How to Play 5 Card Draw

Five Card Draw is well known for being one of the simplest poker games around. That makes it ideal for beginners, but don’t think that its simplicity detracts from its excitement. This game might only take you a few minutes to learn, but it will keep you entertained – and challenged – for years.

This guide will teach you how to play Five Card Draw so that you can embark on that challenge today. You’ll learn where the game can be played, how the best hands are made, and how a typical game progresses from the posting of the blinds to the final showdown. We’ll even give you a hand-picked selection of tips and strategies to help get you off to a winning start!

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What is Five Card Draw?

The first step to learning how to play Five Card Draw is to understand what the game involves. Five Card Draw is a poker game that requires you to make the best possible five-card poker hand. You'll be dealt five cards and given one opportunity to draw. That means to discard as few or as many of them as you like so that you can 'draw' replacements. The player with the best hand wins.

If all of that sounds rather familiar then we aren't at all surprised. Five Card Draw is the poker variant that is used as the basis of most video poker games. In fact, if you already know how to play video poker you're over halfway there. Read on and you'll soon understand the whole thing.

Where to Play Five Card Draw

Home games of Five Card Draw are very popular. Obtain a deck of cards and some poker chips and you can start playing for fun with a few friends. Regarding playing Five Card Draw for real money, you'll need to head to a land-based or online poker room. 

Of course, you will need to be in a state that allows poker rooms to operate. Unfortunately, not all of them do. Our state pages will tell you exactly what the situation is in any state you care to mention. If no poker is legal in your state then you will have to wait for the law to change. On the other hand, if both land-based and online poker rooms are legal, you can take your pick. Some of our recommended poker rooms that you might want to check out are highlighted below:

Recommended Poker Sites

Poker Hand Rankings

Those of you who are familiar with standard poker hand rankings can skip this section because those are the ones used in Five Card Draw. For the benefit of anyone who is brand new to poker, here are the hands that can be made. They are presented in order of value, from best to worst. The letters A, K, Q, and J are used to represent the Ace, King, Queen, and Jack, respectively.

Royal Flush

This is the best hand possible, and is made up of 10-J-Q-K-A. However, all of the cards must have the same suit of clubs, spades, diamonds, or hearts.

Straight Flush

Five sequential cards that all share the same suit. The highest card in the hand determines how strong it is. The hand 2-3-4-5-6 of hearts would therefore lose to 7-8-9-10-J of hearts.

Four of a Kind

A hand containing four cards of the same value, such as 4-4-4-4-J or 6-6-6-6-3. The higher the rank of the four matching cards, the better.

Full House

This hand comprises a Three of a Kind and a Pair. Both of those are described in their own sections below. The higher the Three of a Kind, the stronger the hand.


Five cards of the same suit. The card in the hand with the highest value determines how strong it is.


Five sequentially numbered cards, but not of the same suit. The highest card in the Straight, the better.

Three of a Kind

A hand containing three cards of the same value, such as 7-7-7-J-A or 9-9-9-6-8. The higher the rank of the three matching cards, the better.

Two Pairs

A hand containing two matching cards of one rank and two matching cards of a different rank. For example, A-A-K-K-Q or 4-4-9-9-J.


A hand containing two matching cards of the same rank. The higher the rank of the Pair, the better.

High Card

This is the hand that is made when you don't have any of the others. Its strength is determined by the highest-ranked card in the hand.

How to Play Five Card Draw

We will now explain how to play Five Card Draw in a game that goes to the showdown. You can think of a typical game as having six main phases, so let's go through each one in turn.

The Blinds

Each hand of Five Card Draw begins with a different player. To help keep track of this, a plastic disc called a button is placed in front of one player. This button is passed to the next player, in a clockwise direction, after each hand. 

The two players sitting to the left of the button start the hand by posting the blinds. These are small sums of money that get the pot started. Because the button is passed around, all players at the table pay the blinds in due course. That makes this system perfectly fair and it is key to most poker games played online.

The Deal

Each player is now dealt five cards. The cards are dealt face-down so that each player can only see his or her own cards. When playing online, your own cards will be clearly visible to you. However, rest assured that no other player will know what you have until the showdown. Similarly, you won't be able to see the cards that your opponents are holding until that stage of the game. 

