Draw poker is by far the most familiar of all poker games to the widest range of people. Over the years it has given birth to countless variations, with a host of wild names; Gardena Jackpot (or Jacks to Open), California Lowball, Double-Draw, Four-Before, Johnson (or Jack's Back), Q-Ball, Shotgun, Blind Tiger, English Draw, Canadian Draw, Spit in the Ocean, Anaconda (or Pass the Trash), Louisiana LoFlop, Boure (or P-Boure), and In Between. Undoubtedly the most basic and most widely played form of poker in home games and in video poker is 5 Card Draw. In fact, unless otherwise specified, a player can assume that a game called simply Draw Poker is bound to be basic 5 Card Draw (also known as Draw High). This article describes the rules of Draw Poker with particular attention paid to 5 Card Draw.
The basic structure is simple:
1. Players ante (or post blinds)
2. Each player is dealt five cards face down.
3. First round of betting
4. Players draw, in turn.
5. Second, and final, round of betting.
5 Card Draw Poker is played with two to eight players. Each player, after posting the ante, is dealt five cards face down. Then a round of betting starts with the player to the left of the dealer (or the dealer button). Players can either check (pass the option to bet along to the next player clockwise), bet the posted minimum bet, or raise the minimum bet to double. Usually a maximum of one initial bet and three consecutive raises are allowed in each round of betting, though some casinos allow four consecutive raises.
After all bets are called (or hands folded) each player in turn can trade with the dealer up to four cards from their hand for an equal number of new cards from the deck; this is called the Draw.
At some casinos, players can only draw four cards if they show (and keep) an Ace. Otherwise they can only draw up to three cards. At still other casinos, players wishing to trade-in all five cards will only get four new cards initially, the fifth one dealt to them after the last player has drawn. If the last player wishes to trade-in all five cards, the first four new cards are dealt then the dealer discards (Burns) the next card in the deck before dealing the fifth and final new card. After the Draw, there is a second (and final) round of betting after which the remaining players show their hands (the Showdown), and a winner is declared.
Certain casinos don't uses antes but blinds instead, two forced bets placed by the two players immediately to the left of the dealer or the dealer button. The two blinds are, respectively, half the minimum bet (the Small Blind) and the entire minimum bet (the Big Blind). If blinds are used instead of antes, the first player to bet in the first round of betting is the player to the left of the big blind. That player may NOT check, but only either call the minimum bet or raise it. In the second round of betting, the first to bet is the player directly to the left of the dealer (or dealer button), the same player who posted the small blind. Although this player is still restricted to the minimum allowable bet, they are permitted to check if they wish.
Some versions of Draw poker have prerequisites for opening the bet (betting anything other than the ante). For example, a common Draw Poker variant often seen in online casinos, particularly in their video poker rooms, is Jacks or Better. In Jacks or Better, no one can place the first bet until they are holding either a pair of Jacks or any better hand.
In Jacks or Better, as with any Draw Poker game that has a prerequisite for opening the bet, if no one is able to open the bet, a misdeal is declared and all hands are mucked, the original antes remain in the pot, each player antes again, and new cards are dealt. Most casino Draw Poker games allow three consecutive deals before antes stop being taken.
Jokers will only be included in games that announce that Jokers are included. Jokers are NOT merely wild cards. They can only be used as Aces, or to complete a straight, a flush, or a straight flush. If a Joker is used to complete a flush, its value is as the highest card not already in the flush. Thus if a Joker is in a hand with the 5,9,10,K, and A of Spades, it becomes the Q of Spades. When Jokers are used, as with other less restricted wild cards, the best possible hand is NOT a royal flush, but five Aces.
Please make sure you know which version of Draw Poker you are playing before you sit in, including being aware of the rules for drawing cards (up to five cards, up to four, only up to four with an Ace, etc.)