September 29, 2021 14 min read


Best 5 Card Draw Poker Strategies That Work In 2024

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As you can imagine, there are many variations of poker out there. Some are more popular than others, and the game of poker has lived on. 5 Card Draw Poker is no exception, and while you won’t find as much competitive action around this iteration of the game, it’s certainly one of the best poker titles you can ever try.

In fact, 5 Draw is a great way to start learning about the game, as the table limits are usually small, and you have slightly fewer things to look out for. In our 5 Card Draw strategy guide, we will help you find out more about how the game is played and what a good methodology to follow for real money poker is.

5 Card Draw Poker: How to Play and Basic Rules

As you can imagine, each game of poker follows roughly the same rules. There is a pot that every player is trying to claim, and then you have combinations of cards known as hands. The player with the best hand will naturally claim the pot, which can be a pretty substantial amount depending on how the game goes.

So, how does a game of 5 Card Draw actually play out? Before the game can start, you are asked to add something to the pot known as the ante. The ante is an amount that each player has to contribute, outside of bets, to create the pot, and incentivize more people into joining.

Beginning of the Game

The game can be played with 2-6 players, so you cannot have the same number of people as Texas Hold’em, Omaha, or Seven Card Stud. Five Card starts with one player being assigned as the dealer and the player next to them, known as the small blind.

A spot from the small blind, you have the big blind. Both are forced to pay obligatory bets, usually $1 and $2 respectively, to start the game. Then cards are dealt. Each player gets five cards, and a round of betting begins, during which players have three options:

  • Call
  • Raise
  • Fold

You may ask – can’t you simply Check? No, this is not possible on your first round of betting in Five Card Draw as you already have a big blind, so you will have to at least call. Once the betting rounds finish, each player can discard as many cards from their hand as they want to. They are then dealt as many cards as they have discarded to replenish the five-card hand.

Second Betting Round & Showdown

The second betting round is actually the final betting round. It follows pretty much the same logic. You have the blinds all locked in, but no cards are discarded and dealt again so make sure you understand that. If there are at least two players standing after this betting round, the game progresses to a showdown when all cards are put down on the table, and the player with the best hand wins.

But what’s the best hand that you can hope for? Five Card Draw follows the same logic as most poker games. You have the Royal Flush sitting at the top with the rest of the hands ranked completely as in Texas Hold’em or even Seven Card Stud. So, settling on a winner should be absolutely no trouble at all.

It’s important to note that most Five Card Draw poker games are fixed limits, which is not all bad news since that offers the least financial risk to players.

Five Card Draw Poker Strategy: Let’s Start Simple

Five Card is once again a game of imperfect information, but there are many things that you can look out for, which determine its skill-based nature. For starters, you will be able to know which cards you have discarded, giving you a good idea of what is – or may still be in the deck.

Played with a standard 52-card deck, the odds are not too difficult to calculate, and over time you ought to develop a “gut feeling,” which alone is not enough, but it can get you a good idea of what to expect up to an extent. Let’s start with some basic pieces of advice that may help you make more hands win.

Good Hands to Start within Five Card Stud

There is one specific rule about Five Card Stud that is particularly important. It basically says that the better your starting hand is, the better your chances of improving your position and realizing a strong hand in the second betting round is. Conversely, if you open with a poor hand, your chances of drawing a stronger one diminish.

Sure, you have five cards that you can discard and draw new ones, but this would not necessarily result in a stronger hand. Just to the contrary, you may be putting yourself in an unfavorable position.

Plus, if you discard all five cards in your hand, that will signal to other players that you are not able to pull off any big play, giving opponents a reason to press you and force you to either call them or fold, either way forfeiting what you have deposited to the pot.

The good news is that there is some conventional wisdom to this version of poker, and you do have strong opening hands. Pair of aces or better as the opening hand is usually a great way to start. There are other strong openers that will help you move your play along and feel a little more confident when sitting down at a 5 Card Draw table. Pairs are generally good opening hands.

Stick to a Great Hand, the Odds Favor You

So, here’s the deal. Texas Hold’em may stretch the betting rounds across several streets, but 5 Card Draw is a little more simple in nature. This poker variant has only two betting rounds and a single draw, and as such, you probably think that your opening hand has a lot to do with your actual chances of success.

Well, you are not wrong. A good hand will usually hold up, simply because the chances of a player hitting a 3 of a kind of beating you are not too hard to calculate when you can use the information already on the table, and that is many cards any way you look at it. Better yet, you may hit that 3 of a kind yourself.

Plan How You Will Play Your Hand Now

It’s important to have a starting plan. Now, plans are infamous for going awry, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one. Once you see your hand and the kicker cards of all the rest of the players, you will have some information to act on.

What are you trying to achieve here? Are you hoping to get a three of a kind or a pair? What is your position, and how does it affect your betting? Does your starting hand feel confident enough for you to pursue a more aggressive play?

A lot is actually revealed when you see how players raise, check or call a bet, as that will immediately reflect on what hands they have and what their betting options are. Ultimately having a poker plan is always smart, and that is what wins the pot in most cases.

Even a shorthand can be channeled into a strong play if you read the table and your opponents right when you play poker.

Dont’Play Too Many Hands

Just like any other version of poker, you don’t want to be playing too many hands, to begin with. After all, you know that much of your strategy will pivot on what cards you get in the very first round. Your betting will then signal strength or weakness.

You want to create the impression in your opponents that when you play, you are acting on a strong hand and that your five cards are indeed enough to get you ahead in the rounds. Every player has a strategy but just like Omaha and Hold’em, the most experienced players will hold on to their chips and not play them on a whim.

After all, what if the other player is betting not on chance or wishful thinking but has actual cards that would help him or her beat you in the round?

