While Texas Holdem is the most common form of poker found in casinos and at online poker sites, draw poker has retained its place as a popular home game and is widely played in the form of video poker. Known as the most traditional form of the game, draw poker is useful for teaching new players the basics of poker before introducing them to some of the more complicated varieties. After all, every poker variation stems from draw poker so it is worthwhile for beginners to master the game in its simplest form.
Generally two to eight players can participate in a game, although most people believe that the rules work best with five players. The objective of draw poker is to make up the strongest poker hand from five cards. Players can discard unwanted cards and are awarded replacement cards from the pack.
Newcomers to poker need to learn two things to master draw poker. The first is learning which cards make up a poker hand and the second is how betting takes place in a game. The highest ranking hand is the Royal Flush, consisting of an Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10 of the same suit. The second highest hand is a Straight Flush, which is five consecutive cards of the same suit. An example of Four of a Kind is four 5's while a full house is three of a kind plus a pair. A flush is any five cards of the same suit and a straight is any five consecutive cards. From there, a three of a kind, a two pair and a pair make up the lowest ranking poker hands. As draw poker is poker in its most basic form, there are no wild cards.
A game commences with all players making an "ante" bet. This is usually a small amount that each player will pay to participate in the round. Antes are used to furnish the pot but are not counted in any subsequent betting round.
Once each player has paid their ante, the dealer awards them five cards each. These are dealt one at a time and face down on the table starting with the player seated immediately to the dealer's left. Once all cards have been dealt, players inspect their cards, being careful to shield the identity of the cards from their opponents. The player to the dealer's left will open the first betting round by either making a bet, passing (not posting a bet) or folding (bowing out of the game.) The second player has the same options when it is time for him to take his turn, but he can also call by matching the last player's bet, or raise the bet.
Once every player has placed a bet, unwanted cards are discarded. Each player will specify how many cards he is discarding and will place them face down on the table. The dealer will collect the cards and deal each player replacement cards. At the end of this process, each player should have five cards again.
Once replacement cards have been received, another betting round ensues with the player on the dealer's left beginning the proceedings. At the end of this round, the players who have not folded prepare for final showdown. If only one player is left, he can collect the pot without having to reveal his cards to the others. However, if more than one player is still standing at final showdown, all cards must be revealed. The highest poker hand takes the pot. In the situation of a tied hand, the winner is determined by the rank of his individual cards. If hands are still tied and neither player is in possession of a kicker, or a single card not included in the winning hand, the pot is split equally.
As well as being a fun way to learn the basics of poker, draw poker is also useful for helping newcomers learn the importance of poker strategy. If you want to learn how to calculate odds, consider your odds of obtaining a winning hand. Your chances of being dealt a royal flush in your original five cards is 1 in 650,000, while you have 1 in 72,000 of making a straight flush. Based on this, you need to use strategy to increase your likelihood of achieving these hands as the game proceeds.
Remember that in games where you find yourself competing against more than five players, you need a pair or better in the first five cards dealt to you to justify staying in the game. If you have low cards that do not conform to any rank, you should fold. Most experienced players fold half of their original hands in draw poker as the odds of bettering a hand is 50/50.
While you should aim to
make the highest possible hand in every game you play, it is worthwhile remembering
that you don't necessarily have to make a royal flush or a full house to win a
game of draw poker. You simply need to beat your opponents' hands or convince
them that you have a strong hand. This will encourage them to fold, leaving you
to collect the contents of the pot. Many astute poker players have developed their
poker faces and their love for the game by practising draw poker. Remember that
you can win the game with just a pair if you're a convincing bluffer.