Every time I play draw poker, I have to work awfully hard to avoid getting a case of the giggles.
It’s not that I don’t like draw poker. On the contrary, draw poker was the first poker I ever played. I used to stay at my grandparent’s house and my grandfather would take out a deck of cards. We’d find something silly to bet with (usually popcorn he popped himself) and we’d play.
Still, those happy memories aren’t what give me the giggles. No, it’s the whole “draw” in the name draw poker. It’s so hard, every time I have to draw cards, not to hear Yosemite Sam yell “draw, varmint” every time.
Of course, it’s unmanly to giggle at the table and really annoying to yell “draw, varmint” once a hand in draw poker, so I try to avoid it.
All of this is to say, however, that draw poker is a lot of fun and still very much alive in a lot of poker rooms around Las Vegas and elsewhere. Sure, it doesn’t get the attention that Texas Holdem does, but that’s okay, too.
It just means that draw poker has fewer players (therefore less sharks) and gives you a greater chance to win a few pots. However, you may need to brush up on your draw poker before you start playing for the big bucks.
If so, I have some ideas you can use to improve your draw poker game.
5 – Practice
As always, when you read an article on improving your game, to hear “practice” can seem like a bit of a downer or a no-brainer. Practice is how you get better at draw poker just like it’s how you get to Carnegie Hall.
Still, there’s a reason I wanted to specifically call out practice in this instance: because if you are like me when I started to reignite my interest in draw poker, I hadn’t played it in a while. Like me, you’ve probably been inundated with a whole lot of Texas Holdem coverage, blog posts, videos, books, strategy ideas, daydreams, etc.
I can close my eyes and think up different board states in Texas Holdem right now. I can turn on my TV and watch Texas Holdem right now. Don’t get me started on how much Texas Holdem there is on YouTube and other streaming sites.
That’s why I had to call out the fact that if you want to play draw poker and there’s anything on the line, you need to get your groove back.
It may come fast and it may come slow, but there’s just a different feeling in draw poker because:
There’s no common pool of cards
You can’t see any part of anyone’s hands
The amount of information you have is limited to how many cards your opponents’ draw(varmint!) and how aggressively they bet
Draw poker is a veritable closed book compared to other types of poker and you need to be ready.
4 – Get Your Bluff On
Remember when I said there’s not a lot of data to be had in a game of draw poker? At some level, if you’ve been playing Texas Holdem, this is going to start to make you feel deeply uncomfortable.
The good news is that the lack of information about board state and what cards people have affects your opponents just as much as it affects you. The other folks at the table really only have the information that you give them when determining how to bet.
We’ll talk more about that here in a minute, but what this really means is that draw poker is one of the best games you can play for bluffing.
That’s why, as far as I am concerned, bluff away. If you feel like bluffing, then bluff. If you don’t feel like bluffing, then maybe you should go ahead and bluff. If you have a strong hand, bet like it is weak. If you have a weak hand, bet like it’s strong.
Whatever you do, keep everyone else at the table guessing. Try not to show any tendencies and don’t become predictable.
In this way, you will keep your opponents off balanced and guessing what you are trying to do. Hopefully, they will either become so confused by you that they stop paying attention to you at all or they start to obsess over whatever you are doing.
Either of these are victories and rob your opponents of a piece of information, thereby creating an advantage for yourself.
3 – Learn to Read Draws
As you are bluffing like crazy (or at least varying when you do and don’t bluff), you need to really focus in on the number of cards your opponent are drawing. Each number carries with it a typical message.
0 cards mean that the player loves their hand or is giving up
1 card means that the player either has a great hand or is trying desperately to draw into a straight or flush
2 cards mean that the player has a solid base on which they are looking to improve
3 cards mean that the player either has a base or is really hoping to draw something
4 cards is about a big a surrender flag as one is likely to wave in professional poker
Of course, an opponent might be bluffing or might be trying some other mind game, but in my experience, a player drawing a smaller number of cards is usually chasing a straight or a flush while a player drawing 2 or 3 cards has the goods and just wants to make them better.
Your mileage may vary, but you need to understand why you would draw any number of those cards so that you can guess why your opponent is.
2 – Draw Against Your Own Hand Every Now and Then
While you are busy trying to guess what a given draw means, your opponents are doing the same thing for you. That’s why you need to request a number of cards that doesn’t necessarily make sense.
If you have a pair and an ace, it might make sense to draw 2 cards to see if you can pair up that ace. Every now and then, only draw a single card or maybe draw all 3. Heck, even without the ace, sometimes it makes sense to only draw a single card just so your opponents can’t get a firm read on your hand.
Ultimately, the idea is misdirection and inconsistency. You don’t want to become predictable and drawing less than the optimal number of cards helps with that.
It can also set up bluffs when it comes time for betting since your opponents won’t know what you have.
1 – Never Forget Position
The last thing I will tell you is that at least some of what you learned in Texas Holdem is going to become useful again. In Holdem, position is a huge factor (where a better position is defined as one that bets later in the hand.)
Once again, you have so little chance to get information on what your opponents are doing, you are almost always better off betting later in the round. You get to see how many cards each person is taking and you get at least a chance to read their body language after they’ve gotten their cards.
The converse is also true, though. As you are playing draw poker when you have worse position you have less information to go on and should be less certain about the outcome of the game.
As you have better position and think you know your opponents, you can bluff harder, make riskier bets and in general, splash more chips. If you are betting close to first, keep in mind that you are less in the know and should be a bit more conservative.
Every game is different and there are other factors that determine when and if you should be aggressive or conservative, but position makes a lot of difference.
Draw poker is a great game that will stretch you in ways that other games of poker can’t. Therefore, if you find yourself yearning to play a game, my advice is go for it. You are going to have a great time.
Still, before you play for real money, give yourself some time to knock off the rust. Practice a little bit so that you remember the nuances of the game (and see if you like it enough to play it for cash.)
If you do, get ready to start bluffing. Pay attention to how many cards your opponents are asking for and spend some time consciously varying how many cards you draw on your own.
Keep position and basic skills you have learned from other poker games and you will find yourself in excellent position to score some big pots and make some money.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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