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One of the first poker games played in America was very simple: you were dealt five cards, followed by a round of betting, and then a showdown where the best hand won. It only used a 22-card deck, and when the standard 52-card deck was introduced to North America in 1833, the added cards made for the creation of many new poker games, including Draw poker (making it one of the oldest poker variant played today). By having more cards in the deck, there were now enough cards so that players could exchange them in the hopes of obtaining a better hand (drawing). This extra play in the game allowed for the inclusion of a second betting round. Both of these additions to the game made it much more interesting and it quickly became more popular than its predecessor.

Draw is considered to be poker in its purest form and as such, you should make sure you can play the game well. Also, you’ll encounter both this game and many variations of it when playing home games, so


You can play Draw with only two people and up to as many as eight. You don’t want to play with more than eight as you may run out of cards if everyone draws. In this regular version of Draw, the highest-ranked hand wins (unlike in Lowball, which is played like Draw, but the lowest-ranked hand wins). Check out the page on hand rankings in case you haven’t memorized them yet.


The game starts with all of the players placing chips in the pot the ante. Usually the ante is 10% of the minimum bet. If you were playing a $10-$20 game, the ante would be $1.


In home games, everyone gets an opportunity to be the dealer. A dealer button is used in casino games to identify the theoretical position of the dealer.

Every player is dealt five cards facedown (one per person at a time) from which they will make their best poker hand. This is where it’s critical you have a good strategy for which cards you’ll keep and which ones you’ll exchange go to the page on Draw strategy for tips on what makes a winning hand.

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It’s worth mentioning here that in some Draw variants, at least one player needs a pair of Jacks or a stronger hand (referred to as ‘Jacks-or-better’) if the game is to proceed. (If nobody has ‘Jacks-or-better,’ the cards are collected and given to the player to the left of the dealer to redeal.) Some poker books say that even in the straight version of poker being described here, the ‘Jacks-or-better’ rule applies. Check before playing if it’s being used or not.

First Betting Interval: Before the Draw

After everyone’s looked at their cards, the first betting round starts with the player to the dealer’s left. Draw is often played with minimum and maximum betting values (two-tiered). For the first betting round, you can bet the minimum (lower tier). For example, in a $10-$20 game, you can bet $10 (and raise by $10 if you want).

You can check (since you already have an ante in the pot), bet, call, raise or fold when it’s your turn. Play moves around the table clockwise until all bets are equalized (this means everyone who wants to stay in the game have all put in the same amount of chips in the pot).


Starting with the person to the dealer’s left, each player who remains in the game is given the opportunity to discard some cards in their hand in exchange for new ones. The maximum number of cards that can be exchanged is not the same for every game it can range from one to all five cards. Be sure to find out what the maximum number is before you start. In home games with ‘dealer’s choice,’ the dealer announces what the maximum is for that hand, and the maximum number of draws per hand. This means you can have more than one round of drawing, which will add on another betting interval. Casinos usually keep it to one draw round.

Discard your unwanted cards in front of you. Don’t expose your cards when you’re discarding them as you don’t want to give anyone clues to the cards that are no longer in play. Nobody not even the dealer should touch the discard pile when the game is live.

The dealer will collect all of the discards and put them in a pile off to the side. Then they’ll start with the first active player to their left and ask them how many cards they want. The cards are then dealt to each player in a clump. This means if you ask for three cards, the dealer will give you three cards all at once (unlike how the game was initially dealt, with each player only getting one card at a time). Be careful to ask for the same amount of cards that you discarded. After the draw, having more or less than five cards will automatically disqualify your hand and you lose any chance to win the pot.

If you like your cards, you don’t have to draw. This is referred to as ‘standing pat.’ You can knock on the table (as you would to indicate a check) to let the dealer know you’re not drawing.

Second Betting Interval: After the Draw

After everyone’s had a chance to draw, the action starts with the player to the left of the dealer who’s still in the game. You can check, call, bet, raise or fold in turn.


Once all of the bets are equalized from the final betting round, players who are still left in the game turn over their cards and the best poker hand wins the pot. If all but one player folds, the last remaining player wins (this can happen before the showdown). The cards are then given to the player to the left of the dealer and the next round begins.


Canadian Draw

The game is played the same as regular draw except that it uses an opening hand to start the game: a four-card straight draw or a 4-card flush. This means that if nobody has that hand after the initial deal, the cards are collected and redealt. The hand ranking is slightly different, too: an open-end straight and a 4-card flush are stronger than a pair and the 4-card flush is stronger than an open-end straight. Note that in games requiring opening hands, such as this one and Jacks-or-Better, if you’re the player with the hand, you have to prove that you have it at the showdown. This means if you’re planning on discarding one of the cards that make up the qualifying hand, you should keep the discard close to you in case you have to show that you had an opening hand. Some poker books say you can’t discard these cards and have to keep them in your hand as proof. Check the rules of the game you’re playing before you begin.

