Draw 6 Poker

Draw 6 poker

It's probably not hard to guess what special feature differentiates Draw 6 Poker from other video poker variations. As the name of the game implies, you get 6 cards instead of 5, but only if the machine deals you a 3 of a kind or specific ranked full houses.

Like most new-ish video poker games, Draw 6 Poker is a feature that's been grafted onto an existing VP game. Draw 6 Poker is available in the following variations:

This page is meant to be a complete guide to playing Draw 6 Poker. If we do our job correctly, you should be able to play this game competently having read nothing but this page.

We cover the basics of playing the video poker games mentioned, how the "draw 6 feature" works with each game, what the pay tables and payback percentages are, and what strategy is best to use. We also include a section on where to find Draw 6 Poker games.

The Basics for How to Play Draw 6 Poker

The basics of Draw 6 Poker are the same as for most other video poker games. The game looks like a slot machine, but the difference between video poker and slots couldn't be more profound.

Here's Why:

A slot machine involves a computer assigning random symbols to a pay line. Based on the pay table for the machine, you get paid off when you hit certain combinations.

Video poker works the same way, but with a difference. The symbols on a video poker machine are all based on playing cards, and the algorithm generating the results uses the same probabilities as a deck of cards.

The implication behind that might not be immediately clear, so here's why that's important:

To calculate the payback percentage or house edge for a casino game, you must know the possible payoffs for your bet. You ALSO must know the probability of getting each of those results.

Slot machines use arbitrary symbols like fruit and bars. You have no way of knowing the probability of getting a given symbol on a reel stop on a slot machine. Even though you know the possible payoffs for the bets, you don't know the probabilities of getting those results.

But with a deck of cards, you know that the probability of getting a specific card is 1/52. The probability of getting a card of a specific suit is 1/4. The probability of getting a card of a specific rank is 1/13.

As a result, you can determine the expected return for your bets on a video poker game. That makes video poker superior to slot machine games, because you can choose a game like Draw 6 Poker based on how good or bad the odds are for that game compared to other games in the casino.

Gameplay differs between video poker and slots, too. When you play a slot machine, you insert your money, get your credits, decide how much to bet on how many lines, and spin the reels. The results determine your payoff.

You don't make any decisions during a slots session other than how much you bet and on how many lines.

But on a video poker game, you're dealt a 5-card hand. You get to decide to keep or discard each of the cards in your hand. This adds an element of strategy to video poker games like Draw 6 Poker that isn't present with slot machine games.

To play any video poker game, you start by inserting cash into the machine. The machine converts your cash into credits based on the denomination of the machine. For example, if you're playing a quarter machine, and you insert $100, you get 400 credits to play with. On a dollar machine, that $100 only gets you 100 credits.

You then decide how many credits to wager on each hand. You can play 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 credits, but you should always play for 5 credits per hand.

Here's Why:

The payoff for the biggest hand in the game, a royal flush, increases when you bet 5 coins. The payoff is 250 for 1 if you bet 1, 2, 3, or 4 coins.

But if you bet 5 coins, the payoff for a royal flush is 800 for 1.

That's a huge difference.

Once you've chosen how many credits you want to wager, you press the deal button, and the game gives you a 5-card hand.

You then press a button underneath each card if you want to keep it. This button is labeled "HOLD". The cards you hold will have the word "hold" written on them, too. On newer machines, you can just touch the screen.

Some video poker machines automatically hold certain combinations for you, but you can always override the machine's suggestion.

After deciding which cards you want to keep, you press the "DRAW" button. The game replaces the cards you discarded.

Also, if you have a 3 of a kind or a qualifying full house, you get a 6th card. (That's why this is called Draw 6 Poker.)

The game then compares your final hand with the pay table and credits you accordingly.

Draw 6 Poker Pay Tables and Payback Percentage

The pay tables on video poker games like Draw 6 Poker determine the payback percentage for the game. Payback percentage is the theoretical amount each bet will pay off over the long run - it's expressed as a percentage.

Here's an Example:

The most basic type of video poker is Jacks or Better, and the best pay table for that game has a 99.54% payback percentage.

Every time you wager $1 in the game, the casino expects you to win 99.54 cents and lose 0.46 cents.

But this is a long-term average, not something you'll see in the short-term. In fact, it's impossible to see in the short-term.

On a single hand, you'll either see a win of 1 credit or more, or a win of 0.

The average is what you can expect to see over thousands of hands of video poker.

The cousin of the payback percentage is the house edge, which is just the payback percentage subtracted from 100%. In the Jacks or Better example we mentioned, the house edge is 0.46%.

Most casino games offer a house edge much higher than this. Blackjack is the only game in the casino besides video poker to offer a house edge this low.

But like blackjack, video poker games' odds vary based on the rule conditions in place. The most important of those on a video poker machine is the pay table.

