How to play 5-card draw Staff
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Posted on: October 20, 2022 6:07 pm EDT

Five-card draw is one of the most basic and simple poker variants, making it a perfect match for home games and video poker. If you’re a beginner and want to learn to play poker, five-card draw is also ideal for understanding the basic game mechanics and learning about hand rankings.

What is 5-card draw?

Five-card draw poker is a form of poker that you can play with a single 52-card deck and between two and five players. The goal of the game is to create the highest ranking poker hand made up of five-cards.

In five-card draw, the dealer gives each player a starting hand of five-cards. The players have to decide how many of their cards they want to keep and the number of cards they want to replace to try to improve their hand. Some house rules dictate how many cards you can replace from your starting hand.

There are no community cards in this poker variant and no one will see your hand until showdown (after the final round of betting).

Each game of five-card draw is relatively quick compared to other poker games because there are so few betting rounds and drawing rounds.

What are the rules of 5-card draw?

While the exact rules of five-card draw may vary based on where you play, these are the most common basic rules to follow.

Limits in 5-card draw

Just like in other poker games, there are betting rounds where each player must decide whether to fold, check, or raise. In five-card draw, house rules usually dictate limits, but it’s possible to play fixed limit, pot limit, and no limit games.

If you’re playing with fixed limits, you can only bet or raise based on predetermined fixed bets. These bets are called the small bet and the big bet. In pot limit, you can raise as much as you want as long as your raise is below the overall value of the pot. In no limit games, you can bet or raise as much as you want, from the amount of the previous bet to going all-in.

Blinds and antes

If you’re playing at home, you can define the betting structure according to your preference, but usually, you’ll play with blinds or with antes

If you’re playing with blinds, the player to the left of the dealer posts the predetermined small blind, and the player to their left plays the big blind before the starting hand is dealt. Each of the remaining players has to match the big blind after viewing their cards if they want to play.

When playing with antes, each player contributes the same amount to the pot before any cards are dealt. 

5-card draw hand values

The same poker hand rankings from most other poker card games apply in five-card draw. Remember that no particular suit offers better ranking than any other suit. Diamonds, hearts, spades, and clubs all have equal value.

Here are the hand rankings from highest to lowest:

Royal Flush

A royal flush consists of AKQJT of the same suit.

Straight Flush

A straight flush occurs when you have any five consecutive cards within the same suit.

Four of a Kind

Also called “quads,” a four of a kind hand has four cards of the same value and a fifth card of a different value. The fifth card is called the side card. The higher the value of the four matching cards, the higher the value of the hand.

Full House

A full house is made up of three matching cards and two matching cards.


A flush hand includes any five-cards of the same suit.


A straight includes five consecutive cards of any suit.

Three of a Kind

Also known as “trips,” three of a kind is a hand with three cards of the same value and two other side cards.

Two Pair

Two pair is when your hand contains two pairs and one side card.

One Pair

One pair is when only two of your cards have the same value with three remaining side cards.

High Card

High card refers to the highest ranking card in your hand when none of the other cards can combine to make a ranking hand.

How to play 5-card draw

Five-card draw is a fast game to play but it’s important to pay close attention to each betting round and dealing round to improve your odds of winning. 

Like all other poker variants, bluffing is an important part of the game. Winning isn’t just about having the best hand; it’s about staying in the game longer than your opponents. The more players exit the game before showdown, the higher your chance of winning.

Blinds and antes

Before the cards are dealt, blinds and antes go into the pot. If you’re playing with blinds, only the two players to the dealer’s left make forced bets. If you’re playing with antes, every player must contribute the predetermined forced bet to be included in the deal.

Starting hand

The dealer gives each player a starting hand of five-cards. Players can look at their hands.

First betting round

Each player has to evaluate their starting hand and decide if they want to check, call, raise, or fold. If no one has placed a bet, you can check, or choose to bet nothing and stay in the game. If anyone has placed a bet, the remaining players can only call, raise, or fold. 

When you call, this means you’re matching the bet before you. To raise means to increase the size of the bet. To fold means to bow out of the game and bet nothing.

Drawing round

If you’re happy with your starting hand and you don’t want to swap out any of your cards, you can choose to stand pat. Otherwise, each player places the cards they want to replace face down on the table and tells the dealer how many cards they need.

If you’re playing at home, you should decide ahead of time the maximum number of cards each player can replace in the drawing round.

Second round of betting

Each player looks at their new cards and bets based on the strength of their hand. Again, each player must check, call, raise, or fold.


As long as more than one player remains in the game, all remaining players must turn over their cards and reveal their hand. The highest ranking hand wins the full pot.

Developing a winning 5-card draw strategy

Just like with any style of poker, you’ll only get better at five-card draw the more you play it. When you’re still getting the hang of the game, there are a few important gameplay basics to keep in mind to increase your chances of success.

You don’t have to play every hand

Because the game moves quickly, you can easily run out of chips if you stay in when you don’t have high ranking cards. Remember that you don’t have to play every hand. If your starting hand doesn’t contain any consecutive, suited, or matching cards, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get a winning hand in the drawing round. Unless you’re a master at bluffing, it’s good to let the weak hands go and wait for your luck to improve.

If you’re staying in, be bold

The bolder you are with your bets, the bolder the bets after you will be. Players will either fold or help raise the value of the pot. The more players fold, the better your chances of winning.

Don’t create behavioral patterns

If you always bluff or only ever raise when you have a really high ranking hand, the other players will notice and change how they react to you at the table. In general, you want to avoid other players from being able to figure out your strategy. Whenever possible, adjust your approach to stay unpredictable as an opponent.

Keep your cards hidden when you fold

Showing your cards when you fold not only gives the remaining players a chance to guess what their opponents may have, but it also tells the other players a bit about your strategy. The only time you should ever show your cards is in the showdown.

What’s the difference between 5-card draw and 5-card stud?

If you’re new to poker, you may be confused by the similarly named five-card draw and five-card stud, but they are very different poker games.

Different betting structure and dealing rounds

Like five-card draw, five-card stud also uses a 52-card deck and features the same hand rankings, but the betting structure and dealing rounds are very different for five-card stud.

In five-card stud, there are five streets, or dealing rounds, with a betting round after each street. Only the very first card dealt to each player is face-down. The remaining cards are face-up. Because most of the cards are face up, players can get an idea of what they’re up against and wager or fold accordingly.

Slower pace

Because the cards are dealt one at a time with a betting round after each street, gameplay is a bit slower in five-card stud than in five-card draw.

The takeaway

Five-card draw poker is a popular game for a reason. It’s simple to learn the five-card draw rules and start playing friendly games at home or practicing via online video poker. This poker game is particularly ideal for beginners who want to practice building high ranking hands while gaining confidence with bluffing and betting.

Featured image source: Flickr by Poker Photos used under CC license