How to Play Draw Poker & Rules

Draw Poker is the first form of poker many of us experience and for decades was the game of choice for Hollywood directors looking to inject a bit of poker into their film.  Enshrined on screen in such classics as The Sting, draw poker games may play less of a central role in the modern poker landscape than they once did, but pockets of enthusiasm for the game still remain among serious and kitchen-table players alike. 

If you're looking to add Draw Poker to your home game or to pursue the game for profit, start here with our guide to the basics of draw-based poker games.

Draw Poker: Key Terms

While extremely easy to learn, Draw Poker does have a bit of related terminology that we should first define and explain.

  1. Antes:  Antes are forced bets contributed by all players prior to the start of the hand.  Antes are frequently used in draw-based games.
  2. Blinds:  Draw games usually employ blinds (sometimes along with antes).  Blinds, as the name suggests, are bets players must put in before seeing their cards.  Blinds rotate around the table with each hand.  The general convention from Draw Games is to have a big blind (full bet) and a small blind (half bet), with the BB seated to the left of the SB.
  3. Draw: Exchanging cards from your hand for new cards from the deck.
  4. Reshuffle: Some draw games can exhaust a standard deck before the hand is completed.  As a result, the discarded cards must be reshuffled and used to deal cards to players.
  5. High/Low (or Hi/Lo): Draw variants where players compete to make both the highest and lowest hands.
  6. Lowball:  Draw variants where players attempt to make low hands only.

Draw Poker: Basics of Gameplay

It should be noted that there are dozens and dozens of types of Draw Poker, so what we're about to describe is the generic structure of a draw game; individual variants may have their own twists and turns.

If you've ever played Texas Hold'em, then Draw Poker gameplay will feel very familiar to you.  There is a dealer, a position that rotates to the left each hand.  There are also blinds (immediately to the dealer's left) that rotate along with the dealer.  Blinds put in their bets before cards are dealt.

In the first round of a Draw Poker hand, everyone receives cards and decides, starting with the player directly to the left of the blinds, whether to call (put in a bet matching the big blind), fold (give up their cards and exit the hand) or raise (increase the size of the bet others will have to subsequently call).  Depending on the format, draw games can be played with a limit betting structure or a no limit betting structure.  When the betting concludes, the remaining players move on to the next round.  If only one player remains, they win the pot.

The second round involves a draw for all players, and another round of betting as described above.  Depending on the type of draw game you're playing, there may be additional rounds of drawing and betting.  When the final round of betting is completed, players remaining go to showdown (revealing their cards) and the best hand wins.  Remember, depending on the type of Draw Poker you're playing, the best hand could be a high hand, a low hand, or the pot could be contested by both high and low hands.