How to Play 5 Card Draw | 5 Card Draw Rules
A favorite of kitchen table poker games, 5 Card Draw is most people’s first poker experience. It’s an easy game to pick up and play as the rules and betting rounds are simple compared to some of the more complicated poker games like PLO or Razz. While it has declined in popularity compared to some games like Texas Hold ’em and Pot-Limit Omaha, it remains a staple in most casual poker games today.
If your home game likes to play 5 Card Draw, it’s essential to have a solid understanding of the rules if you want to play at your best. In this article, we’ll give you a full breakdown of how to play 5 Card Draw so that you can confidently show up to your next game.
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For those of you who have a rough understanding of the game, here’s a quick run-through of the rules. Don’t worry; if you’re entirely new to the game, we’ll have a much more detailed explanation of the rules in the rest of this article.
All players at the table draw cards to determine who the button will be for the first hand, with the highest card winning. Next, the two players to the left of the button post the small and big blind before the cards are dealt. The cards are then dealt one at a time, starting with the player in the small blind and moving clockwise around the table until everyone has five cards.
Once the cards are dealt, the first betting round begins and is called the “pre-draw” round. Depending on how many draws there are in the specific variant you’re playing, this can be called “pre 1st draw” (for triple draw) or just “pre-draw” (for single draw). Players can fold, call, or raise in this betting round. Any raise must equal the amount of the previous bet or higher, known as a raise. This betting round ends if only one player remains in the hand or if all remaining players have matched the last bet/raise.
The players then decide how many cards they would like to draw. The draw starts with the player to the left of the button and moves clockwise around the table. To draw, a player must put the cards they’re discarding face down towards the dealer, making it clear how many there are. Players who do not want to draw can “stand pat” by tapping the table. The option to draw then moves to the player to the left.
Once all players have made their draws, another round of betting begins. This round is known as the “post draw” or “post 1st draw” betting round. The betting round starts with the player to the left of the button. Players can check, bet, call (if a bet is made), and fold. Any bet a player makes must be at least equal to the size of the big blind, and any raise must be at least equal to the amount of the previous bet/raise. The betting round is complete when only one player is remaining or if all remaining players have matched the previous bet/raise. If all players remaining in the hand decide to check, the betting round is also considered complete.
If you are playing triple draw, there are another two rounds of drawing and betting that are precisely the same as the rounds mentioned above. Once all three drawing/betting rounds are complete, any players remaining in the hand must show down their cards. The showdown occurs after the “post draw” betting round if you play single draw. If a showdown is reached, the cards are turned face up, and the player with the best five-card hand takes the pot. In the event of a tie, the pot is split evenly between all players who hold the equivalent hand.
If you’re unfamiliar with 5 Card Draw, some of that may have gone way over your head, but don’t worry – we’re going to go into a much deeper explanation of how to play 5 Card Draw.
The first thing you have to decide when you’re playing 5 Card Draw is which variant you’re going to play. We’ve touched upon them in the previous section, but there are two main variants of 5 Card Draw – single draw and triple draw.
In single draw, there is only one drawing round and one post-draw betting round before players must showdown their hand. However, in triple draw, players have three chances to draw to their hand, and there are three post-draw betting rounds.
The most common variant of the two you’re going to see is triple draw, though some places host single draw games from time to time.
Start of Game
5 Card Draw is what’s considered a “blind” game, which means that there are two designated players who must post blind bets before the game begins. This is to generate action and give players something to fight for. Now, it’s evident that whoever has to post these blinds is at a disadvantage, so these positions are determined by the dealer button that moves one position clockwise around the table after every hand. The two players to the left of the button must post the small and big blind. The small blind comes from the player to the left of the button, and the big blind comes from the player to the left of the small blind. The size of these blind bets is determined before the start of the game.
To determine which player starts the game with the dealer button, players draw cards (or are dealt a card face up by the dealer). The player with the highest card starts the game with the button. In the event of a tie, the winner is determined by the suit of the card, with spades being the best, then hearts, then diamonds, then clubs.
