Draw Poker – What is it?

Draw poker is any poker variant in which each player is dealt a complete hand before the first betting round, and then develops the hand for later rounds by replacing cards.

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The descriptions below assume that you are familiar with the general game play of poker, and with hand values (both high and low variations). They also make no assumptions about what betting structure is used. In home games, it is typical to use an ante, and betting always begins with the player to the dealer’s left. In casino play, it is more common to use blinds; the first betting round thus begins with the player to the left of the big blind, and subsequent rounds begin with the player to the dealer’s left, thus draw games are very positional.

Standard five-card draw
Five-card draw
This is often the first poker variant learned by most players, and is very common in home games although it is now quite rare in casino and tournament play. Two to eight players can play.

Other draw games

Gardena jackpots (“Jacks to open” or simply “Jackpots”)
Played as above, with standard hand values, and with a single joker in the deck acting as a bug. Always played with an ante and no blinds. On the first betting round, no player is allowed to open the betting unless his hand already contains a pair of jacks or a better hand. Other players who checked on the first round may subsequently call or raise if someone else opens. If no player opens, a new deal begins and everyone antes again into the same pot. The player who opened the betting keeps his discarded cards near him on the table so that he can prove, if necessary, that he had a sufficient opening hand. For example, a player with the K, J, 9, and 7 of clubs and the J of hearts has a pair of jacks and may open. He may wish to “break openers” in this case by discarding the jack of hearts in an attempt to make the club flush, so he keeps the discarded jack to prove that he was entitled to open.

The game is named after the city of Gardena, California, where this game was especially popular from the 1930s to 1970s (though it was always secondary to lowball). At that time, there were more public poker tables in that small city than in all the rest of the United States. Public poker rooms are still a big industry there, though Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and other locations now have many more poker rooms than they did at that time. Because “Jacks to open” was the primary form of high-hand draw poker played there, traditional draw poker was often described by the retronym “Guts to open”.

In home games, it is common that when a deal is “passed out” (that is, when no one opens), the players re-ante, and the qualifier to open is raised to a pair of queens. If that deal is passed out, the qualifier is raised to kings, and finally to aces. This is called “progressive” jackpots.

Category: Draw Poker

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