How to Play Draw Poker

One of the most popular versions of poker is called draw poker. Draw poker is one of the simpler versions of the game, and is quite often the first type of poker introduced to novice card players. Draw poker is easy enough to learn, but there are a few basic rules one should master before trying their luck at the tables.

The basic goal all players have, when playing draw poker, is to create the best hand possible from the five cards dealt to them. All players at the table are each dealt five cards face down. Players then undergo an initial round of betting. This betting round is when players decide whether or not their hand is good enough to play. During this round players who wish to play their hand must at least make a call matching the big blind, or they must call a raise—if another player decided to raise.

After this preliminary round of betting, players that remain in the hand will have the opportunity to discard some of their cards and receive new ones to take their place. This will be the player’s only opportunity to improve their hand. The idea is to try and create the highest ranking poker hand, because the player with the best hand will win the pot. The list of poker hands, from strongest to weakest, looks like this:

  • Royal Flush: requires 10-J-Q-K-A of the same suit
  • Straight Flush: requires five cards of the same suit in numerical order
  • Four-of-a-kind: requires four of the same cards (i.e. four Aces)
  • Full House: requires both a three-of-a-kind and a pair
  • Flush: requires five cards of the same suit
  • Straight: requires any five cards in numerical order
  • Three-of-a-kind: requires three of the same card
  • Two Pair
  • Pair
  • High Card

We have briefly covered the first steps of the game. But players need to understand every step, and in what order, and why each step is performed. This information is vital for those learning how to play draw poker.

The very first step of a draw poker occurs before every hand, and is called the “anti.” The anti is a small charge every player must pay in order to be dealt cards for that particular round of play. Every player’s anti is used to start building the pot for that round.

However, some draw poker games will be set up using a “blinds” system. This requires only two players to put in money at the beginning of the hand. There will be a “big blind” and a “small blind.” The small blind will be half the size of the big blind, and all players who wish to see more cards will have to match the amount of the big blind, which rotates clockwise every hand. The dealer will deal every player their cards once the antis or blinds have been paid.

First Betting Round

After the cards have been dealt players will decide whether they wish to call, check, bet, or fold. If the game is playing on a blinds system, then players who wish to remain in the hand will have to match the total of big blind, or “call.” If you are playing a game with an anti system then players can “check,” meaning they decide not to bet. If every player checks, then the game moves on to the next round of switching cards. However, if a player bets, then other players must call the bet in order to advance to the next round.

Second Betting Round

Once the initial round of betting is completed, and players will have switched the cards of their choosing for new cards from the deck, an additional round of betting will then take place. After this stage of the hand, players hands will not change. Remaining players can check, bet, or fold during this time. If all players check, or if one player bets and is called by another, then the all players remaining in the hand will go to the showdown.

The Showdown

The showdown will take place after the final betting round is completed. It is at this point in the game that each remaining player’s hands will be revealed. The player that holds the best possible five card poker hand is the winner, and consequently wins all the money that has accumulated in the pot from both the antis and the two betting rounds.

The best hand wins the pot, but sometimes when playing draw poker a tie can happen. This occurs when two player both have matching hands of equal strength. In this case the individual cards in both players’ hands will determine the winner.

The player with the highest card, besides the cards used to make up their winning hand, will then take down to pot. For example, if both players had a pair of aces, then whoever had the next highest ranking card would be declared the winner. This next highest card is referred to as the “kicker.” Only card values are used to determine a winner in the case of a tie, not card suits.

This covers the basics of draw poker, the hand denominations, the betting, and the basic rules. However, there is a lot more to the game than what has been covered. This knowledge can only be gained through experience playing draw poker. Interested card players who are slowly learning the basics of how to play draw poker should remember that it is a game of patience. Waiting until you have the best of it and getting your money is the best way to be successful playing draw poker.