Here's an Example Pay Table For Draw 6 Poker Based on Bonus Poker:

Hand/Coins 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a kind, aces 80 160 240 320 400
4 of a kind, 2s, 3s, or 4s 40 80 120 160 200
4 of a kind, any other 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 6 12 18 24 30
Flush 4 8 12 16 20
Straight 3 6 9 12 15
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pair 2 4 6 8 10
Pair of jacks+ 1 2 3 4 5

Notice how the 5-coin payoff is so much higher than the other payoffs?

That's what we were talking about when we pointed out that you should always bet the full 5 coins on every hand.

To get the payback percentage for a game like this, you multiply the probability of getting each payoff by the amount that it pays off. Add all those possibilities together, and you get the overall payback percentage for the game.

Here's an Example:

  • The probability of getting a pair of jacks or better is about 21.9%. The payoff is 1 unit, so the expected return for that hand is 21.9%.
  • The probability of getting 2 pairs is about 13.1%. The payoff is 2 units, so the expected return for that hand is 26.2%.
  • The probability of getting 3 of a kind is about 7.2%, and it pays off at 3 units. The expected return for that hand is 21.6%.
  • This continues through the entire pay table until you get the total payback percentage for the game - in this case, it's 96.8%.

Keep in mind, too, that the algorithms which calculate the expected return (another phrase meaning payback percentage) assumes you're making the mathematically optimal decision on every hand.

With this specific pay table, the game awards you a 6th card if you have a 3 of a kind or if you have a full house with 3 aces.

The payback percentage listed accounts for the increased likelihood that you'll get 4 of a kind.

You can use this payback percentage to estimate how much the game will cost to play on an hourly basis. The casinos do this to decide which games are most profitable, but they also account for how popular a game is. You don't need to account for this.

Your expected hourly loss is the average size of each bet multiplied by the number of bets you make per hour multiplied by the house edge.

Here's the Formula:
Expected hourly loss = average bet X bets/hour X house edge

Here's an example using the above pay table:

You're playing on a dollar machine, and you're betting the max each hand - 5 coins. Your average bet is $5.

An average video poker player gets in 600 hands/hour. That sounds like a lot if you've never played, but once you've played a while, you can easily see how fast-paced the game is.

The house edge on this game is 100% - 96.8%, or 3.2%.

$5 X 600 hands/hour X 3.2% = $96/hour in expected losses.

We always recommend that players look for video poker games with a payback percentage of 99% or higher. That means games with a house edge of less than 1%. The pay table above doesn't even come close.

Remember That Jacks or Better Game We Mentioned Earlier?

If we do the same calculations for that game, the expected hourly loss is only $16.20.

We suggest treating video poker like Draw 6 - and in fact, all other gambling games - as an entertainment expense. Most people compare the cost of an entertainment expense with how much fun they expect to have.

You might find Draw 6 Bonus Poker 6 times as entertaining as plain ol' Jacks or Better, but we don't think so. We think you'll enjoy it about as much.

But that's not the only pay table or game variation available in a Draw 6 version.

Here's Another, Slightly Better Pay Table For the Same Game - Draw 6 Bonus Poker:

Hand/Coins 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a kind, aces 80 160 240 320 400
4 of a kind, 2s, 3s, or 4s 40 80 120 160 200
4 of a kind, any other 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 6 12 18 24 30
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 3 6 9 12 15
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pair 2 4 6 8 10
Pair of jacks+ 1 2 3 4 5

The only difference between the 2 pay tables is the payoff for a flush, which is has been increased from a 4 for 1 payoff to a 5 for 1 payoff. That single change makes the payback percentage for this variation 97.8%, which means the house edge is 2.2%. (We italicized that line on the pay table.)

That's a big improvement over the previous pay table, but it's still not good enough for the savvy video poker player.

Let's look at some other pay tables for some other variations.

This is a Pay Table For the Best Version of Draw 6 Poker We've Seen, Which is Based on Double Double Bonus Poker:

Hand/Coins 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a kind, aces 160 320 480 640 800
4 of a kind, 2s, 3s, or 4s 80 160 240 320 400
4 of a kind, any other 50 100 150 200 250
Full house 8 16 24 32 40
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pair 1 2 3 4 5
Pair of jacks+ 1 2 3 4 5

You'll notice 4 lines on this pay table that are italicized. These are the hands where the payoff has been increased. These are the 3 possible 4 of a kind hands and the straight.

You'll also notice a single line in bold. That's the 2 pair, and that's a hand where the payoff has been reduced.

The payoffs for the various possible 4 of a kind hands have double, which is why it's called "Double Bonus". The game makes up for those increased payoffs by decreasing the payoff for 2 pair.

Since 2 pair is much more common than any 4 of a kind, this increases the volatility of the game.

