Draw poker refers to a group of games that include a card exchange: the players are dealt their hands face down after which each player is offered the option to exchange a maximum of a pre-determined number of cards for new ones from the remaining deck in an attempt to improve their hand. This action of exchanging or ‘drawing’ cards may take place one or more times depending upon the specifics of the game. In a typical draw game, each player receives his or her hand of cards face down after which a round of betting occurs. The first round of betting is followed by the ‘draw’ after which the second (and potentially final depending on the number of draws) round of betting takes place. One variation allows the first or only draw before the first betting round. In a game with more than one draw, a betting round would follow each draw.
Strategically, it is useful to observe the number of cards each of your opponents request on an optional multi-card draw. For instance, if the player declines to change any cards (sometimes referred to as ‘standing pat’) he or she clearly believes his or her hand to be quite strong and may be holding a flush or a full house.
5 Card Draw:
The most common form of draw poker is 5-card draw. Each player starts with a hand of five cards. The specific nature of the draw or draws (i.e.: how many draws per hand and how many cards per draw) varies according to the dealer’s specification.
Roll Your Own:
The most popular addition to any draw poker game is a wild card (a predetermined card in the deck or hand that may substitute for any card in order to improve the hand). In ‘Roll Your Own,’ the player is allowed to choose a wildcard from among those in their own hand.
In order to improve or ‘sweeten’ the pot, a dealer may decide to impose a fee for each card exchanged in any given draw. This complicates the decision making process for a player who is considering a card-exchange; it may not seem worth the fee to try and improve a questionable hand. For example, a player with two pairs might wish to remain in the game but might choose not to shoot for the full house in order to avoid paying the fee.
This variation requires a set of games to be played to decide a single pot. When a player wins one hand, it is considered a ‘leg’; two or more legs, depending upon the game being played, are necessary to win a game of leg poker. The first player to win the requisite number of legs takes the pot. This game is usually played with two legs but may have more at the discretion of the dealer.
In this version of draw poker, the pot is split between two winners, the high-hand and the hand with the lowest value at the table. In a game where more than five cards are dealt to a player, it is conceivable for a single player to win both hands.
This game pays out to the single player with the lowest valued hand
This variation is designed to increase the number of betting rounds in a game of draw. When all card-exchanges have taken place, the players reveal – or “roll” – their cards one at a time (each roll is done simultaneously to avoid unfair advantages). After each roll, a round of betting takes place that is opened by the player with the best hand showing (this adds a distinctive ‘stud’ element to an otherwise normal draw game).
New York Draw:
This variant simply adds a non-traditional poker hand to the standard roster: four numerically sequential cards (i.e. a four card straight) is inserted in the rankings above a pair and below two-pair.
Canadian Draw is similar to New York Draw with one additional possible hand. As well as a four card straight, Canadian Draw includes a four card flush. This mini-flush beats the outside straight but is ranked below two-pair.
This game is played as traditional draw but uses a reduced deck of 32 cards (7 through Ace).
A qualifier, as applied to poker, refers to a minimum hand value (determined by the dealer) required in order to open the first betting round. For example, a common variety of draw poker is called Jacks Or Better and – in order to open the betting – a player must have a hand equal to or higher than a pair of jacks. In a qualifier game, the opener must show the qualifying cards to the table. If no hand qualifies, the hand is null and the players forfeit their cards, pay a new ante into the pot and a new hand is dealt. This process repeats until a player qualifies to open at which point normal betting rounds begin.
In this game, a single joker is added to the deck as a quasi-wild card or ‘bug’. The bug may only be used to complete a straight or a flush. In all other cases, it counts as an ace.
Aside from the number and manner of draws designated by the dealer, the primary difference between different draw games is the wild cards, if any, which are used. Some popular wild card games are:
- Acey-Deucy – 5 card draw with Aces and Twos are wild.
- Pregnant Threes – 5 card draw with Threes, Sixes and Nines are wild.
- Snowmen and Hockey Sticks – 5 card draw with Eights and Sevens wild.