Playing Razz

razz pokerRazz is a form of Stud poker but differs from regular 7-Card Stud in that the lowest hand wins. Unlike games like 2-7 Triple Draw, straights and flushes don’t count against you when making a low hand in Razz poker, so the best possible hand in Razz is A-2-3-4-5.

The game plays just like Stud and Stud hi/lo in terms of its betting and dealing structure, where each player receives 2 down cards and an up card and there is a round of betting. Each player then receives 3 more up cards with a round of betting after each and a final down card, with a subsequent round of betting after which comes the showdown if necessary.

An easy way to figure out the winning hand is to view your hand as a five digit number starting from high to low. For example, if you have 86532 and your opponent has 8732A (where A counts as 1) you have the lower 5-digit number and thus the winning Razz hand.

Playing a Hand of Razz

The action begins on what is known as ‘third street’ (3-cards dealt to each player) with the player showing the worst Razz card as their up card being forced to pay the bring-in which is often ½ the small bet online.  The action then proceeds clockwise around the poker table with each player being required to place a full small bet (known as completing) if they want to enter the pot. They also have the option to raise (to two small bets). Completing is slightly stronger in stud games than the equivalent limping in flop games, because if everyone else folds a complete can win the pot, where a limp in hold ’em, for example, cannot.

When the betting is completed onthird street, each player is dealt another card and a round of betting is opened. Unlike hold em, for example, the betting order is not fixed. The player with the best Razz hand showing has the betting lead for all betting rounds exceptthird street. For example if you have 9-5 showing and your opponent has 8-7, he will act first.

Fifth, sixth and seventh streets proceed in the same manner, with these being the ‘big bet’ streets, where the bet increment is double that for third and fourth street.

Razz is probably the least popular poker variant out there; so much so that it is often removed from HORSE rotations to make HOSE. This means that if you’re sitting in a HORSE game, or an 8-game mix, you’re more than likely going to be up against a couple of opponents who just want to get through the round as quickly and cheaply as possible, or have no clue what they’re doing and end up splashing around. Either of these is a great situation for you and should be all the motivation you need to get good at Razz poker.

 Basic Razz Strategy

Like all poker games, when you’re a new player the absolute best thing you can do in Razz is to play tight and reasonably straightforward when you’re just learning the game. For this reason, we recommend that you don’t play hands without all 3 cards being 7 or lower. The exception to this is when you’re in late position and showing a good up-card like a 5 and your remaining opponents are showing broadway cards like a Jack and a King. This is a great stealing opportunity where you can represent a strong hand and they can do nothing about the giant brick that they’re showing!

Avoid paired cards. Even if you hold AA-2 and you’re being played back at by an opponent with a Jack up-card, you’re more than likely an underdog to win at showdown.

Know when to wave the white flag. Let’s say you start off with a nice hand like 25-7 and your opponent is showing an A and has raised 3rd street. You draw a Q and he draws a 4. Now not only has your opponent hit well, and you hit poorly but he has also taken one of the cards you need out of the deck, further hurting your chances of making a strong hand. If you believe his two hole cards to be lower than 8, you’re now a 2/1 underdog to win at showdown. However, because 4th street is still a small bet street, you’ll often be getting the pot odds to see 5th street. This is where you must use skill and experience and weigh up the pot odds and your opponents tendencies to decide whether or not to continue and is the point at which good Razz players start to make significant money by outplaying their opponents.

Developing a good big-bet game in Razz is about nothing more than experience and reading your opponents, something which is difficult to teach, so from here on out it’s about experience! Just make sure to play lots and lots of hands, spend a lot of time inputting scenarios to Pro Poker Tools, studying your hands in PokerTracker Stud and if you really want to improve your Razz game, watching videos by Joe Tall on Deuces Cracked