Five Card Draw

Long since eclipsed by other games, this was once the most popular poker game by far. Now a rarity in casinos, it still remains a staple of many a home game. Don’t get into an old west poker game without knowing how to play this one!

Number of Players

2-6 (per 52 card deck)


A standard deck of 52 playing cards, jokers removed (except in variations).


Each player is dealt 5 cards to start.


Play opens with a round of betting once players have looked at their cards. When the betting is resolved, players may now opt to discard cards and have them replaced with fresh ones. Starting to the dealer’s left, each player may in turn draw up to 3 new cards (some variations allow for 4 cards to be traded in if the player holds back an ace, other variations even allow for all 5 cards to be re-drawn). They may, of course, “stand pat” or choose to keep the first 5 cards they were dealt. When all players have drawn, there is another round of betting followed by a showdown. In casino games, there are other restrictions on drawing, as well as different betting formats which vary from casino to casino.


The highest ranking poker hand at a showdown (or last player remaining after all others have folded) wins the pot.


Double Draw/Triple Draw
This is a common variation in which there is more than one draw. As the name implies, there can be either 2 or 3 draws, with a round of betting following each.

There seem to be two forms of this variation, one involving a regular game of 5-card Draw followed by a “rollout” (meaning, each player’s cards are revealed one at a time instead of all at once with a round of betting between each reveal). The other involves the players receiving their cards in intervals. First, each player is dealt 3 cards. There is a round of betting, followed by another card dealt to each player. There is another round of betting, followed by the fifth and final card dealt to each player, then a final round of betting and a showdown.

Jacks or Better
Also known as “Jackpots” or “Jacks to Open.” This is just a form of 5-card draw where a player cannot open the betting unless they have a pair of jacks or something better for a hand. Antes are used, but not blinds, as anyone not having jacks or better to start must either check or fold. Anyone who opens the betting discards and draws as normal, only their discards are set aside in order to prove that they could legally open the betting. If a player chooses, they may “break” their opening hand (in other words they may discard a piece of the hand that allowed them to open in order to draw into an even better hand). If no one can legally open the betting, all hands are discarded and the antes stay in the pot for the next hand. This game is sometimes played with a single joker left in the deck. The joker is called the “bug” and is wild.

Four Before
Four cards are dealt to each player followed by a round of betting. On the draw, each player is dealt one more card then they discarded (bringing their hand total to 5). The draw is followed by a round of betting and a showdown. This game was presumably created to ensure that no one could have a “pat” or “made” hand (like a straight or flush) before the draw.

Lowball Games
Lowball games are obviously the opposite of regular games in that players are attempting to make the lowest hand possible (with higher cards and pairs counting against them). There are three different general forms of lowball, which are: Ace to Five, Ace to Six, and Deuce to Seven. In Ace to Five lowball, flushes and straights are ignored and aces count as low. The best possible hand in Ace to Five is: A, 2, 3, 4, 5 (called the “wheel”). In both Ace to Six and Deuce to Seven, straights and flushes count towards a high hand. Aces are high in Deuce to Seven, and low in Ace to Six. Forms of lowball include:

  • California Lowball – Ace to five low game which includes a single bug (joker) and a rule that no one with a 7-high hand may check (unless they intend to fold if someone else bets). Using this rule, a player who checks a 7-high hand forfeits the right to win the pot after the draw.
  • Kansas City – A simple deuce to seven lowball game with no bug (the best possible hand is 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 with no flush).
  • Q-ball – Played “shotgun” style with one bug in the deck. This game is played with a special set of blinds. Both the dealer and the player to the left of the dealer put up a small blind, with the big blind going to the player seated second to the dealer’s left. Players are dealt three cards followed by a round of betting. No checking is allowed in the first round (only calls, raises, or folds). Players then get one more card followed by another round of betting, still no checking allowed (the first player to act must either open with a bet or fold). A fifth card is dealt, followed by a round of betting…this time with checking allowed. Players then get the usual draw followed by a final round of betting. Ace to five low rules apply.

High/Low Declare
As in all forms of poker, high/low simply means that the pot is split between the player with the lowest hand and the player with the highest. The entire pot is “scooped” by a player holding both. The version most commonly played with 5-card draw is with a “declare.” After the draw and final round of betting, each player still in the pot takes 2 chips into their hand and holds them under the table. They then put 1, 2, or none of the chips into a closed fist. All players bring their hands up simultaneously and reveal the number of chips in their hand. Any player holding no chips is declaring that they will win the low hand. A player holding 1 chip is declaring that they will win the high hand. A player holding 2 chips is declaring that they will scoop the pot. All hands are now revealed for the showdown. In this version, a player may only win what they declare. For example, if a player holds 2 chips (declaring a scoop), they must be able to win both the high and low hands…or they win nothing at all (if they clearly have the low hand, but lose or tie for the high…the pot is split between the player with the highest hand who declared high, and the next lowest hand who declared low…if the next lowest hand did not declare low, then the high hand scoops). If all players declare either high or low, then the highest or lowest hand accordingly wins everything.

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