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Guide to Five Card Draw

Five Card Draw is a game that many players cut their teeth on when playing poker for the first time with their family or in their college dorm.

At least pre-poker boom anyway. Nowadays, online poker rooms are probably the only place you’re going to see the game spread.

If you’ve never played the game before, or if it has been years since you last have, you’re going to want a little primer on how to pull up a seat at a table and play effectively.

Given that there is really no information about your opponent’s hand available in terms of exposed cards, strategy in Five Card Draw can be somewhat different than you’re used to.

Also, if need be take a look at our Rules of Five Card Draw if you’re unsure of how the game is played.

Basic Strategy

One good thing about the game of Five Card Draw, is that from a rules and format standpoint, it is a pretty basic game. There are really only two or three times that you really have to make a decision in any given hand.

Blackjack GamesThe Deal

When all players are dealt their first five cards we are faced with our first decision. If you’ve been dealt a pair or three of a kind it would be wise to put in a raise. At the beginner levels of the game you are often going to be called by weak hands like three-flushes or even Ace highs.

Anytime you start with any semblance of a made type of hand you should raise.

Blackjack GamesThe Draw

This is the first time you’re really going to be able to get an idea of what your opponent might be holding or drawing to.  A good baseline to start at is to draw in the following manner and assume the same from your opponents:

  • If you are dealt a pair, draw three to try for trips or two pair
  • If you are dealt trips, draw two and try for quads or a full house
  • If you are dealt four to a flush or a straight, draw one and hope to catch
  • If you have absolutely nothing it is best to fold

Blackjack GamesAssessing Your Opponent’s Draw

Initially, a good place to start is to assume that they are drawing in the same fashion that you are. But there can always be more to it, and not everyone plays the same. Also, you have to switch up your name from time to time.

So how should we assess our opponent’s draws?

  • Draw 4 - If your opponent draws four cards they are most likely holding an Ace and looking to make a pair.
  • Draw 3 - Usually this is indicative of your opponent holding a pair and looking to make trips or two pair. It doesn’t happen often, but there will be times where a weaker player may hold on to a suited Ace and hope for a lucky draw.
  • Draw 2 - Most of the time when your opponent draws two cards they are holding trips and looking to land quads or a full house. In some instances they might be holding a pair with an Ace. Weaker players will sometimes draw two when they are holding a three-flush or have three cards to a straight.
  • Draw 1 - There are pretty much only two options when a player draws one card, either they have a straight or flush draw or they are holding two pair. There is there ver slim chance that they are holding four of a kind and are drawing a card just for the fun of it. But for the most part you can rule that out.

Blackjack GamesThe Showdown

After a round of betting it’s time to table your cards. In the above scenarios you are likely going to be able to put your opponent’s on a hand by the way the betting plays out. Busted straight and flush draws are likely to fold while any made hand will look to push the action.

If everyone checks after their draw it is usually wise to fire a bet as most likely everyone caught bad.

Advanced Tactics

While the above is a great approach for beginners, there are a few extra tricks to have up your sleeve when it comes to Five Card Draw.

Blackjack GamesDrawing One With Trips

This is a great play to implement from time to time as players are likely to put you on a straight or flush draw if you draw only one card. Two pair is another hand they might put you on in this situation. Therefore, a player with a strong two pair is likely to pay you off at showdown.

Additionally, if players are hoping you missed your straight or flush draw, it’s very possible they will bet into you with hands like one or two pair and you will get paid off.

Blackjack GamesStanding Pat With Nothing

“Standing Pat” means not drawing any cards. Players do this when they are dealt a made hand like a straight or flush. When there are weak players in the blinds you should sometimes take a stab at stealing the blinds and bets by raising before the draw and then standing pat.

Players will immediately defer to you when it comes time to bet after the draw. Another strong bet is likely to take it down. Even trips have to be weary of a hand that stood pat the whole way through.

Blackjack GamesUsing Position to Bluff

When you have position and are last to act after the draw, you get to take into account everyone’s action and assess how they fared with their new cards. If no one is showing strength it’s likely they missed or are stuck with a weak pair. This is a great time to fire off a bluff no matter what you have.

In Five Card Draw a lot of players will check when given the option so you have to bet your strong hands. If you players aren’t betting, you should be stealing.


As you can see, even the basic strategy to Five Card Draw can be pretty basic.

The essence of the game is the draw and it will tell you just about everything you need to know about your opponent’s hand.

Play yours and your opponent’s hands accordingly and you should come out on top whenever you play.