5 Card Draw , Rules, Hands, And Strategy

Date:2023-03-14 Category: Games

5 card draw is the simplest form of poker, and chances are you already know the basics, but if you don’t, no worries because I got your back. This is the good old classic draw poker variant and is really iconic with the old wild west. It used to be played by Cowboys, outlaw miners, and all sorts of wild folks who populated the wild west. The game is mainly played in the home setting and its popularity is overtaken by Texas Hold’em and Omaha poker. However, there are still plenty of five-card draw fans around the world, especially, among online poker players. You can easily find several online poker sites offering five card draw cash games and even tournaments.


So, just keep reading to find out all you need to get into the fun of this game.


Old Is Gold

Cantrell draw or simply five-card draw is the most basic and simple poker version and the basis for video poker. For this reason, often, it is the first variant learned by new players, including me! The game was a manliness and toughness symbol where players took real pride in their poker skills. It was played on riverboats in New Orleans and ran all the way up the Mississippi River. Did you know that Bill Hickok, the legendary western folk hero, was shot dead while playing 5 card draw?! The game used to be very popular in Asia, Europe, and the United States. But that was all until Texas Hold’em came along and kind of relegated it into a side game.

Today, the five-card draw is typically played at friend gatherings at home, and not all online casinos offer cash games and tournaments. However, several legit online casinos offer five-card draw games.

The old version of the game included only one round of betting and was played using a deck of 20 cards- cards ranking from 10 to ace in the four suits. Players were given five face-down cards to play and bet with. No draw was involved and the only combinations you could get were three of a kind, one pair, two pair, four of a  kind, and a full house. The best hand in this old version of the game was four aces or four kings with an ace kicker.

Due to the limited number of cards, no changing of cards was possible- players could not draw or discard cards. The game started to lose its popularity because the game felt somehow boring. It needed some changes and elements of risk to spice up the game. So, in the 1820s, when a full deck of cards was introduced, more players could join the table and play a hand.

More cards to play, the possibility of drawing cards, and more betting rounds made the game even more popular. Not long after, a flush and a straight two rankings hands were added and caused the game’s popularity to boom.


5 Card Draw Rules And Odds

This game is a great way to introduce a newcomer to the poker game. Like most poker games, 5 card draw utilizes the standard hand ranking system that goes like this:

Before I get into the details of the game, let’s do some math together and see the odds associated with getting each hand in this game:

Five Card Draw Math
Poker hand Pre-Draw Odds
Royal flush


 Less than 0.001%
Straight flush (excluding royal flush)


 Less than 0.002%


Four of a kind




Full house 0.14%


Flush 0.20%






Three of a kind 2.11%


Two pair




One pair




No pair or High Card 50.10%


Well, there are big differences between this version and the classic more popular variant, Texas Hold’em. In fact, the big difference is at the beginning of the game. In Texas Hold’em, you have to place forced blind bets. On the other hand, to play a particular hand in 5 card draw, you have to provide a mandatory bet called an ante. These antes can vary in value. At some tables, it will be $1, at some others, it may be $2, etc. It depends on which poker table or online game you are playing. In family situations, you can play with chips and small units like pennies or nickels.

All right, now the BIGGEST difference between the two games is that in 5 card draw, there is no community pool of cards. In fact, in this game, you are restricted to the cards that were dealt to you and no additional help is coming!!

So, how the game works? Well, players take the 5 cards and then, through a series of rounds, make bets and get rid of some cards to improve the strength of their hands.


Five Card Draw Gameplay

The order of play is divided into four, and there are four rounds in a 5 card draw game:

  1. 1st betting round
  2. Drawing round
  3. 2nd round of betting
  4. Showdown

Obviously, the game begins with the first betting round. After that first betting round, you go to a draw round. In this round, players are entitled to relinquish some of their cards in exchange for new cards. Then, after these new rounds of cards have been dealt out and your hands have hopefully improved, there is a second round of betting. In the end, the game goes to a showdown with the players remaining, the best hand wins and takes all.The actions in every round are practically the same as in Texas Hold’em where you can:

Betting Actions in Five Card Draw Rounds
Check If no one places a bet before you, you can check. This means you can keep your cards and pass the action to the next player.
Call Is to match a bet or raise which is already on the table.
Raise Is to increase the amount of pot. You simply increase your bet.
Fold You throw your cards on the table and you’re out for that round. You should throw your cards face-down.


But in 5 card draw, if everyone checks in the first round of betting, an additional ante automatically will be added to the pot from each player.

In five-card draw first round of betting, there are the following possibilities for the players to place their bets:

  1. Every player pays an ante before they receive cards. Typically, players play by this method in home games.
  2. Similar to Hold’em and Omaha, players play with a small blind and a big blind.

The draw round is where things get really interesting and is really the heart of the game and the reason that makes this particular variation of Poker unique. At this stage, you can ask the dealer to replace a number of your cards in your hand. You get to choose which of those cards to replace and how many. Then, you give those cards to the dealer -face down to not reveal what you’ve given away. Then the dealer will give you the same number of cards back, hopefully improving your hand overall.

You’re not actually obligated to draw any new cards if you are happy with the five cards given to you initially by the dealer. So, you may decline the option and this is typically known as a standing pat. The number of cards you can draw is usually a maximum of three. But I have seen a few variations of the game in my life where they have increased the limit to four if the fifth card happens to be an ace or so-called wild card in those particular situations (more on that later). Sometimes, there is no limit to how many cards you can draw and you could flush your entire hand and get five new cards. This really depends on the variations you play and what kind of rules the dealer puts into play.

