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DRAW POKER STRATEGY

What could be better in poker than to give back undesirable cards and swap them for new ones? That’s what happens in Draw poker, but be careful: how many cards you draw can give clues to your hand (and other players’, so be attentive!). For example, drawing three cards suggests you have a high pair; drawing two looks like you have a three of a kind; and drawing one might indicate you’re hoping to make a straight or flush or you have two pair that you’re attempting to improve.

Pre-draw strategy

Right after the deal, you need to look at your hands and decide if you want to fold, check, call, bet or raise. You also need to decide what your hand is going to be and which cards you’re going to draw (discard). While it will be obvious to you which cards you’re going to draw when you look at your hand, don’t make it obvious to the other players in advance how many cards you’re going to discard by, say, moving three cards from your hand to either side of the fan. Other players will see you doing this and may figure out that you have a high pair. Just leave the cards you intend to discard alone until it is your turn to draw.

You should keep in mind the odds of improving a hand in the draw: the worse hand you’re dealt, the better your odds of drawing a better hand (and vice versa). Take a look below for a table outlining the odds.

Kickers

When you’re drawing with a pair in your hand, your best odds of improving it are to draw three cards. However, if you have an unpaired Ace or King in your hand, it makes sense to draw only two cards, leaving you with a pair and a high kicker in your hand. By only drawing two cards, you’re telling your opponents that you might have a three of a kind. Remember, keeping the other players guessing is part of how you play poker.

Position

Like most poker games, your position relative the dealer dictates how strong the hands are that you play. In late position, you can play weaker hands, while in early position, you should stick to playing highly-ranked hands.

The odds

You should be aware of the odds of improving your hand by drawing and should bet accordingly. That is to say, you shouldn’t bet more than your hand’s expectation to improve. The expectation is the amount you can win multiplied by the probability that you’ll win the hand. You should only bet when the odds of winning the pot are greater than the odds of winning the hand.

Here’s an example of how to figure out the odds and expectation:

Let’s say you have two pair in your hand before the draw and you want to try to make a full house. You need to decide if the odds are in your favor to bet or fold.

1. Look your hand up on the table below to get the odds of improving that hand. Under ‘cards kept,’ find your hand (in this case, two pair) and then look at the ‘odds against’ column beside the hand you want to make (‘improved hand’). Here, the odds for improving two pair to a full house are 11 to 1. This means out of 12 times, you’ll lose 11 times and win once. You can also express this by saying your chance of winning is one in 12.

2. Next you have to look at the size of the pot. In this example, we’ll say it’s $60.

3. To figure out the expectation of your hand, you multiply the size of the pot by the odds of improving your hand. In this example, that would be:

$60 (size of the pot) x 1/12 (odds of improving hand) = $5

This means if it costs you $5 or less, you should bet. If it costs more than $5 to bet, the odds and expectation are not in your favor and you should probably fold.

Put another way, if the pot odds are 11 to 1 and the bets are at $5, the pot would need to be at least $55 for it to be worth betting on.

The following is a list of odds of improving your hand:

FIVE-CARD DRAW: ODDS OF IMPROVING YOUR HAND

CARDS KEPT

# of CARDS DRAWN

IMPROVED HAND

ODDS AGAINST

Ace

4

Pair

4 to 1

 

4

Three Aces

63 to 1

Ace and King

3

Pair of Kings or Aces

3 to 1

One pair

3

Two pair

5.25 to 1

 

3

Three of a kind

8 to 1

 

3

Full house

97 to 1

 

3

Four of a kind

359 to 1

 

3

Any improvement

2.5 to 1

Pair and an Ace

2

Two pairs

8 to 1

 

2

Three of a kind

12 to 1

Two pair

1

Full house

11 to 1

Three of a kind

2

Full house

15.5 to 1

 

2

Four of a kind

22.5 to 1

Outside straight

1

Straight

5 to 1

Inside straight

1

Straight

11 to 1

Four flush

1

Flush

4.5 to 1

Three flush

2

Flush

23 to 1

Two flush

3

Flush

96 to 1

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