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Five Card Draw

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Deceptively Simple Strategy for 5 Card Draw

5 Card Draw is perhaps the easiest of all poker games to learn due to the fact that there are no shared cards and just two betting rounds.

The action is entirely predictable, even rote:

The antes are posted. The hand is dealt. You look at your cards, so does everyone else. Everyone either bets or folds. You toss your cards that you don't want, and you draw replacement cards. Another round of betting takes place. Then there is a showdown and the player showing the best possible five card hand is the winner of the pot.

Simple, right? You betcha.

As simple as a hole in the head.

Deceptively Simple Five Card Draw Strategy

Simple things are sometimes deceptively, dangerously simple.

5 Card Draw, certainly, is not without strategy. The thing that sometimes makes Five Card Draw seem "un-strategic" relative to, say, Texas Hold'em, is that in 5 Card Draw, the strategy is much more personal and less abstract and math-based.

For example, you must always consider how much money your opponent is willing to lose on any given hand, what their natural "limits" are in their mind. Often, in home games, people have limits that they will recoil from when they approach them, maybe their wife will get mad, maybe they think about how hard they worked to get that money.

Taking people to this uncomfortable level, then, is a major 5 Card Draw strategy.

However, before you start scare-betting folks, take care to get as much "dead money" into the pot as possible, meaning take it easy on the first round of betting so everyone can get some money in the pot before you start breaking out the big guns.

Because Five Card Draw is so simple and fun to play--come on in, the water's fine!--you can get some games that go on for hours happily and this increases the odds that you will come out profitable over the long run if you are consistently betting wisely.

But we digress, and are taking the roundabout way to our favorite deceptively, dangerously simple 5 Card Draw strategy.

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You Got Trips, Buddy?

The deceptively simple strategy that we identify in this article, and thanks for waiting, is to concentrate your energy on trying to find out whether or not your opponent is holding Trips, otherwise known as a set, meaning three of the same kind.

A set is commonly the best hand in any particular round of 5 Card Draw, and will often prove to make or break you on one or two major hands throughout a session.

Strategically, then, when you are looking at an opponent who has just discarded two cards, you must be seeking to identify whether they are holding a set or not.

If they are holding a set and you are not holding a set, either bluff them into folding or fold yourself, those are your two basic options in this situation unless you have a high set yourself or a straight or a flush that can beat a set.

If a player discarded just one card, on the other hand, it is very unlikely that they have a four of a kind. It can be assumed that they already have two pair, or are drawing to a flush or a straight and will likely fold after the draw if they don't hit.

If a player discarded three cards, meanwhile, well now for sure they're on a draw.

(Unless of course, as hinted at above, the money doesn't mean much to this player.)

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Winning the Original "Poker Face" Moment

Meanwhile, when you discard two cards and draw two more, your opponents will be busy trying to figure out if you have Trips or not, and if so, how high is your set.

Winning this moment is a key strategy to winning at Five Card Draw. In fact this moment and the scrutiny it entails is one of the origins of the phrase "poker face."

In order to consistently win this moment, though, in order to better guess whether or not your opponent has a set than they can guess if you are holding a set, you have to do more than control your facial muscles and/or wear sunglasses and a hat.

You must keep track of what kind of players your opponents are, how aggressively they bet with subpar hands, whether they rely on bankroll to win, how much they care about the money that may be won or lost during this hand or session, whether they often seek to draw to flushes and straights or prefer to hold onto their high cards…or whether they are like most 5 Card Draw players and only bet heavy when holding a set!

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Bluffing Good Is Hard for Most People

It takes conviction to bluff without a set when you think your opponent may have a set on the second round of betting in Five Card Draw, especially if the betting limits are such that this hand will impact the your nightly, monthly, or even yearly poker bankroll.

Not every player can bluff that well, especially the home gamers who play casually or the people who walk around just not knowing how to fake life convincingly.

Many times, you may find players in 5 Card Draw who will only bet with confidence on that second round when they are holding a set or better. Obviously if you have this kind of strong read on an opponent it is a major strategic advantage if you can gain it.

Therefore, seek early and often to ascertain whether or not your opponents play that scared style, or are perhaps a bit more developed than that, and ready to gamble.

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