After the button has been determined and the blinds are posted, the cards are dealt. Each player is dealt one card at a time face down, starting with the player in the small blind. Then, the cards are dealt clockwise around the table until each player has five cards. Once every player has received their cards, the first betting round can begin.
Depending on the variant of 5 Card Draw you play, there can either be two or four betting rounds. There are only two in single draw, and there are four betting rounds in triple draw – one pre-draw betting round and three post-draw betting rounds. The pre-draw betting round is played slightly differently from the others, but all post-draw betting rounds are played the same way.
Pre 1st Draw
This betting round starts with the player left of the big blind and moves clockwise around the table. Each player has three betting actions they can make this round:
- Fold – The player does not put any additional money into the pot, but they surrender their hand.
- Call – The player matches the amount of the previous bet. If no player has raised before the player has acted, then the player matches the amount of the big blind.
- Raise – The player increases the bet. The raise size must be equal to the size of the big blind or the last raise.
The only caveat is if a player is in the big blind and no one has made a raise before the action gets to them. In this situation, they can “check,” which means that they do not put any additional money into the pot, and the betting round is complete. There are two other ways for this betting round to end; when all remaining players have matched the amount of the last bet or raise, or if only one player is remaining in the hand. Let’s have a look at a couple of examples.
This is a hand played in a $1/$2 5 Card Draw cash game. For those who aren’t aware, the letters in brackets after each player number denote the player’s position. Check out our article on positions in poker for more information.
➢ Player 1 (UTG) – Fold
➢ Player 2 (HJ) – Fold
➢ Player 3 (CO) – Fold
➢ Player 4 (BTN) – Raise $6
➢ Player 5 (SB) – Raise $25
➢ Player 6 (BB) – Fold
➢ Player 4 (BTN) – Fold
In this example, we can see that the pre-draw betting round ended as there was only one player left in the hand. This is because the small blind was the last player to make a betting action, and all other players folded, meaning that the small blind was the only remaining player in the hand. This means that the small blind wins the pot.
This is a hand played in a 5 Card Draw tournament where the blinds are 1000/2000.
➢ Player 1 (UTG) – Fold
➢ Player 2 (HJ) – Call 1000
➢ Player 3 (CO) – Raise 7000
➢ Player 4 (BTN) – Fold
➢ Player 5 (SB) – Fold
➢ Player 6 (BB) – Raise 13,000
➢ Player 2 (HJ) – Fold
➢ Player 4 (CO) – Call 6000
In this example, we can see a few different preflop actions. We have a preflop call from Player 2 (known as a limp when just matching the big blind), a raise from Player 3, and a re-raise (also known as a 3-bet) from Player 6, a fold from Player 2, and a call from Player 3. This betting round ended as all remaining players matched the last bet/raise in the hand. The raise made by the BB was the minimum amount they could raise. The CO raised 6000 over the limp from the HJ, so the re-raise from the BB had to be at least another 6000.
Once the pre-draw betting round is completed, the players make their draws. The draw starts with the player to the left of the dealer button and moves clockwise around the table. Players can discard and draw as many cards as they’d like from their hand. However, most casinos do not allow players to draw five consecutive cards from the deck, so if a player wishes to draw five, they will initially be given four cards. Then, the dealer will complete the draws for all other players before giving the initial player their fifth card.
Before the draw begins, the dealer will “burn” (discard) the top card. This is only done at the start of the draw and is not done before each player draws. When drawing, you can tell the dealer how many cards you wish to draw, or you can just slide the cards over to the dealer, making it clear how many there are. You must give your cards to the dealer before you receive any additional cards, and the cards you discard must remain face down at all times. If you do not wish to discard any cards from your hand, you have the option of “standing pat,” which moves the drawing option to the next player. You can tell the dealer that you’re pat or signal it by tapping the table.
Post 1st Draw
After the draw is complete, there is another round of betting. This betting round starts with the player to the immediate left of the button and moves clockwise around the table. The players have the same three options as they did in the first betting round, with one additional option. This additional action is called a “check.” If a bet has not been made during this betting round, the player with the action may “check,” which means they do not put any chips into the pot, and the betting action moves to the next player. If all players in the hand decide to check, the betting round is considered complete.
