Five Card Draw
Five Card Draw is often seen as the easiest form of poker. Certainly, if children are playing poker with their families, Five Card Draw is almost always the version that they play. While five card stud is technically an easier game (you play what you get, and that's pretty much the end of it), it lacks the factor of choice and potential hand improvement, making draw a better game for new players and those still learning the most basic elements of poker. While a few online casinos offer some Five Card Draw tables, this particular brand of poker is typically only played in casual home games, as professional players have often moved on to what they generally consider more "mature" versions of poker.
How Five Card Draw is Played
Each player gets five cards, dealt out one at a time (the way cards are dealt in the majority of card games). Players evaluate their hands and a round of betting follows. After the betting, players can choose to discard cards-- up to three, unless he/she holds an Ace, in which case a draw of four cards is allowed. The "four with an Ace" rule is technically a house rule, but it is included in Five Card Draw games more often than not (just be aware that some places may not use this rule). After players are dealt their new cards (all at once, rather than one at a time), players bet again. If a showdown is necessary, the player with the highest cards wins the pot.
What it Offers
What Five Card Draw has to offer, though, is essential for beginning players. Instead of rote memorization of the poker hand values (what one learns by playing stud), players are introduced to the concept of building a hand-- looking at a set of cards and seeing their potential, rather than their immediate worth. This skill, the very premise behind the draw concept, is crucial in "more advanced" poker games like Hold'em, where players must assess the cards in their hand and determine not only their immediate worth, but their worth as the community cards fall.
Draw also teaches players the basics of bluffing and observing other players. It is tempting for new players to take the maximum amount of cards, hoping for a better hand, but since other players can see how many cards are taken by each player, this tactic makes bluffing impossible. If you hold a pair and take three cards, the rest of the players will be able to "read" your hand and know that it's weak; likewise a four card draw while holding an Ace announces to the rest of the table that, failing a small miracle, you have nothing more than a high card in your hand. Therefore, it becomes necessary to draw cards based not only on what you need in your hand, but what you want other players to think that you have.
Five Card Draw Variations
Another house rule sometimes used with Five Card Draw is one that does not allow the bottom card of the deck to be dealt as a replacement card. This is to prevent players who may have seen the card from having an advantage. In places that use this rule, players can either choose randomly from among the discards or have the dealer shuffle the remaining card into the discards and then deal to the player.
Five Card Draw is home to many lowball variants, where players compete to see who can get the worst possible hand. In "Deuce to Seven Lowball," players try to get as close to 2 of Clubs 3 of Diamonds 4 of Hearts 5 of Spades 7 of Clubs , off-suit, and automatically lose if their hand contains a valid, non-high card poker hand such as a pair, flush, or straight. A-5 Triple Lowball is similar-- players try to get Ace of Clubs 2 of Diamonds 3 of Hearts 4 of Spades 5 of Clubs , and straights and flushes don't count against the player. In lowball games, players typically get three drawing/betting rounds, rather than just one.
Likewise, regular Five Card Draw can be played with extra drawing phases added in (making the games known as Double Draw and Triple Draw), with wild cards, or with an extra betting phase before the cards are even dealt ("Blind and Straddle").
Perhaps the most common variation on Five Card Draw, however, is known as Spanish Five Card Draw (or the stripped deck variant). In this game, a French Piquet deck is used instead of the traditional card deck used for poker. The Piquet deck contains the cards from 7 through Ace and is missing 2-6, so it's easy to alter a regular deck to fit these rules. Because the cards are different, the probabilities of getting various hands changes, which changes the ranking of the poker hands. In the stripped deck variation, a flush ranks between four of a kind and a full house.