Double Draw

This game is played identically to Draw, except that there are two draw and betting rounds. You’ll find that you’ll probably run out of cards when playing this variant you can shuffle the discards and use them.


This game is played the same as Draw, except that the only hands you can play are flushes. Whoever has the best five-card flush wins the pot. If nobody has a five-card flush, then the person with the highest four-card flush wins, and so on until a winner is discovered.

High-Low Split

The game is played the same as Draw, except the pot is split between the players with the highest- and lowest-ranked hand.

Jacks Back

Like Jacks-or-Better poker, there needs to be at least one player with a hand that is a pair of Jacks or stronger to open the game. If nobody has such a hand, then the game is played for low (meaning the lowest-ranked hand wins). (In Jacks-or-Better, if there is no opening hand, the cards are redealt.)


The game is played like Jacks-or-Better, except that all players who don’t have Jacks-or-better have to fold their hand and are out of the game until the next round.

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Pip Poker

This game is played like Draw, except deciding the winner at the showdown is completely different from regular poker games. Instead of using the traditional hand rankings, the cards are simply added up and whoever has the most points win. Aces are worth 1 point, the facecards and the 10 card are worth 10 points and the rest of the cards are worth their value in points (for example, the 5 card is worth five points). This game is also played for high-low split, with 50 points being the best hand you can get, and 5 points (five Aces) being the lowest.

Progressive Poker

This game plays the same as Jacks-or-Better, except if nobody has an opening hand (a pair of Jacks or stronger), the cards are collected, people ante-in again, and the cards are redealt with the opening hand now Queens-or-better (a pair of Queens or stronger), and so on until either the opening hand is Aces-or-better or somebody has a qualifying opening hand. If there still isn’t an opening hand after Aces-or-better, it goes back down to Kings-or-better, then Queens-or-better until a player receives an opening hand. The pot just keeps getting bigger and bigger since everyone has to ante-in before each redeal.


This is played like regular Draw, except that all facecards are wild.

Shotgun Poker

This variant has a lot of betting rounds. Three cards are dealt to each player, followed by a round of betting, then a fourth card which is followed by a round of betting, and finally a fifth card and a round of betting. Then there is a draw and a final round of betting.

Spanish Draw

The low cards are removed from the deck (the 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 cards) and players can only draw a maximum of three cards (because of the reduced size of the deck). It’s easier to make three of a kinds, four of a kinds and full houses, but it’s more difficult to make straights and flushes.

Spit in the Ocean

Deal out four cards to each player and then turn over one community card for everyone to use in their hand. The fifth card is called the ‘spit.’ The rest of the game plays like regular Draw.

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These rules apply in addition to general poker rules, so be sure to read that section as well. Remember to find out what rules are being implemented in the particular game you’re playing.

  1. You can check-raise before and after the draw.
  2. Cards exposed by the dealer must be played.
  3. You must have five cards in your hand. If it is discovered that you have less than five cards before anyone bets during the first betting interval, a misdeal is declared and the cards are redealt. However, if you’re the dealer or are sitting on the dealer button, you’re simply dealt a fifth card. If you discover you’re missing a card after the first betting interval, but before the draw, you can draw for as many cards that is needed to complete a five-card hand. If the draw has already taken place and you realize you have more or less than five cards, you hand is fouled and you lose any claim to the pot.
  4. If the game allows players to draw five cards, they’re dealt four cards right away and are given the fifth after the other players have all drawn. If it’s the last player left who’d like to draw five cards, they’re given four, then the fifth card is burned by the dealer (discarded) and the next card is dealt as their fifth card.
  5. If a player still in the game asks you how many cards you drew, you have to tell them as long as there hasn’t been any action taken after the draw. The dealer is also required to answer. However, once there has been action after the draw and they ask you, it is neither the dealer’s nor your responsibility to answer them.
  6. If a card is exposed during the draw, it can’t be used. The card is replaced after every player is finished drawing.
  7. Knocking on the table means you’re passing or that you don’t want to draw any cards.
  8. You can’t change seats when multiple antes or forfeited money is in the pot.
  9. At any time, you can pay the ante to join a game and be dealt a hand, except when there is extra money in the pot that was given up during a hand that you weren’t playing.
  10. If you’re so low on chips that all you have left is the cost of the ante, you can still play and try to win only the antes.
  11. These rules were adapted from Bob Ciaffone’s Robert’s Rules of Poker.

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