For many poker players, the first poker game that they ever played was very likely five card draw poker. Five card draw poker has been a fan favorite at kitchen table poker games for generations and while the game has long since been surpassed in popularity in casinos by flop and stud variants, we are seeing a five card draw poker resurgence in recent years.
There are several different types of five card draw poker being played these days including 2-7 lowball, ace to 5 lowball, Archie, five card draw high, and Drawmaha. All of these games have different drawing rules, betting rounds, and hand values, but at the end of the day, draw poker is draw poker.
In this article, we are going to highlight the best five card draw poker hands for each of these variants, as well as tell you the worst five card draw poker hands that you need to stay away from. Knowing when you have the best of it, and just as importantly, knowing when you don’t, is a major key to success when playing five card draw poker.
We will kick off this coverage by taking a look at the best five card draw poker hands for each of these games below. Let’s get started!
Best Five Card Draw Hands
In this section, we are going to tell you a little bit about each of these five card poker games and then tell you what the best five card draw poker hands are for each one.
Ace to 5 Lowball
Ace to 5 lowball is typically just known as lowball, as it is the standard version of the game. Ace to five lowball has been around for a while, and at one time it was the most popular game in Southern California, which was at the time, and still remains, one of the biggest poker markets on the planet.
Ace to 5 is nearly always played as a limit triple draw game. The object of the game is to make the lowest poker hand possible, with the cards only playing as their rank, rather than making hands like straights and flushes. Pairs are bad and count against you, but besides that, all you are looking to make is the lowest 5 card poker handle possible.
The nut hand in ace to 5 lowball is, get this, an ace through five! Even though in most poker games, an ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 would make a straight, straights don’t count in ace to five, so the wheel is the best five card poker hand you can make in the game.
2-7 lowball, also known as Kansas City lowball, is a twist on typical lowball that is growing in popularity as the game is a staple in many mixed games around the country. The World Series of Poker runs 2-7 lowball tournaments each summer, and once the WSOP starts to spread the game, you know it is legit.
2-7 is typically played as a limit game where players have 3 drawing rounds to make their hands. That being said, the game is also played as no limit single draw, which is considered to be one of the most difficult poker games to play and is a favorite of high-stakes cash game players.
2-7 lowball is similar to ace to 5 lowball in that you want to make the worst poker hand possible. The key difference between ace to 5 and 2-7 though, is that in 2-7, straights and flushes count against you, and aces are considered the highest cards in the deck, not the lowest.
That means that the best possible hand would be 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 with at least 2 different suits. That is the lowest hand that can be made that doesn’t make a straight or flush, making it the best five card draw hand when playing 2-7 lowball.
Five Card Draw High
If you’ve ever watched an old fashion western movie where players are bellied up to a poker table in the back of some smokey saloon, you can be sure that the game they were playing was five card draw high. For most people that have never actually played poker seriously, they may assume that five card draw high poker is the only form of poker, as that is all you ever see when poker is casually depicted in movies and TV shows.
Five card draw high poker is almost always played as a single draw game where traditional poker hand rankings come into play. That means that a Royal Flush is the best hand that can be made in the game.
That being said, the odds of making a Royal Flush in a five card single draw game are astronomically high and most pots are won by hands like a high pair, two pair, or three of a kind. Even hands like straights and flushes, that happen all of the time when playing Texas Hold’em, are very rare when playing five card draw high poker.
Archie is a newer poker game that has started popping up in mixed games recently and it is a lot of fun. The game hasn’t quite gone mainstream yet, but it will, as this game is way too good to remain below the radar for much longer.
Archie combines ace to five lowball with five card draw high and if that weren’t enough action, they give you three draws to make your hands, which significantly increases the hand values of winning hands. After all three draws are completed, the pot is split evenly between the best five card high hand and the best five card low hand.
There is a qualifier for both sides of the pot, as you must make at least a pair of nines to win the high side of the pot, and an eight or better low, for the low side of the pot. This seemingly small detail is actually what makes this game great, as players have to make the decision whether to go for low or high, with the double qualifier requirement.
The best five card poker hand for the low side of the pot is going to be a five high straight. The best five card poker hand for the high side of the pot would be a royal flush. And while those are technically the best hands you can make for each side of the pot, as is the case with all split pot games, the actual best hands are ones that are going to scoop you the entire pot.