Volatility is a way of looking at how big the swings are between the expected results in the long run and the actual results in the short-term.

The game also increases the range of hands that result in a 6th card. You still get a 6th card with any 3 of a kind, but you also get a 6th card when you get a full house with 3 aces, 2s, 3s, or 4s.

The payback percentage for this pay table is 98.3%. This gets us closer to that recommended 99% threshold, but it's still not quite there.

You might find this game in a casino where it's the best possible game, but that's unlikely.

But if you are going to try Draw 6 Poker, stick with Draw 6 Double Bonus. It's the best option available.

Draw 6 Poker Strategy

We mentioned earlier that achieving these high payback percentages and low house edge figures require making good decisions.

But what does that mean, exactly?

What Draw 6 Poker strategy ensures the highest payback percentage?

On any given video poker hand, you have 32 possible ways to play that hand. You can keep all the cards, you can discard all the cards, you can keep the first card and discard the other 4 cards, etc.

Only one of those decisions will have the best expected return, and that's always the correct decision.

That sounds harder than it is, though. Most of the time, your decisions in video poker are ridiculously easy. For example, if you're dealt a royal flush, you'll obviously hold all your cards. The same holds true if you're dealt a full house. If you're dealt 3 of a kind, you'll obviously discard the 2 cards that aren't part of the 3 of a kind. You're hoping to improve to 4 of a kind.

But sometimes you'll need to decide between 2 options.

Here's an Example:

You're dealt 4 cards to a royal flush, but you also have a high pair. You might have the ace of spades, the ace of hearts, and the king, queen, and jack of hearts.

Now you have a decision to make. Do you hold onto the pair since it's a guaranteed payout? Or do you discard the ace of spades and try to get the royal flush, which you'll clearly miss most of the time.

The answer lies in the calculation of expected value. You multiply the payoff for each decision by the probability of getting that payoff.

In the case of our example, if you hold the pair of aces, you have a 100% chance of getting a 1-coin payoff. That's an expected value of 1.

If you discard the ace and draw to the royal flush, you have a roughly 2% chance of getting an 800-coin payoff. That's an expected value of 16.

This example doesn't account for the other possible hands you might improve to, but it doesn't have to. None of them are likely enough to get keeping a pair of aces over an expected value of 16.

Luckily, we don't have to do that calculation for every hand. You can just use a video poker strategy table, which resembles (conceptually, at least) a blackjack basic strategy chart.

A video poker strategy table is a list of possible hands ranked by their expected value. You start at the top of the list, compare it to your hand, and keep that hand if you have it - discarding any cards that don't belong to the listed hand. If you don't have that hand, you move to the next hand on the list, and so on, until you reach a hand on the list that you have.

Most video poker strategy tables start with several pat hands that you'll hold. A pat hand is a hand that's already guaranteed to get a payout - a dealt royal flush, for example.

In the case of Draw 6 Poker, you just use the strategy for the base game that it sits on top of. The additional card in the case of a 3 of a kind or certain full houses doesn't have a significant effect on your strategy.

You can find detailed strategy charts for each of the possible Draw 6 Poker games available on our main page for each game.

Where to Find Draw 6 Poker Games, Online for Free or Real Money

Draw 6 Poker isn't a widely played or widely available game anymore. For the most part, it's been supplanted by Super Draw 6 Poker. We have a page about that game which provides suggestions as to where to find it.

If you want to try video poker games online for free, though, most of the base games that Draw 6 Poker is based on are readily available at casinos all over the Internet. We recommend multiple safe offshore casinos where you can play for free or for real money.

If you want to find Draw 6 Poker in a live, land-based casino, your best bet is to look for it in Las Vegas. The city has more kinds of video poker than any other destination. Try one of the large casinos on the Strip, like the Mirage.

We'll take this opportunity to again recommend that you stick with video poker games with a payback percentage of 99% or higher. Draw 6 Poker doesn't cut it. If you do play, just try it for the novelty of it. Then switch to a game with a better payback percentage as soon as possible.


Draw 6 Poker is an interesting variation added to a handful of common video poker games based on Bonus Poker. The twist is getting a 6th card on the draw if you have a 3 of a kind or a full house with certain cards in it. This improves the overall payback percentage for the game.

Unfortunately, the pay tables for Draw 6 Poker are tighter than we prefer.

We recommend sticking with video poker games where the payback percentage is 99% or better.

The best version of Draw 6 Poker doesn't even come close.

You don't need to adjust your strategy when playing Draw 6 Poker. That 6th card is just a bonus. You might be tempted to think that you should be more aggressive when pursuing 3 of a kind or a full house, but that aggression is already factored in to the strategy charts for Bonus Poker variations. That s because such games already offer additional bonuses for 4 of a kind.

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