Draw Poker – Game Variants

Draw poker is probably one of the oldest variations of poker and was played long before Texas Hold'em and stud poker. If you’ve ever watched an old western TV show or movie with poker in it you’ve probably seen draw poker. If the actors were holding 5 cards and were trying to bluff their arch-nemesis by betting their horses (and wives), it most likely was a 5 card draw game, to be precise.

A game is considered a variation of draw poker, when each player receives a complete poker hand before the first betting round and in consecutive betting rounds has the options to trade in cards from his hand with the cards still in the deck. This is where the name draw poker comes from as you have to ‘draw‘ new cards from the deck in between betting rounds.

Draw poker is the most common form of poker taught to new players in home games and can be played between two and eight players at a time (5 players is considered the perfect size for a game of draw poker). It’s very likely your very first poker experience was with draw poker, despite the now immense popularity of Hold’em poker. Strangely enough you can hardly find a casino in the world that offers draw poker nowadays (be it in cashgame or tournament form).

There are many variation of Draw poker, for example:

  • California lowball: As the name itself already suggests, it’s a lowball game meaning the lowest possible card combination wins (Ace-to-Five aka the wheel being the lowest and best hand). Another important rule not to forget when playing this game is whenever a player checks holding 7 high (or better) after the first draw, he loses the right to win any money put into the pot. California lowball was very popular during the seventies in California where it was played a lot at the Gardena card club.
  • Triple Draw lowball: In this variant the goal again is to the get the lowest 5 card combination Ace-to-Five (or Deuce-to-Seven), but the key difference being that players have 3 rounds of drawing and extra betting and there’s no 7 high rule that makes you forfeit your hand. Since the Publishing of Super System II in which Daniel Negreanu dedicates a whole chapter to Triple Draw Poker, it has been rising in popularity amongst the pro’s. So much even that in the 2004 WSOP a Deuce-to-Seven lowball event was included to the tournaments series. It has even gone so far that the $50,000 Buy-in Poker Player’s Championship event of 2010 had Triple Draw as one of their eight rotating games.
  • Badugi: Is a four card draw game with the Ace-to-Five lowball rules, but with quite a twist (besides being played with only 4 cards). Every card you hold with either the same rank or suit doesn’t play and the player holding the most cards wins over hands holding less cards. Badugi is usually played triple draw making the game extra explosive. The highest hand possible in Badugi poker is: Ace of Spades, Two of Clubs, Three of Hearts, Four of Diamonds (the best 4 card combination).

Both five card draw, triple draw and Badugi can be played on the PokerStars network for either play or real money. So if you are interested in learning one of these draw variants, you can practice there for free.

For a funny example of Hollywood’s view on draw poker, check out this clip with Mel Gibson from the movie Maverick:

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