Hands that can go both high and low are premium in Archie. Think of small straight or flushes, that are low enough to go low, and high enough to take the high as well. While these hands aren’t ranked as the highest hands, they are the ones that you should be trying to make to win the most money.
The final game that we are going to look at today is another hybrid game that is new to the poker scene, Drawmaha. Drawmaha takes a traditional five card draw high game and combines it with Omaha, thus the name draw-Omaha, shortened to Drawmaha. The pot is split between the best five card high hand and the best Omaha poker hand.
How To Play Drawmaha
At the start of each Drawmaha hand, all players will get dealt 5 hole cards. Players will act on the strength of their 5 card high hand with an initial betting round. After the opening betting round, the dealer with then deal a standard Omaha flop of 3 cards. There is now an additional betting round, where players are betting on their five card high hand, as well as an Omaha hand, where they must use exactly two of their hole cards and 3 cards on the board.
After this round of betting comes the draw, as players can draw up to three cards, both to help improve their draw hand and their Omaha hand. At the conclusion of this betting round, the dealer will burn and place the turn card on the board. At this point, the hand plays out like a normal Omaha hand, with a betting round on the turn and then one final betting round on the river.
Once all of the action is complete, players will expose their hands, with half of the pot going to the best five card high hand and half going to the best Omaha hand. This game can create some fantastic action, as there are a lot of cards in play and when you combine a game like five card draw high, which has very low hand rankings, with a game like Omaha, which has very high hand rankings, it creates an exciting dynamic and lots of action.
Since this game is played high/high, the best hand to make for both pots would be a royal flush. But as is the case with all of these high games, making a royal flush basically never happens.
There are several schools of thought on how to play Drawmaha properly, but the way I like to play it is to have a strong draw to a big hand (3 of a kind or better) in my hand, and then try and back into a scoop on the Omaha side of the pot. You always want to give yourself a shot to scoop the entire pot, and playing your draw, to best coordinate with the Omaha flop, is one way to give yourself a shot at taking all of the money.
One interesting detail to note on Drawmaha is the hand ranking values. We already mentioned that these games are very polarized in terms of how big of a hand it takes to win, and with how the game is structured, they are actually even further apart than they normally would be if you were playing these games independently.
That is because on the five card draw side of the pot, instead of getting to draw as many cards as you would like, you can only draw up to 3 cards when playing Drawmaha. And unlike a game like Archie, you only get 1 draw. If you have a big pair in your hand, you likely have a strong enough hand to chase that side of the pot.
And when it comes to the Omaha side of the pot, not only do you get 5 cards instead of 4, like you would if you were playing a normal Omaha high game, you also get to see the flop and can throw away cards that don’t coordinate with the board. Omaha is already a nut-hand type of game, and you don’t want to find yourself with a second-place hand, as you are going to need a monster to get any part of the Omaha side of the pot.
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Worst Five Card Draw Hands
Now that you know which hands you are trying to make, we are going to look at the other side of the equation and tell you the hands that you want to stay away from. We could just list out the worst possible hands that can be made, but I don’t see a ton of value in that, so instead, we are going to show you some five card draw hands that are going to get you into trouble more often than not and must be avoided if you want to be a long-term winner.
Ace to 5 Lowball
If you are playing ace to 5 lowball and after drawing on the final round, you end up with a hand like a 7/6 low, that usually is a decent hand that has some shot to win the pot. And while ending up with a 7/6 low isn’t a terrible outcome, you don’t want to be drawing to that weak of a hand. 7/6 low is OK to end up with, but on that first draw, you need to be striving for stronger hands.
Sometimes that means tossing a 7 away on your first draw, and sometimes that means you just have to throw your hand away and wait for a better spot. You get 3 draws when playing ace to 5 lowball and you want to try and make a 6 or better, a hand that you can extract maximum value out of, not a rough 7 that could end up in disaster and a lot of lost cash.
If you haven’t played a lot of 2-7 lowball, you might think that making an 8 is just as good as making a 7, as it is the second-best hand that you can make, right? Wrong. That’s not to say that making an 8 is a bad thing, as you can win most pots with an 8, but similarly to the ace to 5 example we just gave, an 8 is a hand you don’t mind ending up with, but it’s not a hand that you are trying to make.
Stay Away From The 6
One good way to avoid making an 8 low is to be very leery of any starting hand that has a 6 in it. I know that might be a bit confusing at first, as you might be thinking, what does having a 6 have to do with making an 8? But hear me out here.