Should You Limp in Five Draw?

Much like in other poker versions, you have blinds that will reveal much about your hand to your opponents. Generally speaking, limping is never considered a great idea in Texas Hold’em, for example, but 5 Draw Card poker may be a slightly different thing altogether.

To put it this way, limping is a great way to bluff your opponents, but we will touch on this in a moment. Basically, limping tells opponents – this player doesn’t really have a good hand to play. I will check what my hand is and act on that.

But why is limping so bad when playing any version of poker? Well, it really comes down to the question: Why would you play a bad hand when you can just skip, leaving matters to chance?

So, no – limping probably isn’t your best bet there. You want to focus on a more sustained pace of play that allows you to easily claim a share of the pot and not depend on the luck of the draw. Then again, there is the limp bluff you can play to trick players into contributing to the pot.

Study Your Opponents Whether It’s Online or In-Person

Like all poker games, Five Card Draw is a game of statistics and knowledge. Therefore, reading your opponents and their idiosyncracies will bring you great advantages. Now, you can’t really expect to have a cinematic-like prescience into what the other person is doing, but you don’t need that Hollywood gimmicks to actually understand how a player is inclined to play on certain occasions.

Generally speaking, players will be of two types – passive and aggressive. They can come from any skill level therein, but you can quickly figure out what an opponent is going to play and what style they are going to assume against you and the rest of the table. Knowing what to expect will allow you to narrow down the unknowns and focus on the game.

When playing against another person over the Internet, you will want to observe how they play and what they do in specific situations. It’s easy to spot someone who likes to bluff even when the cards are not there to suggest anything of the sort. Reading into statistical plays will give you an idea of how to respond to certain situations.

Truthfully, though, reading your opponents is an important skill that will mostly apply to your in-person games. The more you play, the more you will familiarize yourself with how 5 Card Draw opponents tend to react to certain cues. The bottom line is that we are only human and whether we do so consciously or unwittingly, we tend to follow certain patterns that can be a bit of a giveaway at the poker table!

Manage Your Money and Bankroll

Your long-term success at the poker tables will depend on not just reading well into your opponents or having a plan for each hand. It’s about how you manage your money regardless of whether you start in an early position or on the right hand of the dealer. As mentioned before, most Five Card Draw poker tables are fixed limit, but the game is easily played in other variations, such as no limit and pot limit.

In light of this, while it’s evident that you will spend most of your time playing fixed limit, developing the right bankroll-management skills is important so that you can guarantee yourself a performance that will allow you to make the right calls at the right moments. You may end up in a bad beat. That is a given, but how you manage your money is what is going to keep you in the game until you end up with a hand that wins.

Should You Trust too Much on New Cards?

As mentioned before, your kicker cards will probably determine the entire strategy. Most players agree that relying on new cards to completely change the game in your favor is not a good plan, and you ought to focus on the cards you have.

New cards can have strengths, too, but they need to be contextualized. In other words, because you know what to expect if you discard one or two cards, you can calculate the odds what your chances of hitting a better combination are.

When you think of new cards, though, it’s important to realize that you ought to look for what cards have no bearing on your current hand and what might. If you discard your starting hand completely, though, you are putting yourself in the hands of mercy. Sometimes, being the small blind, you may afford to do this, though.

If you are the small or big blind, it may be worthwhile taking a bigger risk if your kicker hand is just bad and you don’t seem to be able to put together any meaningful combination. Still, doing this will alert other players that you are desperate and might embolden them.

What Mistakes to Avoid in 5 Card Draw Poker?

Look, in each poker variant, there are do’s and don’t’s, and it’s good to be mindful of what some common mistakes are. Luckily for you, decades of cumulative poker experience have helped spot some patterns that players tend to run into through no fault of theirs.

Even at the highest level of play, you can expect many top pros to make common mistakes. It’s important that you remind yourself of those pitfalls and try to avoid them. For example, some players think they can get a flush or a straight if they have forfeited enough cards.

No, the percentage of this happening is so slim that it’s just like playing the lottery, and trust us, your chances in the lottery aren’t at all great. Many players focus on more complex hands when something as simple as a three-of-a-kind cold is quite strong.

If your pair is strong enough and you are in a good position, you may want to discard your cards and aim at a three of a kind. That is actually a very basic strategy that will work more often than not and is a good way to control your bankroll spent and advance your overall play.

We can argue that strategies such as limping and bluffing are common mistakes, too, but there is merit to those if done right.


Is limping in 5 Card Draw a good strategy?

That depends on your position. Generally speaking, the consensus is that you should never limp raise if you are the player to the left of the big blind.

Is 5 Card Draw a fixed limit game?

Mostly yes. However, Five Card Draw can be played as a pot-limit and no-limit game as well. It really depends on what table you sit at.

How many hands should I discard in 5 Card Draw?

Mostly three. If you are starting in a good position in relation to the other players at the table and hold a strong pair, you may want to aim for a three of a kind. A lot of the card action will come from strong pairs.

Will I get a Straight or a Flush in 5 Card Draw Poker?

Getting straight or a flush in this version of poker is very difficult. With only two rounds of betting to it and no community cards, you will have to beat some very long odds.

How many betting rounds are there in Five Card Draw?

There are two betting rounds in a game of 5 Card Draw. Once these are completed, you need to reveal your hand and establish a winner.

Are there any community cards in 5 Card Draw?

No, there are no community cards in 5 Card Draw. You only have five hands in your hand that you can play with. You can discard as many cards as you want to and get as many new ones during the first round of betting.

After finishing her master's in publishing and writing, Melanie began her career as an online editor for a large gaming blog and has now transitioned over towards the iGaming industry. She helps to ensure that our news pieces are written to the highest standard possible under the guidance of senior management.

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