For any traditional card player that is just tired of the standard poker game, Razz Poker offers a twist on 7 card stud. As a low-ball variation on very traditional poker, Razz Poker is a game where each player is dealt seven total cards. The winning hand will derive out of the best five cards in the full hand of seven. The player holding the winning five card poker hand will have the lowest or worst hand, over of all of his or her opponents. As an example, the best winning hand in Razz Poker is the ace-2-3-4-5.
Razz Poker Rules
Learning how to play Razz Poker is simple when following the rules. This seven card low game has been around for years. Not as popular as traditional Texas Hold‘em, or variations on Omaha Poker, it is nonetheless a game worth learning. It is important to recognize that straights, flushes and other high betting hands do not matter in this 7 card stud low game. Although, these cards do not hurt a player’s hand either.
Each player must attempt to create the best five card low hand, using any variation or combination of their dealt seven cards. An ace in the deck is always considered to be a low card, and any flush or straight will have no effect on the value of the lowest hand. The basics of Razz Poker involve:
· The Ante – The traditional game of Razz Poker is usually played with 2 to 8 players at a poker table. Every player in the game is required to ante up before the initial dealing hand commences. The ante is usually about 1/5 of a traditional low limit bet size. The ante is never counted, or brought into play, against any of the future calls or bets.
· Dealing the Cards – The designated dealer will deal three cards to every player. The deal will include one card face up, and two cards face down.
· Bringing In – The player that has the highest face up card is required to initiate the first bet. Often referred to as “bringing in”, the bet is mandatory from the person with the highest face up showing. Other conditions include:
o In situations where two or more players are displaying the same high card (no matter what suit is showing), the player that is seated closest to the left of the dealer is required to “bring in” the first bet.
o It is required that the person placing the “bringing in” must place a bet at approximately 1/5 of the bet size (low limit) of the pot.
o The “Bringing in” bet is not counted against any calling or betting at any time within the game. This means any bet that is not originally raised will require no more betting into the pot from the player that placed it.
· The Betting Rounds – The game of Razz Poker has five specific betting rounds for every hand. These include two rounds for each bet that are equal to the bet size on the low limit. During the last three rounds of Razz Poker play, the bets will be equal to the bet size on the high limit. As an example, if the game has a $5/$10 limit, the initial three betting rounds will contain $5 limits, while the last three rounds will have $10 limits. There will be a maximum no greater than three raises allowed for each round of betting. Additionally, all raises and bets are performed in a clockwise motion around the Razz Poker table. The specific rules for each round of betting include:
o The 1st Betting Round – The first round of betting is initiated once every player has received their first initial three cards. The dealer will place one card face up, and two cards face down. Every bet and raise will be placed in a small bet amount.
o The 2nd and 3rd Betting Rounds – Once three more cards are dealt to the players, all face up (one card for every round) there is a betting round, also of small bet amounts, after every card has been dealt.
o The 4th Betting Round – Another card will be dealt to every player face up. The betting round will commence exactly like the previous ones. However, the face amount limit of the bet will be high, instead of low.
o The Final Betting Round – Once the final card has been dealt face down to every player, the fifth and final betting round will commence. All bets will be for large betting amounts, similar to the fourth round of betting.
o The Showdown – All players who have not already folded their cards can participate in the last betting round. Once that is complete, the showdown begins. Every remaining player will need to show their cards to opponents to determine who wins the entire pot. Typically, the player that makes the last bet will need to show their hand first. Exposing hands will proceed in a clockwise motion from that individual. The player holding the lowest hand will win the entire pot. The lowest hand is determined by a Razz Poker evaluation.
Evaluating a Razz Poker Hand
Because the game of Razz Poker offers the pot to the lowest winning hand, and not the highest, it works quite similar to the rules of Omaha 8, aka Omaha Hi/Low. As an example, a low hand in Razz Poker might be 2-8-9-10-J. Even though it is rare to have a winning hand such as this, it still qualifies as a winner, if it is the lowest hand.
The simplest way to evaluate the lowest hand in a Razz Poker game is to determine each player’s highest card in their hand, remembering that they can only play five cards and pairs do not count. Therefore, any player’s hand of cards that contains the lowest high card will win. As an example, a 5-6-7-8-10 will outrank a 2-3-4-5-K. Additionally, an Ace-2-3-4-5 will win over a 2-3-4-5-6.
Razz Poker Tips
Winning at Razz Poker is no different from any other type of poker game that requires much patience, and the ability to play tight. An effective strategy will include the ability to focus on stealing an ante whenever the situation presents itself to the player. The essential tips for winning a game of Razz Poker include:
· Starting Hands – Creating the best starting hand is essential to winning the game. The best Razz Poker starting hands will be the ace-2-3-4-5. Owning the largest part of any one of these in the combination is a perfect starting hand. It is essential to remember that no pairs are allowed in the final five to be a winning hand. Owning three cards lower than a seven will place the player in a great position. At any time, the player can steal the ante.
· Opponents’ Up Cards – Evaluating the up card of every opponent’s hand is an important part of an effective Razz Poker strategy. Observant, successful players will fully evaluate the displayed up cards of their opponents, to gain an idea of the relative strength of each hand on the table. Any player that is holding an obvious high card will tend to bet less aggressively than those that have more potential of a winning low hand. However, if a player has a great hand in their pocket hole cards, they can still bet aggressively, in spite of catching and displaying bad high cards.
