Basic Hand Reading In 5 Card Draw Poker
A winning 5-Card Draw poker strategy involves reading patterns in the betting of individual opponents far more than in other forms of poker. This is due to the limited amount of information available in this ‘closed card’ game, with only the betting and number of cards discarded to help you make decisions. This article looks at how beginning 5-card draw poker players can start to combine these pieces of information to make the most profitable decisions.
We start with looking at the number of cards drawn, working backwards from 3 to zero, noting what a ‘straight-forward’ or ‘tricky’ player might hold in each circumstance. Next we show how different betting combined with this information might give you further clues.
An opponent drawing 3 cards almost certainly has a pair in their hand. Which pair will depend largely on the opponent (assuming there is no ‘Jacks or Better’ rule in place). Tight opponents will not draw to a low or medium pair and some opponents would not draw to anything less than queens.
Drawing 2 cards is very common, this can mean one of 2 hands – trips (3 of a kind) or a pair with a high ‘kicker’ – usually an ace. Keeping the high card in these situations helps to make the best 2-pairs those times the draw helps.
A single card draw could be 2-pairs or could be a draw to a straight or flush. Position will usually help you decide which – it is less likely that a thinking player who acts first would enter the pot with a 1-card draw. A player in the blinds is more likely to be drawing, since it was cheap or even free to draw cards. Note that tricky players often try to disguise trips by drawing one card, hoping that this generates more action for the last betting round.
Finally an opponent who draws no cards is said to ‘stand pat’. This is usually with a made hand such as a straight or flush. Standing pat is an action killer, with few bets after the draw unless another player also makes a strong hand. Some players will stand pat as a bluff occasionally, this can be effective as long as it is not over-used. Since pat hands come around so rarely an opponent who ‘stands’ more than once or twice in a session may well be doing this as a bluff.
Combining bets with draws is the next level of determining an opponent’s likely holding in 5-card draw poker. One way of looking at this is to determine if an opponent’s bet was designed to encourage or to discourage action. If an opponent raises strongly and then draws one it is more likely they have 2 pairs, since a draw would want a chance to see if they could complete their hand as cheaply as possible. The same logic applies to someone who flat calls pre-draw and then draws 2 – a hand as strong as trips would want to get more money into the pot early, which tips the balance in favor of a pair.
When combining betting, drawing and individual tendencies information you can also take position into account, players who act last after the draw have the advantage of seeing what their opponents do before acting themselves. This means that weaker than usual hands can be played profitably from this position.
Whatever level of 5-card draw poker you choose to play remember to take notes on the players you meet – you will be surprised how often opponents try exactly the same ‘moves’ against you.