Remember, when you are playing 2-7 lowball, straights count against you. The key to avoiding making a straight and losing the pot is to stay away from 6s, as you can only make a 7 that has a straight in it with a 6 in your hand. If you start out drawing with a 6 in your hand, you are going to see that many times you won’t be able to make your 7, without straightening out, and you’ll end up with an 8 or worse more times than not.
Now, I am not saying that you should just throw away those 6s, but if you start out with a draw of 4, 5, 6 for example, which would normally be a solid starting hand with 3 cards below a 7, you are going to feel the pain of just how hard it is to make that 7 and win the pot. It might sound a bit wonky right now, until you get some hours in at the game, but 6s are to be played cautiously when playing 2-7 lowball.
Five Card Draw High
3 of a kind before the draw is a very good hand in 5 card draw high poker. Most of the time that you have 3 of a kind early in the hand, you are in a great position to win the pot. The problem with 3 of a kind early in the hand though, is twofold.
First, it is extremely hard to improve upon, as there aren’t many draws that are going to make your hand better. And second, and most importantly, your hand is going to be very easy for your opponents to read, as you are surely going to be aggressive with it, and when you draw just 2 cards, you may as well have your hand turned face up, as they all know what you’ve got.
If you want to better disguise your hand, you can draw a single card, instead of 2 cards, when you have trips before the draw. Standing pat is another option, as it can really throw your opponents off the scent, which can open up significant value later in the hand. Even if you play it straightforward, you aren’t very likely to improve anyway, so you may as well try to play it sneakily, so they don’t know where you stand.
That means that your opponents know exactly what it takes to beat you and can play accordingly. If they draw to a straight or a flush and get there, they know just how difficult it is for you to improve and can punish you with the confidence that their hand is going to be good.
If they draw to a big hand and miss, they don’t have to pay you off, as they already know that they are beaten and can safely fold and live to fight another day. As great of a hand as 3 of a kind is, it tends to be a fairly hard to navigate hand, which makes it difficult to win a huge pot with it.
Beware of 2 pair when playing Archie. There probably isn’t a hand that I see players lose more money with when playing Archie than 2 pair. 2 pair tends to only be good enough to win the high side of the pot when everyone else misses their draws. Which doesn’t happen all that often, as Archie is an action game where players love to stay in the hand, and with 3 draws, somebody is bound to make something decent.
Similar to the 3 of a kind we just talked about when playing 5 card draw high, 2 pair is awfully tough to improve upon, even with 3 draws. If you are dealt 2 pair on the initial deal, there is a good chance that you end up with 2 pair by the end of the hand. If everyone is going low, your 2 pair could be enough to snag the high side of the pot, but if there is heavy action, somebody else inevitably has to be going high too, which means you are going to be in bad shape if you don’t improve.
If you want to lose a boatload of cash at a Drawmaha table, just draw to non-nut flushes. That is a surefire way to get smashed, as you don’t want to find yourself making tons of crying calls with small or medium-sized flushes.
When it comes to the Omaha side of the pot when playing Drawmaha it is the nuts or nothing, as it takes monster hands to win.
Now, if you have a strong 5 card high hand in the hole and you end up with a medium-sized flush on the board, great, you have a 2-way hand that could scoop, and you should play it aggressively. But if you have no shot of winning the draw side of the pot, and you are banking on your jack high flush to get you the Omaha half of the pot, you are going to be in for a hard time.
The best way to avoid these second-best types of hands is to just fold them early and avoid the situation altogether. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched players make second-place hands over and over again, bemoaning their bad luck, when in reality they are just playing bad poker. Winning poker is aggressive poker, and you can’t be aggressive with non-nut hand sin Drawmaha, so leave them for the amateurs and wait for more powerful positions to get your money into the pot.
Are you ready to get in on the five card draw poker action but can’t find a game at your local casino? Don’t worry, as much of the five card draw action has now moved online! Online poker is always going to have more action than a brick-and-mortar casino, and you are sure to find a good five card draw game online.
If you haven’t signed up to play online poker yet, or you are just looking for a new place to play, make sure that you swing by TheSportsGeek’s beginner’s poker sites page, where we review all of the top online poker rooms and bring you exclusive sign up offers that you aren’t going to want to miss out on. Thanks for reading and good luck playing five card draw poker!