While most of the modern day poker action takes place at a Texas Hold ‘Em table, 5 card draw poker is the granddaddy of them all, as draw poker was the first poker game to gain widespread popularity across the globe.
We have all seen those old western movies where cowboys are bellied up to a poker table in a smoky saloon, and you can bet that those games were all five card draw poker! And while the heyday of five card draw poker is long gone, the game is having a bit of resurgence recently, as players are starting to appreciate all the nuances that made the game so popular in the first place!
There are several variations of five card draw poker including high only, Kansas City lowball, drawmaha, and 2-7, amongst many others. These games can be played single or triple draw and it seems like every day we see a new variation of draw poker emerge.
And while each version of five card draw is a little different, draw poker is draw poker, and there are several tips that are going to immediately improve your game, no matter which version you might be playing.
In this article, we are going to tell you how to play five card draw poker by providing our top four tips! That way, if you do find yourself at a five card draw table, you will be able to hold your own, and maybe even a little bit of theirs, right away! With that, let’s jump right into how to play 5 card draw, with our first tip!
Wait To Check Your Hole Cards
More than any other game, five card draw is all about reading the other players at the table. Unlike games like Texas Hold ‘Em or 7 Card Stud, where you can see parts of other player’s hands, in five card draw, all you can see are the whites of their eyes!
You must use all of your hand and people reading skills effectively when you are playing 5 card draw, and one great way to achieve this is by not looking at your hole cards right away. Some of you out there may be thinking to yourself, what does not looking at MY cards, have to do with reading the other player’s hands? It is less about you not looking at your cards right away, and more about using that time to watch the other players at the table when they check their cards!
Most players will immediately grab their cards and look at them as soon as they get them. Some players even go as far as to sort their cards in their hands or pull a card aside for their discard well before it is their turn to act.
Watching this initial reaction from players while they check their cards is the absolute best time to pick up on any tells, as they all assume you are looking at your cards and not at them! If you have ever watched the classic poker movie Rounders, starring Matt Damon, there is a scene where Damon’s character, Mike McD, is able to read all of the player’s hands cold, halfway through the hand. He does this by watching the players check their hole cards.
And while the movie dramatizes this quite a bit, watching players while they don’t think they are being watched has a lot of value in five card draw poker. Your cards aren’t going anywhere, so let them sit there while you gain invaluable information from your opponents.
Tight Is Right!
Playing a tight style of poker is going to be one of my top tips no matter what poker game you are playing. But at a five card draw table, it is even more important, as it can be very tempting to start with a weak hand, and hope for a miracle draw!
In no other form of poker can you get rid of cards and exchange them for new ones, and the single biggest mistake that most new players make when playing 5 card draw is that they play too many hands. This is particularly true early in hands, before the first draw.
I have been playing poker at a serious level for over 20 years. For whatever reason, poker players love to give you unsolicited advice at the table and the single greatest piece of advice that I have ever gotten while playing cards might have also been the simplest.
Start with crap, end with crap.
No complicated math or fancy plays, the beauty of this tip is in the simplicity. If you start out behind, more often than not, you are going to end up behind. If you do your best to always go into that first draw with the best of it, you are going to find that you are going to come out of that draw in good shape.
Call On The End
This tip might be a little bit confusing after I just told you to play tight. But, more often than not, if you make your hand and get down to the end of the hand, with just one bet to call for a chance to win the pot, you should have a wide range of calling hands.
You want to play tight poker all of the way to the very end.
But if the only thing standing between you and winning the pot is a call, the math on a call becomes very easy. And almost always, you are going to want to call it down if you have any realistic chance of winning.
I won’t get too deep into the math, but I will show you this example of why you should usually pay off on the end. Let’s say there is $100 in the pot, and the player you are facing bets $50. That means that you must call $50 to win $150. At this point, the pot is laying you 3-1 on a call. With odds like that, you don’t have to win every time that you call to show a long-term profit.
Even if you are only winning a third of the time, a call is a profitable play, as you will lose $50 on the 2 times that you call and lose, but on the 1 time that you call and win, the $150 you will make more than covers for those losses.
Poker is one long game.
All of your decisions need to be focused on their long-term expected value (EV). In this one spot, near the end of the hand, calculating the pot odds tends to be so easy, that you can do it on the fly, very accurately.
Getting 10-1 pot odds on a call?
You only need to win just over 10% of the time for a call to show value.
Even tight players are going to mix in enough bluffs and thin values bets for your call to be positive EV with any hand that has showdown value. Play tight early and loose late and watch the chips stack up in front of you while playing five card draw poker!
Punish Players To Draw Against You
We just talked about how you want to play as many hands as you can where you are ahead.
Playing from ahead means that you will finish the hand with the best hand a high percentage of the time. But you have to make sure that if you do have the lead in the hand and players and drawing to beat you, that you punish them by making them pay bets. You never want to let a player suck out on you for free, as the name of the game is to extract value from your good hands and charge your opponents the maximum to try and beat you.
There are 3 outcomes that can happen when you are being aggressive and betting when you have the best hand.
Your opponent folds to your bet and you take the pot down right there. While that is never the overly glamorous option.
Many times taking down the pot early without a fight is a great outcome as it is risk-free money.
We all want to win big pots all of the time, but the truth of the matter is that the best poker players in the world tend to win by winning lots of small pots and winning the hands that nobody else wants to fight over.
Your opponent calls your bet and your hand that started out as the best, ends as the best, and you win an even bigger pot.
In this scenario:
You are charging your opponent to draw out on you and are making a profit when your hand holds up.
This is poker 101. Have the best hand and get a player with a worse hand to give you money to see it.
Potential outcome number 3 is where you stay aggressive by betting with the best hand, but unfortunately, lady luck decides to bite you and your opponent draws out on you and makes a better hand and wins the pot.
Losing happens in poker:
It is part of the game, and sometimes no matter how well you play a hand, you are still going to lose money. If it makes you feel better you can always complain to your poker buddies about taking a bad beat afterward, as we all know everyone loves to hear bad beat stories! As you can see, in 2 of these 3 potential outcomes, you are winning money. And 2 out of 3 ain’t bad!
Starting with the best hand and charging players to beat it is the best strategy you can play when playing 5 card draw poker. It is not always easy to know exactly when you have the best hand all of the time, but it is certainly easy to know when you don’t! Start with the best of it and hammer them every chance you get.
Now that you have some high level tips, and know how to play five card draw poker, you are ready to get in on the action! Are you having a hard time finding a game in your local casino? Don’t worry, we here at TheSportsGeek have got you covered!
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Log on, make your first deposit, and start winning right now! Thanks for reading and good luck playing five card draw poker!
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