Beyond that, there are three different betting structures in terms of limits in five card draw, and when you are playing at home, you can decide to play with which structure (this means it is not mandatory!):

Five Card Draw Betting Structures(Limits)
Fixed limit There is a minimum and maximum for bets. The Min&Max limits can vary in the initial and second rounds of betting.
No limit Obvious enough! There is no limit to your betting.
Pot Limit No one can place a bet greater than what is already in the pot.


After the draw round where you have drawn your cards, there is a second and final round of betting.

This round starts with the same person as 1st round (the player that is directly positioned left of the dealer) and follows the same protocol.

After the 2nd round, you have the good old showdown with remaining players in the hand, and as I have said, the winner takes all. Now, who won?! The player who made the last big action will show his hand first. Then, the second player shows his hand and the winner takes the pot. At this time, another interesting aspect of the game comes into play. If the second player admits defeat verbally, he can choose to never turn his face cards up. No one will know if he was bluffing the whole time😜. Mystery adds to the fun of the game 😉.

Now, let’s get wild with the wild cards. (¬‿¬)

Here we come to the extra element of surprise and strategy of this game. Most poker lovers do not like to play with wild cards but in many games, like five card draw, some cards may be used as wild cards.

There is no standard or rule for designating cards as wild cards. A card of any rank or suit can be designated as a wild card. For example, a fifth queen or the other card you need to combine with your other four cards to form a flush or straight hand.

Wild cards aim to increase the chances of making rare combinations like a straight flush. Typically, the Joker, the Deuces, and the Bug are assigned as wild cards. In Draw Poker, like 5 card draw, the wild card would be the lowest in a player’s hand. In this case, every card of that rank in that player’s hand will be wild. But there is a trick here. If specific card is wild in your hand, this does not mean the same card is wild in other players’ hands, too. Remember, if you play at home, you can decide whether to play with wild cards or not.


5 Card Draw Strategy

It is very easy to learn the gameplay and rules of five card draw. However, it needs time, effort, and practice to master the game and go from a newbie five-card draw player to a pro. Also, it is always advised to play according to the basic strategy.

The best way to practice what you learned is by playing free online games. Then, when you are confident enough about your knowledge and skills, you can start small and play for real money. It is a good idea to check 888 Casino.

As I have said, no community pool like Texas Hold’em is in this game. The advantage of a game like Texas Hold’em is that I can see in that community pool and essentially start mathematically thinking about possible hands that my opponent could be holding. If I don’t see three hearts or three diamonds or whatever in the community pool, I know that there is exactly a 0% chance that my opponent has a flush. Also, if I see aces or whatever in the community pool, I know there is a possibility that they’re going to have a pair of aces or so on. But the 5 card draw is basically a game of chance and not really a game of skill. You still have to have a strong mathematical understanding, though. This means you better go for those hands that are more mathematically possible than just massively powerful in the hierarchy of poker hand ranks. I believe that it’s better to stick with a small pair or two pair than to try to go for a flush or a straight. The other big component of strategy when it comes to 5 card draw is understanding body language, verbal and nonverbal cues, and identifying when someone potentially could be bluffing. This game is a big bluffers game. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to push large sums of chips forward unless you actually hold a solid hand.

So, guys, that’s pretty much it as far as strategy goes. This is a game in which you should rely on your wits and perception.


What To Discard In Five Card Draw?

A pro knows what to discard. In other words, knowing what cards to give up during the draw round is what makes you a pro five card draw player.

On a basic level, consider the following:

What You Hold What You Should Do
One pair Draw three cards
Two pair Draw one card
Three-of-a-kind Draw two cards


How Do You Win 5 Card Draw; Pro Tips

I have given you the ultimate strategies for playing this game. Yet, there are more tips to help you increase your chances of winning:

☠Even if you have folded, never reveal your cards. In this game, cards are secret! However, this is a general poker tip. If you reveal your cards, other players can easily deduce what other cards are likely on the table and when you fold or not. So, never forget to keep your cards a secret. Trust me! If you don’t have to reveal something, just  don’t do it.

😐Practice your poker face! This is also a general poker tip. Keep your face and body language unreadable. If you can’t help it, just fake them out! Remember, you should practice reading others well, but others should not read you.

😎Change your betting and drawing style. Betting in this game is pretty straightforward. For the sake of unpredictability, sometimes bet while having a terrible hand, and sometimes don’t. Sometimes go crazy( not crazy crazy,though!) and raise, and sometimes fold easily. Once in a while, call when you should’ve raised, etc. In addition, remember that the number of cards you draw helps other players to deduce your hand. For example, if you draw one card, your opponent would think you have two pair or you are going to get a flush. For this reason, drawing cards can be a strategy. Use it wisely.

📚Educate yourself about the table limits and rules before getting into the game. Trust me again! This is so important because you don’t want to just throw yourself in the middle of an unknown!


To Sum It Up

Although 5 Card Draw is an old game that is no longer as popular in mainstream poker circles, this doesn’t make it any less fun to play. If you’re looking for a way to add some flavor to your home games, this is the best option. In addition, if your primary poker goals are more of financial nature, this variant is still a good idea. Because even on smaller and lesser-known sites, good online five-card draw games are available.


After all, give yourself a break from Texas Hold’em every now and again!


Joe - Poker Player

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