Draw Poker Basics

Draw poker is one of the most common games played at home other than Texas Holdem. There are many different types of Draw poker, including Anaconda and Booray and a popular game called Jacks or Better.

Draw poker is basically played as it sounds. Players are dealt hole cards where they can then choose which ones they want to discard and then must “Draw” some more. To make things less complicated when we refer to Draw poker we will discuss 5-Card Draw poker as it is the most simplest. Many times people will play with a Joker.

Basic Rules of Draw Poker

In Draw poker there can be anywhere from 2-8 players at the table. Players are first dealt their hole cards which are considered down cards. “Down cards” means that the cards are not shown to anyone else at the table. So in 5-card draw players would be dealt 5 hole cards. The first betting round would then begin.

It is common in home games to just have players ante. The ante begins with the player to the left of the dealer. In more structured games such as online or in casinos there are typically blinds.There would be a small and large blind with the small blind being to the left of the dealer and the big blind to the left of the small blind

After the first betting round players then choose cards they would like to discard.  In most home games participants set a max amount of cards allowed to discard. In casinos you can typically discard up to five if you would like.

The “Draw” now begins. Players are dealt new cards in the same amount of the ones they discarded. If they discarded 3 then they will be dealt 3 and so on. After the “Draw” a second betting round occurs and players bet, call, raise or fold. The best 5 cards win.

Joker or No Joker

Draw poker is commonly played with a Joker. Playing without a Joker is not as common. The Joker is considered to be the wild card which can be used as any card the player wants. We will discuss Draw poker with a Joker more in depth than without.

Draw Poker – Without Joker

When playing Draw poker without a Joker you can open up the types of hands you would play more often. The winning hands will have less value and you will see the “Nuts” or “Pat” hands much less often. These would be the best possible winning hands. Fewer hands will have early opening raises and sandbagging is less prevalent than in Draw poker with a Joker. Also drawing hands are much less desirable. Playing without a Joker gives “come hands” much less outs and varieties to make draws.

Best Starting Hands in Draw Poker – Joker Included

Simple enough, any time you are dealt Aces in draw poker you can be sure you have a very strong hand and have a good chance to win. Aces make you the most money in draw poker. In general it is good to be the opening raiser with aces and if someone raises before you it is safe to call.

Also pay attention to the pot when playing draw poker. Ante’s and bet size is very important. If the pot is big enough because of antes and the bet was small enough you can go ahead and call with worse hands. A pair is usually a good hand to open a raise with in draw poker but watch out for two pair that are small. If you have two small pair it is likely your opponents will improve to beat your two small pair.

If there are more than 3 callers before you and you hold two small pairs you should go ahead and toss it. The odds of improving to a full house are 11 to 1 plus you have to worry about your opponent making a bigger full house. The bigger the pair the earlier the position you can open up a raise. If you are in later position with a decent pair such as Jacks or better you should go ahead and open up a raise.

What Cards to Discard? – Playing with Joker

Deciding which cards to draw and which ones to keep is basically common sense if you know the basic winning hands of poker.

- If you have a pair of Jacks or better you really shouldn’t keep an Ace kicker if you have it. The reason for this is because it will make it just that much harder to beat trips. Yes you have a better chance of improving your hand holding the Ace kicker but you are much less likely to beat someone with trips. If you believe your opponent has kings up or something like that go ahead and keep the Ace.

- Always hold onto high kickers if you have aces and you feel that your opponent might have aces as well. If there are more than 3 opponents in the hand you should then throw away the high kicker and draw the full 3 cards.

– If you hold a Joker and an Ace with a suited card to the straight flush you should draw 2 cards. Never draw one card for a straight flush unless you are sure you must beat 3 of a kind.

– If you hold 3 of a kind go ahead and draw 2 cards. You can sometimes draw just one if you would like to disguise your hand. Contrary to popular belief you should hold the low card if you decide to draw just one and don’t want a kicker card. The reason is because your opponents most likely have most of the face cards and holding onto the low card gives you a better chance. If you decide to hold a kicker card you should hold the Ace card.

– When you hold two small pair you should try and keep these cards against someone you believe may be drawing. There is a good probability that your opponent has an Ace with a Joker and is drawing to a flush or a straight. Hold on to the two pair in hopes to win with that. If you think he might have a set, go ahead and split up your pair and draw to the bigger set.

When to Bluff – Joker Included

It can be important to raise “On the Come”. Raising on the come means you are raising with a draw with the correct pot odds to risk the bet. Good times to bluff on the come is when you have over 19 outs to a straight or a flush. For some reason many players believe just because a player draws one card they have a big hand. The whole “Not betting into a player with a one card draw” is completely false and can warrant a bluff in some instances. There is a good chance this type of player has a flush draw or only has two small pair and will fold to a bet. It’s also good to bet into one card draws if you have Aces or three of a kind. If you get raised you can always fold but at least you gave yourself a chance at winning the pot then.

Try sandbagging more often in short handed games. It’s not all that profitable to bet strong in short handed games because antes are usually low. In bigger sized games you are better of not sandbagging as much.

Reading Hands – Hand Tells

In draw poker players tend to look at their hands way too long when they have bad hands. Opponents who look like their evaluating their hole cards way too much generally have total garbage. Players who receive their cards, look at them very shortly, then place them back on the table as if they’re hiding them usually have a very strong hand. If they follow that up by starring around the room WATCH OUT! Go back to the basics of all poker tells. When a fish acts strong he is weak and when he acts weak he is strong. A player who fiddles with his chips as if he’s going to bet before his turn is also weak.

When players are on the come or have a drawing hand they tend to shuffle their cards after they draw. The best part about this tell are they will actually tell you if they missed or not. When they look at their cards to see if they hit the flush they will stop half way through if they missed their hand.

When you’re playing draw poker with a Joker and a player “accidentally” shows his Joker then he is weak. This was no accident as he did it on purpose hoping to scare you away by pretending like the Joker means he has a strong hand.

Draw Poker can be a very monotonous game so that is why the Joker is often used. Remember there are lots of variations of Draw poker and rules can vary from game to game so always ask the players if you are unsure of house rules.


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