Everything You Need to Know About Five Card Draw Poker and Three Card Poker

Elana K. - June 2, 2022

Five card draw poker and three card poker are two of the simplest types of poker variations, and ideal for new players. While the games share several similarities, they're also different in many ways.

Many prospective poker players find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of poker variations—they don’t know where to start! There are three main types of poker: draw, stud, and community, but within these categories, there are many different variations. In this article, we’ll discuss 5 card draw poker and 3 card poker. These games are very straightforward and an ideal choice for beginner poker players.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about five card draw and three card poker!

Poker Basics

While the number of dealt cards in each game is different, both five card draw and three card poker operate on the same premise: getting the highest possible hand.

Poker hands, from lowest to highest, are:

  • High card - When no player has a combination of cards, the one with the highest value card wins the pot.
  • Two of a kind/one pair - Two of any number beats a high card. For example, two 2s beat one ace. If several players have two of a kind, the one with the highest value cards wins. For example, two Queens beat two Jacks. This rule is true for all poker hands—when two or more players have the same hand, the higher-values win.
  • Two pair - When a player has two sets of matching numbers. For example, two 4s and two 10s are considered two pair.
  • Three of a kind - When a player has three cards of the same value, i.e., three 7s.
  • Straight - When all player’s cards are in sequential order, but not the same suit. For example, a 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 in different suits is a straight.
  • Flush - When all of a player’s cards are the same suit, but not in sequential order.
  • Full house - A hand that consists of two of a kind and three of a kind. For example, two 6s and three 8s make a full house.
  • Four of a kind - When a player has four matching cards, i.e., four Kings.
  • Straight flush - When a player’s cards are in sequential order AND the same suit. A royal flush is when an Ace is the highest number, and this is usually the best possible hand. Cards would be 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace.
  • Five of a kind - When a player had five matching cards. This hand is only possible when playing with jokers.

History of Five Card Draw Poker

Poker is said to have been invented in New Orleans, U.S. between 1810 and 1825, although it may be related to several older European card games. The original game was played with a deck of 20 cards and only five cards were dealt. Also, only one bet was placed (as opposed to two in today’s games.) The original poker eventually evolved into many different variations, including five card draw.

How to Play Five Card Draw Poker

Five card draw poker is one of the simplest types of poker to play, and it’s often the game that new players choose to begin with. The “draw” aspect of the game means that players have a chance to exchange some of their cards after the first hand is dealt.

Before the cards are dealt, players need to buy-in. There are different variants concerning buying in: blind and ante.

In blind games, the players to the left of the dealer (the “small and big blind”) put in a blind before the cards are dealt. Players who want to continue need to match their bet. In ante games, all players have to put up a blind of the same amount to receive cards.

Once players buy-in, the cards are dealt and they need to place their first bet. They’re then given the chance to exchange some of their cards. If their cards are very bad, they should fold. If their cards have the potential for a good winning combination, they have the option to replace some of their cards. If a player is dealt a terrific hand in the first round, he doesn’t need to exchange any cards.

After the draw, players bet again and those who don’t fold ultimately show their cards to see who won in what’s called the Showdown.

Betting Tips for Five Card Draw Poker

Five card draw is a relatively simple poker game, so the strategy is fairly basic and generally revolves around how many cards to exchange.

  • If you are initially dealt two of a kind, keep the pair and exchange three cards.
  • If you are initially dealt three of a kind, keep the three and exchange two cards.
  • If you are initially dealt two pairs, don’t break them up—keep them and exchange just one card with hopes of getting a full house.

History of Three Card Poker

Three card poker is a relatively new variation of traditional five card poker. It was created in 1994 by Derek Webb and patented three years later. The game wasn’t accepted immediately; it took several years for casinos to adopt it, and even then, there was a lot of litigation about patents. Today, three card poker is readily available at most online casinos.

How to Play Three Card Poker

In three card poker, players play against the dealer, not against other players. After placing an initial bet (the ante), players and the dealer receive three cards that are dealt face-down. Once the cards are dealt, players decide how much/if to wager more. If players do want to continue, they need to bet the full amount of their ante, effectively doubling their total wager.

The rules of three card poker are slightly different than five card draw. In three card poker, the dealer needs a Queen or higher in order to play the hand. If the dealer doesn’t play, wagers are paid back 1 to 1. If the dealer can play, their hand is compared to each individual player, and wagers are paid out accordingly. If the player loses, he loses his first and second bet. If the player wins, both bets are paid out 1 to 1. If it’s a tie, nothing happens.

Additional Bets in Three Card Poker

In three card poker, players can place an additional bet called the Pair Plus bet, which bets that they will have a pair or better. Some casinos also offer an Ante Bonus, which is awarded if players have a straight or better before the second bet. In many UK casinos, there is an additional Prime wager that pays out according to the colors of the cards.

Betting Strategy for Three Card Poker

Basic betting strategy for three card poker is to raise your bet if you get a hand of Q-6-4 or better. However, if you have a Queen, 6, and your third card is lower than 4, you can still go in. If all three of your cards are lower than Q-6-4, you should fold.

Five Card Draw Poker vs Three Card Poker
While five card draw and three card poker are relatively simple poker games, there are several major differences in many areas.

  • Rules - In five card draw, players play against each other, whereas in three card poker, they play against the dealer.
  • Card combinations - The card combinations in both games are the same, except there is no four-of-a-kind in three card poker. Additionally, a straight and flush only consist of three cards in three card poker, but in five card draw, you need five cards to create a winning hand.
  • Winning Combinations - In traditional poker games, a flush beats a straight, but in three card poker, a straight beats a flush and three of a kind beats a straight. The reason for this is that, with only three cards, it’s harder to get a straight and three of a kind.
  • Deck - Each game uses a 52-card deck.
  • Odds - In five card poker, the odds of a player getting a pair in the first round is 42.3%. Getting two pairs is almost impossible, with odds of -4.75%. In three card poker, odds of winning are 44.91%. Also, there’s a 3.37% house edge for the two main bets. Pair Plus has a lower house edge of 2.32%

Where Can You Play Five Card Draw and Three Card Poker?

Five card draw is usually found online. It’s rare to see it at land-based casinos, though it is popular at home games. Three card poker can be found both online and at land-based casinos. If you’re just getting into poker, both of these variants are excellent jumping-off points. And if you play online, you can look for free play options so that you can practice before putting down real money.


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