Razz Poker: Rules & Strategies
Razz poker is a lowball variation of Seven Card Stud, which means that the game follows many of the same rules when it comes to dealing with the cards and betting patterns. Where the game completely differs, though, is the hand ranking system. Unlike stud and other high games like Texas Hold’em, Razz uses the ranking system for low poker variations, which means that your standard straights, flushes, and full houses aren’t what you’ll be after when playing. As strange as it may seem to those not used to lowball poker, the goal here is to make the lowest possible hand and win the pot.
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How to play: Razz poker explained
To those new to poker in general and to those who haven’t had a chance to encounter lowball games, Razz may seem strange at first. However, learning Razz poker rules doesn’t take that much effort at all. The only real difference has to do with hand rankings, which do require some strategy adjustments, but the game isn’t all that different from any other poker variation out there.
Dealing cards in Razz
The dealing process in Razz is identical to the one used in Seven Card Stud. All players are dealt up to seven cards and there are five rounds of betting in total. The deal begins with the first player to the left of the designated dealer and goes clockwise. Players are dealt one card at a time, with the first two cards dealt face down and the third card dealt face up.
After this initial deal, cards are dealt one at a time after each betting round. The fourth, fifth, and sixth cards are dealt face up, while the final, and seventh card is dealt face down. So, all players who remain active by the end of the hand will have three cards facing down and four cards facing up, for everyone to see.
Like most stud games, Razz is usually played using the fixed betting system, also known as limit betting. This means that players have to adhere to strict rules in terms of what amounts they’re allowed to bet and raise on each street and they can’t deviate from these rules under no circumstances. Sometimes, the game is also played as a pot limit, especially during large tournament series such as WSOP, where all sorts of different formats are featured.
To kick things off, all players will post an ante, which is a fixed predetermined amount. In Razz tournaments, the ante will gradually increase based on the elapsed time. Once all antes are in, the initial three cards are dealt to determine the bring-in.
Unlike high stud variations, the highest card showing will be the one to post the bring-in. It is important to note that Ace is low in Razz (it is the lowest possible card, which is a good thing), while the rest of the card rankings remains the same (Kings are the highest and Deuces are the second lowest).
When these initial bets are posted, the first round of betting ensues. The betting begins with the player posting the bring-in, who has the option to just post the bring-in, complete (matching the size of the small bet), or raise. The betting then continues clockwise. When this round is done, the fourth street is dealt.
On this and all subsequent streets, the betting begins with the player showing the lowest hand. He or she may elect to check or bet the amount of the small bet.
On the fifth, sixth, and seventh streets, the same betting rules apply, but the big bet is in play (in the case of limit games). The big bet is twice the size of the small bet and from fifth street onward, this is the smallest amount players are allowed to bet.
Determining the winner
Once all the betting is done on the seventh street, all players still involved in the hand will expose their hidden cards and the showdown ensues. The player having the best five-card hand will, as always, wins the pot. Players can use five and only five from the seven cards they’ve been dealt during the course of the hand and hand rankings follow standard rules for lowball poker variations, which are explained below.
Razz poker hand rankings explained
Unlike in high poker games, the goal in Razz is to have the lowest possible hand. When comparing hands, the highest card in the combination is used to determine the winner. So, the best possible hand you can have is the wheel, a straight from A to 5 (A, 2, 3, 4, 5). As already mentioned, Aces are low in Razz.
The second best hand would be A, 2, 3, 4, 6. It is important to emphasize once again that the winner of the pot is determined by looking at the highest card in the combination, not the lowest. So, when comparing hands, A, 2, 5, 7, and 9 would lose to 2, 4, 5, 6, 7. In this case, the latter hand is 7-high while the former is 9-high.
This low system of ranking hands does take some getting used to for those new to lowball poker (and requires some strategy adjustments) but it’s not that hard to understand. Another important thing to keep in mind is that straight and flushes don’t count against the player, unlike some other low games such as 2-7 Single Draw. Furthermore, card suits are only used to break the tie for the bring-in (in alphabetical order, from the lowest to the highest) and in no other circumstances, like in all other stud variations.
Razz poker strategy tips
For those new to the game, some serious adjustments may be required to adopt a solid and fundamentally sound Razz poker strategy. The good news is that Razz has many similarities to other forms of stud poker in terms of betting and play dynamics so at least you won’t have to do much to adjust to that part.
However, selecting your starting hands in Razz can be quite tricky if you’re new to low poker variations. A good strategy to start with is to stick with hands with a solid potential to turn into a winner by the showdown. If you’re dealt an Ace in the hole with two small cards to go with it, this is what you call a very good start.
Like with all other stud poker formats, pay attention to what your opponents are doing as they play and what cards are being mucked. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a situation where you pretty much know you have the winner or where you’re certain that you’re beaten by looking at the opponent’s board. You should pay attention to these situations and act accordingly.
Finally, if you’re really keen to learn to play well, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you get better. Use a good Razz poker calculator to see how certain hands stack up against each other and ask for Razz poker tips from more experienced players. Although the learning curve can be a bit steep, you’ll get there eventually if you really put your mind to it.
Razz Poker FAQs
What is Razz poker?
How do you play Razz poker?
How to deal with Razz poker?
How do you rank Razz’s poker hands?
Can I play Razz poker online for real money?
Although your local casino may not spread Razz games and you don’t get to play regularly in the live or home setting, you can still hone your skills and strategy playing Razz poker online. You don’t have to wait for your shot at the WSOP to play Razz. Many of our recommended poker sites offer all sorts of Razz tournaments and cash games and will even give you a nice welcome bonus to get you started. So, take your pick and kick-start your journey! There is definitely some profit to be made with the game if you put some effort into mastering its strategies.