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5 Card Draw Strategy

5 Card draw is probably the first form of poker you learned as it appears to be the simplest, yet there are still a lot of strategies involved.

Predraw Play

On a 6 handed table a standard opening range would usually be :

UTG : AA and any hands better

UTG+1 : Add KK to previous range

CO : Add QQ and JJ to previous range

BTN : Add TT and 99 to previous range

SB : Any pair 55 or above

BB : Defend with anything that is at least the bottom of what you think the opener range is

Note that this range is fairly tight, and the later your position is, the more creative you can get. There isnt many situation where opening with less than AA UTG would be +ev, but opening any pair in SB vs a tight passive BB is usually a good idea.

Also your kickers (the cards other than your pair) are important. A hand like 77AKQ is much more playable on the button than 88234, the fact that you have an ace, king and queen makes much less likely than one of the blinds holds QQ / KK / AA.

When someone already raised before the action gets to you you should almost never call, fold or 3bet. After all you, 5 card draw is a game where the best hand is a huge favorite (almost every common confrontation 75:25 or better for the best hand ) and you usually don’t have very good implied odds, so if you think your hand is good enough to call then its good enough to raise.

Draw are almost never playable solely for their value, you are a 4:1 dog to hit a flush or open ended straight draw and you hardly ever get odds got enough to justify playing them. However they can be very good semi bluffing hand. You will be drawing 1 card, just like you would with 2 pairs and most trips, so you may play your draw just like you would play those hands and bet them post draw even if you miss.

All the other hands should be folded.

In pot limit games, while the 3bet or fold is still true, the are a few spots where you can flat call a raise. This is because you have better implied odds if you hit and because your opponents may fold his worst hands and so you wont win more if you happen to have the best hand anyway (as opposed to limit where he is always going to call because he knows that even though he doesn’t have the best hand he has the pot odds to try and improve). So when you think its marginal then you can consider flat calling, the ratio 3bet:call should still be at at least 2:1 though.

The Draw

This is usually very straight forward yet I see many people going fancy here.

Always discard 3 to one pair, keeping a kicker is useless, it decreases your chances of making trips and does NOT increases your chances of making 2 pairs.

Do not stand pat on anything worse than a straight, this should go without saying but I see many people standing pat on 2 pairs, unless you have reason to believe that your opponent will call you lighter if you stand pat rather that if you draw 1, always draw 1 to 2 pairs.

Trips are more complex, keeping a kicker divides by 2 your chances of making quads but doesnt help you to make a full house. Nevertheless, I draw 1 card 90% of the time, this is mainly to balance my range with my semi bluff (flush draw for example) and so my opponents cant tell if I have trips or 2 pairs.

Postdraw Play

The post draw play is the more interesting and tricky.

A couple of facts:

Jacks up will beat 50% of the 2 pairs and trips

9TJQK will beat 50% of pat hands

Taking notes is crucial in that game especially for the post draw part as the decision of value betting 2 small pair (Say JJ up and lower) will be based on whether you think your opponent will call with one pair (hoping to catch a bluff) or not.

Lets take a couple of examples:

1. UTG opens and you 3bet in UTG+1 with QQ99x everybody else folds and he calls, draw goes 3:1.

If he checks that is not a very good spot to value bet as your hand already looks very strong and your opponent almost always has AA / KK here so if he improves at all he will beat your hand.

2. You open button with 3322x only bb calls and it goes 3:1.

That is a very good spot to value bet since you opponent will put you on a semi bluff fairly often and will be tempted to call with hands like TTxxx hoping to catch a busted draw

3. CO opens you 3bet KK55x in the bb and vilain just calls, draw goes 1:1.

This one is a lot more tricky, if you think that the CO is aggressive and will cap any trips then you need to value bet. Of course you will sometimes run into aces up and end up value betting his hand but most of the time you will be ahead. Although at small stakes, the typical player is very passive and may not even cap hands like 888xx here, if you know you are up against that kind of player then a check may be better as he will have a lot of hands that beats you even if he didn’t cap.

In pot limit games, you should generally value bet less as the bet will be a bigger fraction of the pot and so your opponent will fold more, in the other hand you should bluff more for the same reasons. For example in the above examples, only #2 may deserve a value bet depending on your table image (if you have been caught semi bluffing with draw before, if villain has called in that spot before etc …)


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