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Draw Poker Variations

By Gary Steele

In today’s online poker world there are not many games of draw poker available. This, however, is not true in friendly home games where draw poker variations run rampant. I am going to discuss a few of the most popular games below.

Draw poker is any variation where a number of cards can be discarded from a player’s hand and replaced from another source (usually the deck, but some variations replace cards from other player’s hands).

“Five Card Draw” or “Seven Card Draw”

This is your basic draw poker game. Players are dealt five/seven cards face down and a round of betting takes place. Players may then choose to replace up to four cards out of their hand from the deck. Finally, a last round of betting takes place and players show their hands.

“High Low Declare”

Your basic five or seven card draw game occurs and players declare their intentions simultaneously at the end of the hand of going for the High half of the pot or the Low half of the pot. Then the player with the highest and lowest hand split the money. If nobody chooses High, the player with the lowest hand wins it all and vice versa. Players usually use a chip in a closed fist to declare their intentions. If the player is holding the chip he or she is going for the High half, otherwise the Low. Often, certain criteria have to be met, such as no cards above an eight, for the low hand to be acceptable.

“Jack or Better” or “Gardena”

This game has an ante each player pays before each round is dealt. Players receive five or seven cards and only if a player has a pair of Jacks or better can he or she place a bet. Otherwise, the hands are thrown in, everyone antes again, and another hand is dealt. Often, another qualifying hand, such as Three of a Kind, is required to win the pot.


The basic five card draw poker game occurs, however, at the end each player places his or her cards face down in a pile in any order. All players turn one card over and a round of betting ensues. Then all players turn over a second card, betting happens, etcetera, until all cards are face up and one player wins the pot.

“Barter” or “Trade”

Players are dealt five or seven cards and a round of betting occurs. The first player asks if anyone wants to exchange a particular number of cards and the other players are given a chance, starting with the player to the left, to agree to the exchange. After a willing “Trade” for an equal number of cards is found and completed, or everyone at the table declines the trade, play passes to the next player. After all players get a chance to offer a trade, the round ends and betting occurs. Play can continue for any pre-specified number of rounds.

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