Five card draw strategy guide

Five card draw is an excellent poker game that has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the past year or two. It is now available at many online card rooms and there is usually good action. Like Hold’em or Omaha, most five card draw games online use a small and large blind. If you are new to the game, read first the rules of five card draw and later check this article.

Starting hand strategy

Starting hand play in five card draw can get quite complex, but when you are just learning, you only have to remember a few things to get off to a solid start. Five card draw is a game of pairs. You want to open bet or raise with premium pairs. A pair of aces should be your backbone starting hand. Kings, queens and jacks are okay in later positions but should be played with caution in early positions. A quick note on two pair: even with two pair you will want your highest pair to be aces or some other premium face cards; open betting with sixes up (6633J for example) is not a good idea! Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding your starting hands:

  • You shouldn’t draw to flushes or straights unless the pot is big and there are lots of players.
  • To start, you don’t need to be playing pairs much smaller than tens.
  • Don’t just call with premium pairs, raise!
  • By playing premium, high pairs, you are already ahead of your opponents.
  • Be aggressive and raise with your best hands. Re-raise too!

For more details on this subject, check our article: Starting hands in five card draw.


Position is slightly different in five card draw because after the first round it changes. In five card draw the betting starts with the person to the left of the large blind and then continues in a clockwise motion. In this first round, you should use what you know from other poker games to formulate your play. Play only the strongest premium hands in early position and play weaker, less powerful hands in later position. The second round of betting will begin with the person who opened the first round. By this point, you should have some idea of what your opponents might hold and position becomes less important.

For detailed information about position, read: Position in five card draw.

The Draw

Once the first round of betting is complete, players are given the opportunity to discard and draw to improve their hands. Although the draw is a good opportunity to bluff or deceive, right now you should just worry about drawing the best hand. Draw what you need to improve your hand.

Read more: The draw fase: strategy and tips

Reading your opponents

The great thing about five card draw is the opportunity you have to deduce what an opponent might have. Here are a few basic things to look for when watching your opponents draw:

  • An opponent keeping two cards almost always has a pair. Is your pair better?
  • A strong bettor keeping three cards may have trips, watch out!
  • Poor opponents may keep four cards in hopes of completing a straight or flush
  • Good opponents keeping four cards probably have a strong two pair

For more information, read: Reading opponents and taking notes

By remembering to play premium pairs and focusing on aces, you are well ahead of most people who you will run into playing five card draw. Don’t get caught up in trying to draw to big flushes or straights and don’t be passive; you only have two chances to grow the pot in five card draw, make sure you are getting the most money for your premium hands. As your experience grows you can begin to play more hands and try out advanced strategies like bluffing.

You can check our five card draw strategy articles for more tips about the game.