5 Card Draw Poker Strategy – Tips and Tricks for Beginners

5 Card Draw Strategy

Playing with the ante

It is crucial that you place bets in line with the size of the ante. You should always build your playing strategy based on the size of the pot, the number of players and the betting limits, all of which are reflected in the size of the ante.

For example, if the value of the ante outweighs the limit value, you should adjust your strategy and play more loosely and aggressively, as the pot will be high.

In a five card draw poker game, a ‘large ante’ refers to a minimum of 50% of betting limit value.

Smaller antes mean smaller pots and smaller limits, so smaller ante games should be played as tightly and conservatively as possible. After all, there is no need to get all hot and bothered for a low-value match.

Small antes are considered to be an average maximum of 15% of the betting limit value.

Playing starting hands

Because five card draw poker only features one card draw and two betting rounds, the strength of your starting hand is a crucial factor in your chances of taking home the win.

It is harder for five card draw players to boost the value of their hand in the second round than other poker games, so early decisions really count when deciding how to play your starting hand in a game of five card draw.

In the following chart our poker experts have crunched the numbers and added them to a nice interactive chart so you get full value of your starting hands.

In five card draw poker, the odds of your hand increasing in value after the draw correlate with the face value of your starting hand. This means that if you are dealt a stinking starting hand, the chances of you turning it into a diamond during the draw are slim.

While it can occasionally pay off for players sitting on weak hands to stick it out and try and pull a fluke in the draw, it is generally better to adjust your game strategy to the strength of your starting hand.

If your starting hand has no value or potential whatsoever, consider folding the hand and pulling out of the first round.

Raising before the draw

Raising before the draw is an intimidating and manipulative playing strategy that may work to convince other players at the table that you are sitting on a dynamite hand – whether you are or not.


By raising before the draw, declining draw cards and then raising once again, you might be able to convince other players at the table that it is not worth going up against you in a showdown unless they are sitting on a strong hand.

Regardless of whether or not your pre-draw raise is a bluff, raising before the draw can be a great poker table tactic that can give you dominance and control early on in the game. There are some holes in this strategy, however.

If you are playing with regulars who know the way that you play, this trick may only work the first couple of times. Make sure that you only use this strategy when the pot is large enough to take the risk, and that you are not telegraphing reads and patterns to other sharks or aggressive players at the table.

Playing position

The way you play your seating position in a game of five card draw can make or break your chances of winning the pot.


The positions are defined as follows for 9-player tables:

  • BB – big blind
  • SB – small blind
  • BTN – button
  • CO – cut-off (the seat to the right of the button)
  • MP – “middle position”: the three seats to the right of the cut-off.
  • EP – “early position”, the three seats to the right of middle position. These are the first players to act pre-flop. On 9-max tables, there are only two seats in early position.

For instance, a player sitting to the immediate right of the dealer button will be the last to bet, meaning that they will be the player holding the most information and power in each betting round.

It will be easier for this player to bet other players out of the round, take advantage of reads and play loosely or tightly in response to the actions of opponents.

In contrast, those players sitting to the hard left of the dealer button will have to approach each betting round with less information, which can be really tricky if they are not sitting on a decent starting hand.

For any decent five card draw poker player, the hands that they play will be dictated by their position at the table and their place in the order of betting rounds. Generally speaking, there are a few basic strategies that players can use to understand which hands to play in which position.

For example, the player in the first position should try to maximize their strong position by playing big and bold hands such as pairs of aces. Players sitting in an early position may choose to play pairs of kings, while those in middle may need at least a pair of queens to get their hand off the ground.

Choosing the right table

The key to success in five card draw is finding the right table for you. There are all kinds of online poker platforms out there offering players a wide range of five card poker games with different value limits, betting options and table specifications.

If you are playing five card draw poker to win as many games as possible, you should ideally seek out tables and platforms housing poker players who are of a lower skill-set and weaker playing level than yourself.

While this might seem a little aggressive, it makes perfect sense – when faced with weaker competition, your chances of taking home the pot are considerably increased.

Factors to take into account when deciding which five card draw table might be the most profitable for you include traffic density, number of players, poker game niches and most importantly, game value limits.

High-limit platforms and five card draw tables with high betting limits will usually be home to more skilled and experienced players. Lower limit tables tend to house beginners and casual poker players.

If you are an experienced poker player who usually plays for high stakes, you may decide to drop your value limit and take part in games at low-limit tables.

By reducing your playing limit and changing your playing environment, you should be able to win games more regularly and take home more pots, not only improving your five card draw game but also generating winnings more easily and regularly.

Reading players & bluffing

Because there are no visible hole cards or shared community cards in a game of five card draw, the only way that you can gauge the strength of your hand when stacked up against that of your competitors is by ‘reading’ your opponents.

In five card draw, players must gather information about their competitors, including their playing behaviour, betting patterns, draws, discards, bets and hand history. By analyzing a player’s previous hands and ‘tells,’ you may be able to figure out the strength of their hand.

‘Tells’ are unconscious micro-reactions made by players in response to streets, bets and other action at the table.

It is much easier to identify tells and read players when you play with them regularly. It can be difficult to pin-point tells in players you are playing with for the first time.

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