How to Play Draw Poker

Draw poker is far behind other poker games, like No Limit Texas Hold’em or Pot Limit Omaha, in popularity. You’ll have a hard time finding a draw poker game in your local casino. However, there is one thing about this game that makes it very significant for every poker fan: 5-Card Draw is the oldest poker game.

In the early 1800’s, in the New Orleans area, this was the first card game that was referred to as “poker”. It was originally played with a 20-card deck. Only the 10’s, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces were included of the four suits.

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Also, straights and flushes didn’t count as made hands at the time. The Royal Flush wasn’t the best hand you could make. It was Quad Aces. Early mentions of poker in literature are filled with stories about four Kings running into four Aces. Even Mark Twain wrote a short story about a “cooler” like that. The story is titled “The Professor’s Yarn”.

These days, 5-Card Draw is rarely played. The World Series of Poker doesn’t even feature it in any of its events on their schedule. The most commonly played draw poker game nowadays is 2-7 Triple Draw.

First, let’s see how to play the oldest poker game, 5-Card Draw.

Each player gets dealt 5 cards face down. The player to the left of the button has to post the small blind, while the player to the left of the small blind must post the big blind.

After each player looks at their hands, a betting round follows. The first player to act is to the left of the big blind. 5-Card Draw is usually played with fixed betting limits.

If a bet is made, a player must call the bet in order to stay in the hand. They also have the option to raise. If at least one player calls the last bet, the play continues. If no-one calls a bet or a raise, the last aggressor takes the pot.

If at least two players remain in the hand after the first betting round, a drawing round takes place. Each player has the option to discard any number of their 5 cards and draw new ones instead. They can also choose to not discard any. This is what draw poker players refer to as “standing pat”.

standing pat

After the drawing round, a second and last betting round takes place. If there’s at least two players still in the game, it’s time for the showdown. At showdown, the standard Hold’em hand ranking applies.

5-Card Draw doesn’t allow for that much strategic leeway for players. Perhaps that’s why it fell so far down the poker popularity list. All you can do is put your opponent on a range based on their betting patterns and how many cards they discarded. Generally, the players who discard more cards tend to be weaker.

Players can also exploit this notion. Sometimes, you can not draw any new cards despite having a weak hand. Then, you can bet aggressively as a bluff. This tricky play is called “snowing”.

2-7 Triple Draw is a draw poker game that is now way more commonly played than the 5-Card single draw variety, despite having emerged much later. Much of the game play is the same.

In this game, you also get 5 cards dealt face down. Two players have to post the small blind and the big blind too, and this is also usually played with betting limits. However, instead of one drawing round, you get to draw three times.

At showdown, the inverted version of the Hold’em hand ranking counts. This is also called “Kansas city rules” among lowball games.

The player who has the lowest hand wins. The Ace is always counted as a high card, and flushes and straights count as made hands. In other words, whoever would lose in a Hold’em hand, wins in this game. The best possible hand is 23457, also known as “the wheel”. This term means other things in different games.

In 2-7 Triple Draw, a strong strategy counts a bit more than in “regular” 5-Card Draw poker. Because of the hand ranking, low cards are very valuable. Therefore, blockers become more relevant.

This is especially beneficial for you if you have paired your low cards. If you have two 4’s, for example, you have a weak showdown hand. However, it makes it less likely that your opponent has a 4, since two of them are now removed from the deck. A 4 is very important to make a strong low hand. Thus, this gives you a great opportunity for a bluff.

Hope you enjoyed our article about draw poker. If you wish to learn about other poker game types as well, visit