· Dead Cards vs. Live Ones – A dead card is one that has already been played, and is no longer in the deck. Alternatively, a live card is still active, and has yet to make its appearance known. Although, it could be currently held tightly by an opponent. Live and dead cards play a significant role in 7 card stud. Traditionally, in 7 card stud, players wish to have “live” cards. In Razz Poker, players would rather they be “dead”. Catching any pair within the deck can kill even the greatest starting Razz Poker hand. Therefore, players would rather see “dead” cards, versus live ones.
· Slow Playing vs. Jamming– Typically, Razz Poker is not considered a slow playing game. Generally, a player holding a great hand will often want to jam the game, to create a pot large enough after the third card has been exposed. Often times, by jamming the play, a player can get right back on track, even after receiving a high fourth card. Any player can make the best situation by raising the stakes in the pot, by continually betting aggressively when holding a low winning hand.
· When to Fold – The quickest way to eliminate all the chips in front of the player is to bet subpar hands, or draw to weak ones. Any player that can stay significantly stronger after a draw will minimize the damage to their bankroll. When a player feels like they have been beaten, it is usually a great indicator that they have been. It is best that the player saves their money and plays aggressively only when the hand allows it. Traditionally, players in low limit games tend to throw in bad hands sooner than when playing other types of poker games. In Razz Poker, it is always best to remain patient and wait for the best hands to appear, to ensure the player maintains their ability to acquire a significant portion of the game’s winning pots.
· Stealing the Opponents’ Ante – One of the key aspects of playing an effective and successful round of Razz Poker is to steal the ante. The higher the limit, the more advantageous it is to steal the ante. Any player that shows the lowest card face up stands a great chance of stealing the ante away from their opponents. Holding reasonable cards in the pocket, or hole, is a highly effective strategy that can significantly increase the profits of the player.
For the beginner player, some of the strategies can be very overwhelming and difficult to incorporate into the game, right at the start. It is best to start small, and follow the basics with a quality, starting hand. The following tips will help the beginner develop a quality strategy as they learn the game from the inside out. The tips include:
· Starting Small – It is best to start small. Only when the player can easily incorporate basic strategy should they move on to a higher level of play. It is best to always have a small stake in the game, and never a medium and certainly never a high stake. Betting only the lowest limits is the best way for any novice player to overcome their mistakes. In time, they can develop discipline and patience, allowing them to risk higher amounts of money and achieve greater wins.
· The Basics of Razz Poker –The game of Razz Poker is played almost identically to 7 card stud. However, there is a single significant difference. To win the game, the player must have the weakest, or worst hand in the group, rather than the traditional strongest winning hand. Every ace in the deck is considered a low card, with the winning hand being “The Wheel”, or an ace-2-3-4-5.
· Winning Starting Hands – Because the ultimate goal of a Razz Poker game is to hold the ace-2-3-4-5 Wheel to guarantee a win, it is important to never have a card higher than a 7, in the combinations of cards dealt. Any player that holds two low cards of an ace – 4 has a quality starting hand. If the player is displaying a 7 face up card, they should call, when it is their turn to bet. If they have a four or three, they should bet. If the up card is a two or an ace, they should raise the bet.
· Watching the Board – The strategy for playing Razz Poker is significantly different than other poker games in that looking for poker tells or bluffs simply does not work well. However, it is important to continually watch the board. By looking at all the cards that are face up, it is easy to determine tightly held pocket cards of the player’s opponents, especially when they raise, call or check their bet.
· Fourth Street Action – Once the fourth card is dealt, the player should have a minimum of three cards that encompass at least a Smooth 8, or better. If not, they should consider folding their cards.
· Fifth Street Action – Whenever a player has not reached a Smooth 9 comprising of at least four-cards, it is best to just fold their cards, and save their chips for the next hand.
· Sixth Street Action – Typically, a successful Razz Poker player will have a Smooth 9, 5-card combination, once they reach the sixth street. If not, only one more card will be added to the combination, minimizing the ability to have the lowest cards, or winning hand. Any player with a hand struggling to remain active should consider folding.
· Seventh Street Action – With every available card already dealt, an effective strategy for the player is to evaluate all the open cards of his or her opponents. If the player knows they can beat the top three highest cards of every open hand of his or her opponent, they are in great shape for winning the pot. Fully evaluating all the open cards on the board will help determine the pocket cards of every opponent. Only then should the final bet be made.
The Popularity of Razz Poker
In comparison to other poker games, including Texas Hold‘em and Omaha High/Low, Razz Poker is only now becoming extremely popular, because of the availability on online sites. An individual that is good at playing 7 card stud will already have a significant advantage over players that do not. The best Razz Poker players tend to fold all of their starting hands where they do not have at least three cards under an eight with any combinations of suits. However, sometimes they will attempt to steal the ante pot with a low face up card. When they do not, they typically remain patient and wait for the best starting hand.
Successful players are often extremely careful with the pairs they handle when playing Razz Poker. Although, it is possible to win with a pair in the hand, usually it does not happen. Razz Poker can be an extremely exciting game to play. However, it is essential to stay focused and patient to ensure minimal damage to a bankroll, when the cards are not in the player’s favor.
Considered a very fast-paced game, players have the ability to achieve a lot of winnings, once they master this invigorating and exciting style of poker. It is essential to always stay alert, as there is a lot of information on the table, when cards are facing up. With this valuable information, every beginner, intermediate and advanced player can read their opponents, to maximize their returns during the showdown. Aggressive players find significant payoffs by stealing the blinds, or ante. Although the idea of winning with the lowest, or worst hand, can be a bit confusing at first, once learned, it quickly becomes a fun and profitable game.