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Basic Draw Poker

Of the many popular varieties of Poker, Draw Poker is the purest. Usually, it is the first Poker game a novice learns.

Players: From 2 to 8, but fewer than 5 is sometimes considered inadequate.

Description: Draw Poker is played with a standard deck of 52 cards, although sometimes a 53rd card, the Joker, is added. Before any cards are dealt, each player puts a predetermined wager on the table in front of him called the ante. This becomes part of a common pot, to be won by a single player and is usually smaller than the bets that follow.

After shuffling, the dealer distributes the cards face down one at a time in a clockwise manner until each player has five cards (dealer included in a private game). These five cards constitute a player’s hand. They are secret to the player, and cannot be revealed to any other player.

Beginning at the dealer’s left (and continuing clockwise) each player acts on his hand. If there has been no previous bet, you may either make a bet (by adding chips or money to the pot) or check. You can either say “check” aloud or tap a hand on the table. Check means you are not betting at this time, but reserving the right to call or raise later if another player bets. Call means you are putting into the pot an amount equal to what an opponent has bet. Once an opponent(s) has made a bet you must do one of three things when it is your turn:

1. Call, keeping your hand eligible to win;
2. Raise—increasing the stakes by putting in more money than it would cost to merely call;
3. Pass—throwing your hand away and abandoning all chance of winning the pot. When you pass, you forfeit all money you have placed in the pot and are out of that hand.

Poker is a war of bets and raises. There are two ways you can win this war. One: When the play is over, your hand can have a greater value than that of any active player. (Click here to view the poker rank of hands.) Two: Your hand can win without a contest. This happens when you’ve made a final bet, which no other player calls. In this case you might even win with a much poorer hand than your opponents, but since they did not call your bet, or raise, they forfeited all right to winning.

In Draw Poker there are two rounds of betting. The first comes on the initial five cards. After that, all players still active (i.e., they haven’t passed) have a chance to improve their hands by throwing away any cards they don’t like and demanding replacements from the dealer. This process takes place in a clockwise manner, beginning with the first active player to the dealer’s left. If you ask for three cards, then you must first discard (throw away) three cards from your hand. The dealer then gives you three new cards, which you place in your hand. These three new cards in combination with the two you retained constitute your final playing hand.

For example: Sally has opened and you have called with this hand:

Ace of Diamonds
Ace of Spades
9 of Clubs
6 of Hearts
2 of Hearts

Everyone else passes, so it’s just you and Sally. She is closer to the dealer’s left, so she draws first. Say she takes one card. Now it’s your turn. You like your pair of Aces, but the other three cards don’t do you any good so you ask for three new ones. You take the 9 of Clubs, 6 of Hearts, and 2 of Hearts from your hand and put them face down on the center of the table. The dealer now takes the next three cards from the remainder of the deck and gives them to you face down. At this point you are holding only the Ace of Diamonds and Ace of Spades. You put these two aces together with the three new cards you’ve been dealt. You now have five cards and this is you final hand. You look at your cards (but don’t show them to anyone else, especially Sally!) Let’s say you’ve caught the Ace of Clubs, Jack of Diamonds and 4 of Clubs. This is what your hand looks like after that drawing:

Ace of Diamonds
Ace of Spades
Ace of Clubs
Jack of Diamonds
4 of Clubs

You have three Aces. Suppose Sally bets $10. (The opener acts first after the draw.) If you don’t want to risk another $10, then you can pass. Remember, if you do pass, Sally wins automatically—your hand is dead and all the money wagered, including the antes, belongs to her. If, instead, you call Sally’s bet, then both your hand and hers are turned face up on the table. The higher-ranking hand wins the pot.

If you raise her bet, then she may pass (surrendering the pot to you), call (better hand wins), or raise (making you decide what to do again). Often this interaction involves more than two players. And that is how Draw Poker is played.

There are, however a few other things you should know: Usually a limit is agreed upon governing how much you can bet. Usually you can only play the sum of money or chips that is in front of you on the table. If a player makes a bet larger than what you can call, you can play for only the portion of that bet which you can cover—this means if three or more players are contending for a pot, there will occasionally be side pots consisting of money that can only be won by the players having enough money to cover them. You cannot win more money from an opponent than you’ve wagered.

A frequently played variation of Draw Poker requires that a player must have a minimum ranking of a pair of Jacks to make the first bet before the draw. This is known as Jacks-or-Better Draw Poker.

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