Draw poker includes a number of variants, as the requirement for a draw game is that players are dealt a complete five-card hand before the first round of betting, and cards can be replaced or drawn from the deck going forward.
Five-card draw is the most common form of this game, but triple draw games like 2-7 Triple Draw are also popular, and Badugi is one of the many versions that has emerged from the draw poker family. This can be played with normal high-hand rules or as a hi/lo game.
Poker originally took shape in Asia and Europe but made its way to the United States in the 1800s. Settlers in America often played draw poker as they trekked across the country, or in social gatherings in small towns or on riverboats. It also started with a deck of 20 cards but increased to a 52-card deck in the early 1800s so more people could play each hand.
The first solid records of five-card draw poker take the game back to the American Civil War, during which soldiers passed time playing cards. Eventually, seven-card draw surfaced as well.
In the early 1900s, California law declared draw poker a skill game, which led to more frequent play in bars and cardrooms, and Nevada followed suit in 1931 when it legalized card games as a part of the entirety of casino gambling. Draw poker remained popular in casinos throughout the 1900s, but the poker boom and rise of Texas hold’em drew more players to the game in general. Young players wanted more variations of the game, and five-card draw made its comeback. Today, it is often included in the most popular live and online poker tournament series, and it is spread in many online and live card rooms for cash game play.
The basic goal is to make the best five-card poker hand. All cards are known only to the players holding them until the final showdown. Most draw games include antes, though blinds are often used in modern games and tournaments.
- Round 1 of betting, all players ante
The dealer gives every player five face-down cards, which are evaluated by each player.
- Round 2 of betting, first player can check, others must bet to stay in play
Players can trade any number of cards they choose for new cards in the deck or stand pat, which means they keep all five original cards.
- Round 3 of betting, players bet, call, or fold
The remaining players show their hands, and the best hand wins.
The hand rankings are as follows:
- Royal flush, an ace-high straight flush, such as A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit.
- Straight flush, five cards in a row and of the same suit, i.e. 8-7-6-5-4 of the same suit.
- Four of a kind or quads, all four of the same card, i.e. all sevens.
- Full house or a boat, three of a kind and a pair of another, i.e. 9-9-9-2-2.
- Flush, any five cards of the same suit, i.e. A-J-10-4-3 of the same suit.
- Straight, five cards in a row, such as 9-8-7-6-5 of any suit.
- Three of a kind or trips, such as three jacks.
- Two pair, such as aces and eights.
- Pair, two of the same card, such as two jacks.
- High card, with no pairs or higher hands, the highest card wins, with ace ranking highest.
Playing a game like 2-7 Triple Draw requires an understanding of the rules, which consist of playing for the lowest possible five-card hand with aces high. Straights and flushes are not desired, while the best hand is 2-3-4-6-7 with no flush, thus the name Deuce-to-Seven. The next best hand is 2-3-5-6-7. And 2-3-4-5-A is a nut ace, not a straight but a good hand.
Badugi is a variant of draw poker but plays with blinds instead of antes and hands consist of only four cards per player. Badugi refers to the best hand and must consist of low cards, of which the ace is one. Cards must be of different suits and ranks, as no pairs are allowed, and the goal is to get a four-card Badugi of A-2-3-4. Any duplicate suits eliminates a card from contention and relegates that hand to a three-card Badugi.
If blinds are played instead of antes, position is important in deciding when to play and how much to bet. Table image is also a factor, as is the varying strategies for cash games versus tournaments.
One of the important keys to success in five-card draw is to not play too many hands and play for draws. It is much more difficult to make straights and flushes with only one drawing round, so that must be factored into the core strategy as well. It’s typically only worth playing those hands when in the small or big blind.
Reading opponents is very important in draw poker. It is much harder in tournaments when players change tables frequently, but cash game draw poker can be profitable if a player pays attention to reads. This applies to all forms of draw poker.
One of the primary strategies for advanced draw poker players is to raise early and often. Aggression is tough to beat in draw games because of the low odds of completing big hands and the cost to stay in the hand.
Beyond the normal reading of opponents, a fair amount of information can be deduced from how many cards they typically draw. Playing aggressively against a player who typically draws four or five cards can be a profitable endeavor. One who draws three cards is looking for trips, but there are many ways to analyze players who draw only one or two cards regularly. This is also why an advanced player will draw only one card if holding trips, or something similar, to confuse their competitors.