How to Play Five Card Draw

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The class of games known as “poker” can be divided into two broad categories—open and closed. In “open” poker, commonly referred to today as “stud,” a fixed number of cards are dealt, some face up and others face down. Betting occurs as cards are revealed, giving players numerous opportunities to check, bet, raise, call and fold on each hand.

In “closed” poker, the cards that are dealt are unseen by players other than the one holding the hand. Most versions of closed poker feature an opportunity to discard some or all of the cards received and replace them with others—what’s known as the “draw.”

Five Card Draw is one of the oldest forms of closed poker. It originated around the time of the California Gold Rush in 1848. Often referred to simply as “Draw Poker,” it is the basis for a variety of poker variations ranging from 2-7 Draw Lowball to the most recent fad, Badugi. Although Five Card Draw is the game most commonly associated with cowboys, gunslingers and the Old West, it is not nearly as popular today and can be found mainly in home games and as “video poker” in casinos online and off.

Five Card Stud is played with a standard 52-card deck. A marker placed in front of one player is called the “button” and it indicates the dealer for that particular hand. The traditional version of the game calls for each player to post an “ante,” a nominal amount wagered as the cost of being able to receive cards and play the hand.

Each player is then dealt five cards face down. After examining their cards, the player to the left of the button opens the round of betting by either checking or placing a wager. If the first player bets, other players go in turn clockwise around the table, declaring their decision to call (match the bet), raise (increase the wager) or fold (drop out of the hand). Alternatively, if the first player does not bet, players have the option to check, bet or fold until one of them does place a wager. Betting continues in this fashion until there are no more checks, bets or raises.

Next comes the drawing round. Starting from the player to the immediate left of the dealer button, each player in turn has the option to trade in some of the original cards dealt. In other words, players may attempt to improve their hands by choosing to discard from one to all five of the cards and receive new cards as replacements. Any player who is satisfied with the original five cards received may choose to “stand pat” and not participate in the draw.

Then, a second round of betting ensues, with players in turn given the opportunity to check, bet or fold going clockwise around the table, starting with the last player to have bet or raised in the first betting round. If there was no bet in the initial round, the active player seated to the left of the dealer button declares first. Once a bet has been made, the options change to call, raise or fold. Betting continues until there are no more raises made and the pot is right.

Finally, there is the “showdown,” with the last player to have bet or raised showing his or her hand first. If there was no betting in the second round and all players checked, it is up to the first player to the left of the dealer button to reveal his or her cards. The other active players then expose their hands in turn going clockwise around the table.

The highest hand wins the entire pot, as per the normal ranking of poker hands; no differentiation is made between suits in determining the value of a hand. In case of a tie, when the winning hands are identical, the pot is dividedly equally among the winners. Once the pot has been claimed, the button moves to one position to the left, and the next hand may begin.

Literally dozens of variations of Five Card Draw exist. They include such colourfully named games as Jacks or Better, Lowball, Deuces Wild, Joker Poker, Pass the Trash, Blind and Straddle, Tiger, Passout and many others that make poker such a fascinating activity.

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