First Betting Round

Now that all players have their initial cards, a round of betting will take place. Your options here will be to call, raise or fold. We will now summarize what is meant by each of those terms:

  • Call means to bet the same amount as the player before you. This is the least you must do to continue in the hand.
  • Raise means to bet a greater amount than the player before you. This forces all players to call your higher bet in order to stay in the hand.
  • Fold means to withdraw from the hand. It doesn't cost anything to fold your hand. However, when you do this you won't have a chance to win the pot.

Play proceeds in a clockwise direction until every player has had the opportunity to act.

The Draw

Players now get to draw as few or as many cards as they want. Look at your hand and see what you have (if anything). Then discard any cards that you don't think you'll need, or that you want to try and improve.

If you are dealt a strong hand to begin with (for example, a Flush) then you can 'stand pat'. This means keep all of your cards as initially dealt. Otherwise, you can discard 1, 2, 3, 4, or all 5 cards and draw new cards to replace them.

When playing online, this is a simple matter of clicking the cards you want to discard. New cards will then be dealt to you automatically.

Second Betting Round

At this stage, all players have their final hands, and so a second round of betting takes place. Again, you can call, raise or fold, according to the strength of your hand. Also consider the actions that are taken by other players at the table. Once again, play proceeds in a clockwise direction until everyone has had the chance to act. 


If all but one of the players at the table fold in either of the earlier betting rounds, the last player in the hand will win the pot automatically. However, if two or more players remain in the hand after the second round of betting, the game goes to the showdown. This is where the remaining players reveal the hands they are holding and the best hand wins. Whenever there is a tie, the pot is shared equally between the tied players.

Five Card Draw Tips and Strategies

You now know how to play Five Card Draw. But we would advise against rushing straight into a real-money game without a bit more preparation. Instead, we have a few tips and strategies that will help you to stand a better chance of winning. Those are as follows:

Study the Game

First, spend some time studying the game. You know how it is played, of course. But there is much more to learn, and for that, you would do well to hit the books. There are plenty of serious poker books that will show you how to play Five Card Draw like a pro. Reading even one or two of those (and applying what you learn) will increase your chances of winning quite considerably.

Be Selective

One of the key things to learn about Five Draw Poker is to be selective. We are talking here about the hands that you play. You don't have to play every hand you are dealt. In fact, if you do so you won't fare as well as you might want. A much better approach to the game is to fold obviously weak hands. Focus instead on playing only the strongest or potentially strongest ones. Your study of poker books will give you more information about the best starting hands to look for. But in general, if you think you need to draw more than three cards, you're probably better off folding.

Play Your Position

Your position at the table can often be just as important as the cards you are holding. If you are on the button, you'll be the last person to play in each betting round. That means you'll have the benefit of seeing how your opponents have acted previously. If the action has been weak, a hand of only moderate strength could well win the pot. However, that same hand probably won't be as valuable when you're playing in an early position. Again, this is a topic that you will learn about during your study of the game. For now, just remember that the earlier your position, the stronger your hand will probably need to be.


You will have noticed that we're strong advocates of studying. But book smarts are only useful if you know how to put them to good use. That kind of knowledge can only be gained through experience. So our final tip is for you to get as much practice as you can. Most online poker rooms have free play tables that don't involve you putting any money at risk. We would suggest that you spend time at those from the outset. Then, when you have some confidence under your belt, you can progress to the micro stake tables. And then to the small stake tables, and so on.

How to Play Five Card Draw FAQ

What is Five Card Draw?
Five Card Draw is one of the simplest poker games around and it forms the basis of most video poker games. The aim is to make the best hand possible, and you will be dealt five cards and given one opportunity to replace as few or as many of those as you want.
How easy is it to learn to play Five Card Draw?
Very. In fact, most people can learn to play Five Card Draw in a matter of minutes. Becoming an expert player, on the other hand, takes time and effort.
Where to play Five Card Draw online?
Five Card Draw can be played at both land-based and online poker rooms. This is, of course, subject to such poker rooms being legal in your particular state.

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