5 Card Draw Poker Beginner's Guide

Shane C

Nov 4, 2023

Poker Chips and a stack of cards on a Metal Bag

Do you want to get into poker, but feel like most of the variants out there are too intimidating for beginners? If that's the case, then 5-card draw poker might just be the game for you. Also known as the Cantrell draw, it is quite possibly the simplest one out of all of the poker variations.

The 5-card draw learning process is very straightforward. After just a few practice games, you'll be able to keep playing without having to peek into the rule book ever again. This guide will take you through all of the essential aspects of the game. Once you're done reading, you'll be more than ready to start your own poker journey!

5 Card Draw Rules

5-card draw poker is a classic game that offers plenty of excitement. It is also very easy to learn, especially compared to other variants of poker, such as Texas Hold'em. At the start of the game, each player is dealt five cards (hence the name). The goal is to have the best hand at the end of two rounds of betting. It's as simple as that!

Remember, understanding poker hand rankings—from High Card up to Royal Flush—is essential to play this game well. We'll dive into those later in this article. For now, let's take a look at how a typical game of 5-card draw plays out.

How To Play 5 Card Draw

Firstly, each player places an initial bet. Then, the dealer gives each player five cards. Players assess their hands and decide how many cards they'd like to exchange. They could swap all, some, or none of their cards in an attempt to improve their hand. This action marks the first betting round.

Next comes the second round of betting, where players contemplate whether their revised hand can win the pot or they should fold. During betting rounds, tactics like bluffing may come into play. For example, even if a player doesn't hold a strong hand, they might bet strategically or bluff to compel others to fold.

Finally, those still standing compete against each other in the showdown, which begins with the last player who bet or raised during the final betting round. At that point, everyone's cards are revealed and compared. The one with the highest-ranking poker hand wins all bets placed in the pot.

Hands in 5 Card Draw Poker

It is often said that a 5-card draw is the perfect poker variation for beginners. If you're a newcomer to the game, chances are that you're not really familiar with the different hands you can draw. You need to learn all of these combinations by heart in order to know when to hold them and when to fold them.

While these hands may seem quite complex at the start, they'll soon become second nature to you as you gain experience playing online poker games or gambling at the table with your friends. Below, we listed them by rank, from the rather weak hands all the way to the strongest.

High Card

When no other hand is achieved, the highest card held wins. For example, if you have an Ace - the highest card - and none of the other players have a match or better, you'd win with a high card.


This is when you have two cards of the same rank. For example, two 7's or two Queens form a pair. It's stronger than a High Card but weaker than Two Pair.

Two Pair

To put it simply, this is two sets of pairs. You could have, for instance, two 4's and two Jacks. This hand is stronger than just one pair but weaker than Three-of-a-Kind.


This hand consists of three cards of the same rank. If you had three 9's, for instance, you'd have a Three-of-a-Kind. It ranks above a Two-Pair hand and below a Straight.


Here, you need five sequential cards, regardless of suit. So, a 5-6-7-8-9 of different suits would be a Straight. It beats Three-of-a-Kind and falls right under Flush.


If you pull five cards, all of the same suit - say all Hearts or all Clubs - then you have a Flush on your hands. It's better than a Straight but not as good as Full House.

Full House

Combines one pair with a Three-of-a-Kind. So, two 5's and three Jacks would get you a Full House. It’s stronger than a Flush but weaker than Four-of-a-Kind.


As the name suggests, this hand has four cards of the same rank along with any fifth card. It's stronger than a Full House and only surpassed by a Straight Flush or Royal Flush.

Straight Flush

Now we're hitting the big leagues. A Straight Flush is five cards in sequence and of the same suit, e.g. 2-3-4-5-6 of Clubs. It's beaten only by a Royal Flush.

Royal Flush

The pinnacle of poker! This hand is a Straight Flush that runs to the Ace: 10-Jack-Queen-King-Ace, all of the same suit. It's unbeatable but incredibly rare.

Five-Card Draw Poker Bluffing Tips

A dealer and two men playing pokerBluffing is an inseparable part of Poker. It injects an element of risk, suspense, and psychology into the game, adding layers of complexity to the basic mechanics of chance and probability. Below are some crucial bluffing tips you might want to implement when playing five-card draw poker.

  • Understand Your Opponents: Even before you think about bluffing, you must first observe your opponents. Understand their style of play - are they cautious or aggressive? Recognise their betting patterns. Do they bluff often or rarely? Answering such questions can offer valuable insights that can help determine when a bluff might be well-timed or ill-advised.

  • Know Your Table Image: Your opponents observe your play, too, so you must understand your table image, i.e. your pattern of behaviour so far. Have you been playing conservatively and folding often? If so, a sudden bet might signal a strong hand and encourage others to fold, even if your cards are weak.

  • Consider Your Position: The best time to bluff effectively is when you're the last to act in that round. In later positions, you have more information about other players' moves, enabling you to gauge when a bluff might be successful.

  • Money Management: It's important to risk only a fraction of your chip stack on a bluff. Being reckless can cost you your entire stack on a failed gamble.

  • Timing Is Key: Good bluffers understand when to bluff. It’s generally not advisable to do so consistently, as predictable patterns allow your opponents to prepare for your bluffs.

  • Optimal Hand Selection: Semi-bluffing with a decent hand - one that can improve in the next drawing round - may be safer than pure bluffing with an exceptionally weak hand.

Is Bluffing Really Effective?

Bluffing can unquestionably serve as an effective strategy when applied under the right circumstances and used judiciously. After all, it forces opponents to second-guess your intentions. But like any tactic, it depends on its proper execution for its effectiveness.

In five-card draw poker, bluffing can be extremely beneficial owing to the lack of community cards, which are present in other variations. Here, opponents have only their cards and your demeanour to judge when you're bluffing. The absence of shared cards, as compared to variants like Texas Hold'em or Omaha, magnifies the importance of player behaviour and betting patterns.

However, the effectiveness of bluffing is also dependent on the caliber of your opponents. Novice players might not recognise a bluff or may call bets with poor hands, making bluffs against them less effective. Conversely, seasoned players are likely to recognise your bluff based on subtleties in your betting pattern or body language.

So, while bluffing can be a powerful tool in your poker arsenal, its effectiveness varies depending on a number of factors. Therefore, the art of bluffing lies not just in mastering deception but in understanding when and against whom to wield this weapon.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know the basics of 5-card draw poker, it's time to put your knowledge into practice. The best place to start is demo versions of online poker games. That way, you can get a feel of the entire process without risking real money. 

Keep this guide open in another tab of your browser when playing so that you can quickly take a look at it when something confuses you. Once you feel confident in your abilities, you can move on to online or in-person games against real opponents. Good luck, and may the odds be in your favour!