An important note is that the player who first wagers chips on a betting round is considered “betting” rather than raising. If a bet has been made, the next player to make an aggressive action is believed to have “raised.” This is something that many beginners get wrong and is an easy way to spot an amateur player. If a player wants to make a bet, the bet must be at least equal to the size of the big blind. Any raise that is made must be at least equal to the size of the previous bet. The betting round is considered complete when any of the three following situations occur:
- All remaining players have checked.
- Only one player is remaining in the hand.
- All remaining players have matched the last bet or raise in the hand.
This is the same for all subsequent betting rounds.
Let’s look at an example of a post 1st draw hand from a $5/$10 5 Card Draw cash game.
➢ Player 1 (SB) – Check
➢ Player 2 (BB) – Bet $10
➢ Player 3 (BTN) – Fold
➢ Player 1 (SB) – Raise $45
➢ Player 2 (BB) – Call
This betting round ends due to the last bet or raise being matched by all remaining players in the hand. For example, the raise to $45 was matched by Player 2, the only player in the hand. An important thing to note is that the $10 bet made by Player 2 was the minimum amount they could bet, as that bet is equal to the size of the big blind.
This is where the hand would end if you’re playing single draw. If there are any players left in the hand, they go to showdown to see who wins. If you’re only interested in a single draw, you can skip to the “Showdown” section below.
Post 2nd Draw
If you’re playing triple draw, after the first post-draw betting round is complete, there is another draw and betting round. This is identical to the previous draw, where the dealer burns the first card on the deck, and the option to draw starts with the player to the left of the button and moves clockwise around the table.
Once that draw is complete, there is another round of betting. The rules for this betting round are precisely the same as the previous betting round, with all the same options available to the players. Again, the betting round is considered complete when the three previous criteria are met.
Post 3rd Draw
After the second post-draw betting round, there is one final draw where players can try to improve their hands. This draw is again identical to the previous two draws. When the draw is complete, the final round of betting begins.
The action works in the same way as the previous two betting rounds, starting with the player to the left of the button, and all options are available to the remaining players. However, once this betting round is completed, players will have no more chances to improve their hands. If more than one player remains in the hand at the end of this betting round, the players reach a “showdown.”
When two or more players remain in the hand after the last round of betting, a winner must be determined to see who takes the pot. This is achieved by all remaining players turning their hands face up, and the player with the best five-card hand wins the pot. If two or more players have identical hand rankings, the pot is split evenly between these players.
You’ll notice when you play live poker that players are often reluctant to turn their hand over – even when they get to showdown. This is because they don’t want to give their opponents information on how they played their hand. However, for things to run smoothly, there is a particular order that players must show their hands once they reach showdown.
The last player to make an aggressive action is obligated to show their hand first when they get to showdown. If the remaining players can beat it, they must turn over their entire hand to claim the pot. However, they can muck their hand without turning it over if they can’t beat it. If there is no betting action on the river, usually the player to the left of the button is obligated to show first, but different games have different rules for this, so make sure to check before you play.
There are ten different poker hand rankings in 5 Card Draw; they are in descending order, from best to worst.
- Royal Flush– The cards T, J, Q, K, and A, all of the same suit. (AhKhQhJhTh)
- Straight Flush– Any five cards in order, all of the same suit (5c6c7c8c9c)
- 4 of a Kind– Four cards of the same rank (AcAdAhAsKc)
- Full House– Three cards of the same rank with two other cards of the same rank (QcQhQs9s9h)
- Flush – Any five cards of the same suit (QhTh7h5h2h)
- Straight– Five cards in order but of different suits (3c4s5h6h7c)
- Three of a kind– Three cards of the same rank (JhJcJs9c2c)
- Two Pair– Two sets of two different cards of the same rank (AcAsKcKh7s)
- One Pair– Two cards of the same rank (JcJhAc9s6h)
- High card – No cards of the same rank (AcJh8s6c4h)
You can see that every single hand ranking has an example with five cards, even if the hand itself doesn’t need five cards. This is because the secondary cards determine a winner if two or more players have the same hand ranking. So it’s only in the event of two or more players having the same five-card hand that the pot is split between them – something that doesn’t happen very often in 5 Card Draw.
