One of the oldest poker forms still played today, 5 Card Draw Poker
is now found mostly in home games. With only two rounds of betting, 5 Card Draw has fallen out of favor with brick-and-mortar poker rooms
, and is a rarity among online poker sites
Due to the fact that each player's entire hand remains private until the showdown, 5 Card Draw Poker Strategy is limited to position, information gathered from the actions of opponents, a practical approach to starting hands, and deceptive behavior. With only one opportunity to improve upon the starting hand, players must employ all of these tactics in order to gain the upper-hand in this poker form.
The number of players at the table is an important consideration in Five Card Draw Poker Strategy. With more players, the chances of one or more opponents attaining a strong hand increases. Short-handed tables often result in fewer truly formidable hand values. In a game like 5 Card Draw Poker, heads-up play frequently results in high-card or a small pair winning the hand, if neither player is convinced to fold.
One of the most fundamental elements of 5 Card Draw Poker strategy (and any other poker game
strategy), is a keen awareness of position. A player's position at the poker table has a significant impact on how strong one's hand needs to be in order to open or raise the bet.
Early position - the first players to bet in the round - is the least advantageous position to be in. 5 Card Draw Poker strategy advises players in this position not to open the bet without a very strong hand. A high pair stands a fair chance, especially at a short-handed table, but does not necessarily warrant a raise. However, players who are among the first at the table to act possessing a drawing hand - an incomplete straight or flush - have a very low chance of actually hitting their hand, and therefore shouldn't pay for the draw. If a check gets bumped up to a full bet, folding would be the most prudent strategy to take. Essentially, players in early position would do well to utilize a very tight poker strategy.
Middle position - players halfway between the first to act and the last - should also proceed cautiously with weak starting hands, but a mid to low pair may be worth opening the bet if playing short-handed. The more opponents there are, the more likely it is that another player will have a stronger hand. If the hand fails to improve, only a good read on the other players in a small game would make staying in the hand potentially lucrative.
Late position - one of the last players to act in the betting round - is the ideal position for aggressive Five Card Draw Poker strategy. At this point, the late position player is equipped with knowledge the earlier players didn't have. One option, especially if none of the other players raise the bet beyond a single opening bet, is to raise confidently, and not take any cards (bluff a "pat" or "made" hand).
Another advantage of late position, especially on the dealer button, is the knowledge of how many cards each opponents exchange. A player exchanging three cards is likely holding a pair. A player - especially one in early position who placed a wager, that exchanges two cards from their hand could easily have a three-of-a-kind. If every player draws three or more cards, a "pat" hand bluff stands a good chance if opponents don't show signs of hitting the three-of-a-kind. However, players should be cautious against gaining a reputation for bluffing - particularly in home games - as this will significantly impair a player's ability to bluff successfully in the future.
Paying attention to opponent's betting habits, number of cards exchanged, and results will give a player greater insight into the actions of individual players over time. The few online poker
rooms that offer 5 Card Draw Poker will have a notes feature in which players can keep any pertinent information. If available, check the hand history
to ensure more detailed and accurate notations. The knowledge of which opponent's bluff or semi-bluff, can help a player spot the deceptions in the future, with lucrative rewards
In home games and live play, it is important to memorize these details. Live games allow players the opportunity to observe and learn to recognize informative tells. Most poker player's are not aware of the little gestures they perform that telegraph information about their hand. Accumulating knowledge of an opponent's physical tells will take time and diligent study, but is well worth the attention to detail.
Players should watch the eyes and eyebrows for motion, then watch how the hand plays out to be certain of what prompted a change in facial expression. Also, watch for any signs of anxiety; trembling hands, sweating, lip- or nail-biting, fidgeting, irregular breathing or anything out of the ordinary.
The strength of a 5 Card Draw Poker starting hand is determined first by table position. Knowledge of the habits and tendencies of the other players also has a tremendous impact on the strength of a player's hand. Finally, the cards dealt to a player in the first round of Five Card Draw Poker can have a significant influence over the outcome.
The best starting hand, obviously, is a pat hand; flush, four-of-a-kind, straight, or full house. With a pat hand, one has no need to draw a card to improve the hand. In the case of quads, one also has the opportunity to bluff a drawing hand - when another player is raising - by exchanging the extra card with a feigned look of doubt. However, a hand that requires no draw should be raised aggressively, as it will be difficult to get any more chips in the pot after the draw phase, unless an opponent has also acquired a pat hand.
Three-of-a-kind, or "trips", are very strong before the drawing phase. However, every opponent with a pair will also be drawing for the same. Therefore, a high three-of-a-kind may be required if it appears - based on betting patterns - that any opponent may have hit theirs'.
A hand of two pair seems very strong, but suffers the same vulnerability as a low set. The strength of this hand is dependent on the number of players in the hand. One pair, though not a strong starting hand, may be worth drawing to for the three-of-a-kind, but position is very important in order to gauge the strength of other players' hands after the draw.