In this edition of the Origins of Poker we take a look at what some call, “the father of poker” or “the original poker,” 5-card draw.
The history of Five Card Draw is a long and colorful one that dates back to the days of the Wild West. When you think of cowboys sitting around in a saloon and playing cards, it is 5-card draw that comes to mind. As with most poker games, the exact origins of the game are unknown. However, it is a fact that 5-card draw was a popular pastime for the United States during some of its most influential years. It is believed that other forms of poker spread up the Mississippi River and out across the rest of the country during the early 1800′s. Most poker historians at some point believe this is when 5-card draw came about, evolving out of these other poker variants. Because of its quick play and drawing round it became very popular. The Gold Rush of the 1800′s helped spread 5-card draw even more. The Gold Rush was also known as the Wild West days in early American history, and 5-card draw played a big role in those years. Cowboys, gold enthusiasts and all types of people gathered in saloons to play poker and socialize. Perhaps one of the most famous, and infamous, hands in poker came by a game of 5-card draw. Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back when playing 5-card draw in a saloon. The hand he held when he was shot was two pair of aces and eights. The hand is now and forever known as “Dead man’s hand.” 5-card draw was played at the WSOP from 1978 through 1982, and then was deleted from the schedule due to its rapid decline in popularity. Variations of the game are still played, like 2-7 single draw and triple draw. Although these variations are merely different forms of lowball poker.
How to play 5-card draw:
Each player is dealt five cards face down. Players then look at their cards and decide whether they want to bet or not. After the first round of betting the drawing round ensues. Each player may choose to discard any number of cards they wish and will receive that amount of cards in return. If a player chooses not to discard any cards it is called, “standing pat.” Some casinos and home games limit the amount of cards you can discard, including a stipulation where a player cannot discard more than 3 cards unless they reveal an ace in their hand. Casinos do this to allow and encourage more players on a table to get in on the action. The typical 5-card draw hand is 6 players. However, the general rule states that you can discard any number of cards. After the drawing round, players have another round of betting and the cards are revealed. The player with the best 5 card hand wins the pot.
Strategy for 5-card draw:
Very little information is given during this game, based on the simple fact that you do not see any of your opponent’s cards at anytime. You must pay attention to how many cards they draw and betting patterns. You must constantly analyze how they play in each position and if you pick up a physical tell on them, you can potentially have an advantage. The most important thing in this game of poker is patience. You will not make a lot of big hands that are more common in community card games. For instance, if you have weak cards in your hand and there is a lot of betting before the draw round, fold. Do not get your chips in the pot with the hopes of hitting a miracle draw. Another important thing to consider is recognizing betting patterns. One common betting pattern is when your opponent raises before the draw and stands pat during the drawing round. They most likely have a strong hand in this case. Another common betting pattern is when an opponent draws one card and then starts betting. That opponent may have completed their draw and is now betting with it. Still others will play every hand hoping to hit something, if anything. Be careful as some players will use these betting patterns as bluffs. You cannot bluff every hand and expect to win, but you must use your judgment in determining which hands to play and which to stay away from.
To be a winning player at 5-card draw, consider these few key concepts:
- Be patient – This is key to winning because strong hands are rare in this game.
- Recognize betting patterns – If you can recognize betting patterns within your opponent’s game, you will be able to make better decisions on which hands to play.
- Judgment – You must trust your judgment in 5-card draw and adjust to each player.
- Do not draw more than 2 cards most times, and rarely draw 3 – You should only draw two the majority of time because drawing 3 or more most likely means you have a pair or something weaker. Remember, do not give up any information whenever possible.
5-card draw will improve your skills at reading opponents and, if practiced enough, will allow you to excel at other forms of poker too.
Mike “Daggum” Krisle – Beat Writer – AGP