For example, let’s look at the hands of two players who get to showdown.
- Player 1 has AcAs8d8hKc
- Player 2 has AdAh8c8s3h
Who wins the pot? Well, both players have the same hand ranking – two Pair, and both have the same hand strength within that ranking – aces and eights. However, Player 1 has a king as their fifth card, whereas Player 2 only has a 3. Therefore, player 1 has the highest five-card hand combination, so they’re awarded the pot.
You can play 5 Card Draw with three betting limits: No Limit, Pot Limit, and Limit. You’ll often see that single draw is played as either No Limit or Pot Limit, whereas triple draw is often played as Limit. This is because with triple draw, there is double the number of betting rounds compared to single draw, so the game is played in a Limit format to stop the pots from getting too out of hand.
In a No-Limit game of 5 Card Draw, there are very few rules on what you can bet or raise during a hand. The only rules are that the minimum bet must be equal to that of the big blind, and any raise must be at least equal to the size of the last bet or raise. Aside from that, players can bet however much they like at any time, including all their chips.
In Pot Limit 5 Card Draw, there is an additional rule to the betting. The maximum amount a player is allowed to better or raise is the size of the pot. If you’d like more information on how to calculate the size of the pot while you’re in a hand, check out our “Betting” page, where we go into detail on the equations you need to figure it out. The minimum amount a player must bet or raise is the same as No Limit 5 Card Draw.
If you’re playing Limit 5 Card Draw, the betting limits on each street are fixed to a certain amount, called small bets and big bets. A small bet is equal to the size of the big blind, and a big bet equals 2x the big blind. In triple draw, the first two betting rounds use the small betting limits, and the last two use the big betting limits. Every bet or raise must be made in these increments of small and big bets. For example, in a $5/$10 cash game, the players can bet or raise in increments of $10 in the first two betting rounds, but when they reach the third and fourth betting rounds, the limits are doubled, and players must bet or raise in increments of $20. Most Limit games have a cap of four bets per street, though this will vary from location to location.
While 5 Card Draw doesn’t have the same popularity as it once did, it remains a fun game to play. It also serves as an easy entry into poker for new players to the game, as it is one of the least complicated poker games out there. The only cards you need to worry about are the ones in your hand, and it’s more about staring your opponent down, trying to figure out if they made their hand rather than complicated math and “GTO.”
5 Card Draw FAQs
The deck is shuffled between every hand of poker.
In single draw, there are two betting rounds, the pre-draw betting round and the post-draw betting round. In triple draw, there are four betting rounds, one pre-draw betting round, and three post-draw betting rounds.
In 5 Card Draw, you are given five cards face down at the start of the hand. During each draw, you can discard any number of cards from your hand and be given new ones from the deck.
Typically, 5 Card Draw is played with a maximum of eight players, though there are technically enough cards in the deck to accommodate ten players. Therefore, the most common game size for 5 Card Draw is six players.
Blinds are forced bets put in by the two players to the direct left of the button before the hand begins. These bets create action and give the players something to fight for.
The hand rankings in poker are as follows in descending order from strongest to weakest:
- Royal Flush
- Straight Flush
- 4 of a Kind
- Full House
- Three of a Kind
- Two Pair
- One Pair
- High Card
If the deck doesn’t have enough cards to allow the player to draw, the dealer takes in the burn cards, folded hands, and discards from other players and shuffles them back into the deck. The player is then given cards from this ‘new’ deck.
A string raise is when a player raises in more than one motion. For example, if you put $50 worth of chips over the betting line, then go back to your stack and bring another $50 worth of chips over the betting line, this is a string raise. When this happens, only the first betting action will count, meaning in this example, the bet will stand at $50.
Splashing the pot is when you place your chips directly into the pot when making a bet or raise. Splashing is not allowed in any game as it makes it hard to tell exactly how much a player has bet/raised or whether the right amount of chips has been added for a call.