Poker 101: Five-Card Draw



Staff member
May 3, 2008
Poker is one of the most exciting games of skill and luck that you can play at any casino or home card table. While the most common variant in the casino is Texas Hold ’Em, the most common
beginner version is easily five-card draw. It gets you into the excitement of the game, gives you a good amount of strategy, but doesn’t throw you to the wolves the way that some poker variants do.

Five-card draw is played with a deck of 52 cards. Every now and then you’ll find someone who wants to throw in Joker’s wild but we won’t concentrate on that here. The ultimate goal of the game is to get, the
best “hand” (set of five cards) that you can possibly get. At the end of each “hand” (after everyone shows their cards), each hand will be ranked and the best one will win the “pot” (the money that has been bet).

The Play

Before play even starts the players will do what is called an “ante,” which is essentially buying your way into the game. Each game will have a predetermined ante that you will need to put in the pot
before the cards are dealt to tell the dealer that you are in the game.

After the ante, the deck is shuffled and cards are dealt one at a time, face down, to each player, starting from the dealer’s left, until everyone has five cards that are face down. The dealer places the
remaining cards face down in a pile in the middle of the table. Once the cards are dealt, each player picks up their hand and evaluates it to see if it is, or potentially could be, a good hand.

The Betting Round

The betting round, like the deal, starts with the player to the dealer’s left. In a game where players must ante, the first player is always allowed to “check” which means that the first player isn’t required
to bet to stay in the game. The next player must bet or “fold.” To fold means to take yourself out of the game. You don’t win anything, but you don’t have to bet any more money either. The player after the
first person who bets can either “see” the bet, which means to bet equally to the previous player, or “raise,” which means increasing the size of the bets. This is the primary time something called “bluffing”
comes in. Bluffing is when a player makes others think that they have a hand that is better or worse than they really do based on their bet, one of the main strategies of any poker game.

The Draw

After the betting round is completed, the first player that hasn’t folded on the dealer’s left is allowed to exchange any number of cards and draw the same amount from the top of the deck. This is another point
of serious strategy and consideration for a player. Players can also “stand” and not draw any cards if they feel their hand is good enough. After this point, a second betting round occurs that is the same as the first.

Finally, after the second betting round, a “showdown” occurs where the players all lay their cards down, face up, to reveal them to the other players. This allows all the players to evaluate the cards and determine
which is the best hand, and, consequently, the winner of the pot.

Hand Rankings

To win a hand, one must know how the poker hands rank. The first thing that a player should know is the order of the cards. From lowest to highest, the cards are A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A.
The ace can be both in most games, unless otherwise specified. You’ll see why below.

Here is a handy guide for all of your poker hand rankings, from lowest to highest:
  • High Card: With a high card, the player doesn’t have any of the following hands and is playing their hand based on the highest card that they have.
    For example, a hand of J, K, 4, 5, 3 with different suits means that the hand is “King high.”
  • One Pair: A pair is simply a pair of two cards. An example of this would be a hand consisting of A, A, 2, 8, 10. The ace, in this case, would be considered the highest possible pair.
  • Two Pairs: Two pairs is exactly like one pair, but with two of them. For example, a hand consisting of Q, Q, 3, 3, 4 is two pairs with the queen high.
  • Three Of A Kind: Three of a kind is, again, like the two or one pair hands, but with three. A hand consisting of 2, 2, 2, 7, 6 would be considered a three of a kind.
  • Straight: A straight is a hand that has five sequential cards. A hand that has A, 2, 3, 4, 5 would be considered straight. This (and a straight flush) are the only times you’d consider an ace low).
  • Flush: A flush is when a player has all of their cards in the same suit (spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts). This takes the place of any of the lesser hands (even if it’s the “high card” hand).
  • Full House: A full house is a combination of one pair and a three of a kind. For example, a hand with 4, 4, 4, 7, 7 would be a full house.
  • Four Of A Kind: A four of a kind is four of one kind of card. An example of this would be K, K, K, K, 5.
  • Straight Flush: The straight flush is a combination of a straight and a flush, meaning that you have five sequential cards in one suit.
    The highest possible hand (excluding a game with wilds) is the “royal flush” consisting of a 10, J, Q, K, and A when they’re all in one suit.
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