our article will introduce you to the terms and strategies you should know if you want to play five-card draw poker successfully. 

Let’s dive in!

How to Play Five-Card Draw Poker

You can play five-card draw poker and improve your odds of winning by memorizing the basic rules of the game and the six stages that accompany it:

#1. Blinds and Antes

Blinds and antes are two main types of mandatory bets used when playing five-card draw online, in brick-and-mortar casinos, or at home. 

If a game of poker is played with blinds, the player to the left of the dealer will post the predetermined small blind, which is valued as half of the minimum bet for the poker table. The second player to the left must play the big blind, usually equal to the minimum bet size. Small and big blinds are two mandatory bets that help keep the game interesting.

If you are playing a game of poker with antes, every player will contribute the same amount of money to the pot before the cards are dealt. Antes are much smaller than the blinds, usually 10–15% of the big blind. 

#2. Starting Hand

The dealer gives five cards to each player, creating a starting hand. The cards are placed face down, and the players can look at their hands once the dealer finishes. This is a tell-tale sign of a five-card draw, as the only difference between it and another popular yet classic version of the game—stud poker—is in the way the cards are dealt. 

In the five-card draw version of the game, the entire hand remains concealed, while some cards are dealt face-up in stud poker. Keep this rule in mind when deciding whether to play five-card draw vs. stud, and you’ll be able to switch between the two games effortlessly. 

five-card draw from 10 of hearts, Jack of diamonds, Queen of spades. King of hearts and Ace of Clubs

#3. First Betting Round

The first betting round begins after the players evaluate their starting hand, after which they can take one of four actions:

  1. Check: a player decides to refrain from betting when it’s their turn to act. 
  2. Call: a player matches the bet made before them.
  3. Raise: a player increases the size of the bet.
  4. Fold: a player bows out of the game and bets nothing.

The check action is only an option when no one has placed a bet. After a bet is placed, the remaining players can only call, raise, or fold. 

#4. Drawing Round

The player can either stand pat or replace some cards during the drawing round. 

Players who stand pat are happy with their cards and don’t intend to swap any of them. However, if a player believes they could form a better hand, they can place all the cards they want to replace on the table. The dealer will then give them new ones face down. 

#5. Second Round of Betting

The second betting round can begin once every player has a new hand. Each player will take a look at their hand, judge its strength, and decide whether to check, call, raise, or fold. 

#6. Showdown 

By the time the showdown comes, only one or two players could still be in the game. All the remaining players must reveal their hands by turning over the cards, and the player who has the strongest hand will win the full pot

Five-Card Draw Rankings

Poker is all about the strength of your hand, so it’s essential to have a good understanding of five-card draw rankings. You can spot the value of the hand you’ve been dealt with the necessary knowledge so you will be able to make the best decisions. 

The standard rankings usually apply to all variations of the game. Therefore, here are the hand rankings you want to keep in mind when playing Texas Hold’em, five-card draw, or video poker:

  • Royal Flush: As the strongest of all five-card draw hands, Royal Flush contains 10, J, Q, K, and A cards, all from the same suit. 
  • Straight Flush: This hand entails five cards in numerical order—such as 4, 5, 6, 7, 8—all from the same suit.
  • Four of a Kind: This hand contains four cards of the same value, such as 5 Diamonds, 5 Clubs, 5 Spades, and 5 Hearts. 
  • Full House: One of the most talked-about hands in the history of poker, full house, contains three cards of a kind together with a pair, such as three 7s and two Kings. 
  • Flush: In this hand, you have five cards from the same suit, such as 3, 5, 7, 9, and King of Spades. 
  • Straight: Players who have this hand have five cards in numerical order, and the suit is irrelevant. 
  • Three of a Kind: With this hand, players have three cards of the same value and two unrelated ones. 
  • Two Pair: This hand includes two individual pairs of cards and one unrelated card. 
  • Pair: Players who are dealt this hand have two matching cards and three unrelated ones.
  • High Card: Also known as no pair, this hand doesn’t fall into any other category—thus, it’s the weakest hand in poker. 

4 Basic Five-Card Draw Strategies

While the only way to become a master at this game is to play it frequently, there are some basic five-card draw strategies that you’ll want to implement in your gameplay right away, including:  

Don’t Play Every Hand

Players should remember that they don’t have to play every hand, as the chances of them winning are weak if they don’t have high-ranking cards. Therefore, learn how to let go of weak hands, and you won’t risk spending your entire bankroll early on in the game. 

Be Bold With Your Bets

Being bold with your bets can inspire the players after you to be just as brave and raise the stakes themselves. Therefore, not only will a significant bet raise the value of the pot, but it will also force many players with weaker hands to graciously fold, following good poker etiquette. Your chances of winning go up with every player who folds.

Don’t Create Patterns

Creating behavioral patterns will make it easy for other players to anticipate your next move. Bluffing is a big part of poker, but you will become a predictable opponent if you always rely on it. 

Keep Your Cards Hidden

As a player, you must keep your cards hidden when you fold and never show them before the showdown. Experienced players will be able to get insights into your five-card draw strategy once you reveal your hand, and they might also be able to guess which cards are in the hands of their opponents. 

hidding Ace of Hearts while 10 of spades is is shown

2 Advanced Five-Card Draw Strategies

Since poker is a game of psychology and behavior, as much as it is a game of skill, the two advanced five-card draw strategies have everything to do with assessing other players and calling their bluff. 

Study Your Opponents

Studying your opponents and their idiosyncrasies will help you understand how a player is inclined to act in certain situations. 

If you plan on playing the 5-card game online, it will be extra hard to assess your opponents. But as long as you observe how they play, keep an eye on what they do in specific situations, and read into statistical play, you should get a good grasp of their strategy, if they have any.

Know When to Bluff

All poker players will have to learn how and when to bluff, which they usually do through trial and error. For example, many players will discard three cards when holding a single pair. But every now and then, it’s a good idea to shake things up and deviate from the basic five-card draw rules. Discarding only two cards when you only have one pair will deceive your opponents, and they will think you have a stronger hand than you actually have

5 Common Mistakes When Playing Five-Card Draw Poker

Here are the top five mistakes you need to avoid when playing five-card draw poker, as that will give you an upper hand and increase your winning chances:

#1. Drawing Too Many Cards

Drawing too many cards is possibly the biggest mistake beginners make, and it results in them getting way in over their heads. For example, many players will be tempted to pay to draw two cards to a flush; however, the odds of completing this hand are one in forty, so your chances of winning are low.

#2. Overvaluing Hands

Even if you have a good understanding of the five-card draw rankings, you can still end up overvaluing hands. For example, many new poker players tend to overvalue suited hands. They are stronger than their offsuit counterparts, but that’s still not a good enough reason to play every suited hand you get. 

If you do so in the hopes of hitting a flush, you will only accumulate losses over time and tank your bankroll. 

#3. Playing Too Many Hands

Playing far too many hands is a mistake that many new poker players make, especially when they try to draw to a straight or a flush. Usually, it’s better to abandon a hand when you are not sure of its strength than throw money after it. 

#4. Slowplaying Strong Hands

Slowplaying a strong hand is the act of playing passively with the purpose of concealing the strength of your hand. If you have a really strong hand—we are talking about the Royal Flush and Straight Flush—it’s better to put as much money into the pot as you can afford. 

This isn’t a situation in which you should decide against making a bet, as you have great chances of making money from online poker with such strong hands.

#5. Playing Against the Pros

Newbies to five-card draw poker will only set themselves up for failure by playing against the pros. You shouldn’t rely on beginner’s luck when money is on the line. Most beginners are prone to passive gameplay, so they will be checking and calling instead of betting and raising, which is a safer strategy for newbies. 

Key Takeaways

Five-card draw is one of the earliest variants of poker, and it captures the beauty of this classic game without introducing any complicated rules and twists. It’s usually the game of choice for many newcomers to the online gambling community, but its simplicity and dynamics attract experienced players, as well.

You can up your chances of winning by developing a solid strategy and making a conscious effort to avoid the common mistakes inexperienced players tend to make. Our article will serve as a good starting point, and you can deepen your knowledge of the game as you play. 

Five-Card Draw FAQ

#1. How many cards can you exchange in a five-card draw?

Each player can exchange up to three cards in a five-card draw game. However, some casinos have rules that will allow you to replace all five if you want. 

#2. What is the best starting hand in a five-card draw?

Royal Flush is the best starting hand in a five-card draw game. That being said, there’s a very low chance of being dealt this combination, as the odds are 1 in 649,740.

#3. Do people still play five-card draw?

People still play five-card draw, but this version has become more popular in home settings. Texas Hold’em is nowadays the most popular version of poker in online casinos. 

#4. Is Ace high in five-card draw?

Yes, the Ace is the highest card in value in five-card draw. The most valuable cards after it are King, Queen, and Jack. 

Gordon Dyke

Poker Expert

Gordon Dyke has served as our poker expert since 2017. Gordon has been playing poker professionally and recreationally for nearly two decades.