Razz Poker Guide
Razz poker is essentially a “low” or “lowball” version of 7-card stud. Therefore, its history is intertwined with that of stud poker in general. There is no clear account or reference to when Razz (or a similar version) was first played. However, it is commonly believed that this must have been after the introduction of the now standard 52-card deck, around 1900 or so. Today, online Razz poker has been gaining in popularity and has been included in every WSOP since 1971.
Razz Poker Rules:
- Each player makes an agreed upon ante, putting a specified amount of money into the pot.
- A total of 3 cards are now dealt to each player, with the first 2 face down, and the third face up for all to see.
- A betting round follows, usually started by the player with the highest “up” card making a forced bet (called the ‘bring-in’) of either half a minimum or a full bet (this is determined before the game starts, and there are some variations). Each player, in clockwise order, have the opportunity to either call (match the bet), raise (add an additional amount to the bet), or fold (give up by turning in their cards and forfeiting whatever ante or money they have contributed to the pot).
- All players receive another card, dealt face up, and followed by another betting round. From this point on the player with the lowest up card or poker hand starts each betting round, and is followed in clockwise order. Bear in mind that straights and flushes do not count as such in this game; they are completely disregarded.
- The next card (the fifth) is also dealt face up, followed by a round of betting. At this point the minimum bet may double, according to house or casino rules.
- A fourth up card is dealt to each player, followed by another betting round.
- A final card is dealt; face down to each player, followed by a final betting round.
- Any remaining players show their hands, and the winner is declared (and awarded the pot) as having the lowest poker hand, disregarding straights and flushes. The best hand possible is A-2-3-4-5. This is also called the ‘bicycle.’
Internet Razz Poker Strategy:
The two most important strategic considerations in internet razz poker are when to steal the blinds and when to defend your first (or ‘bring-in’) bet. You must first understand that Razz poker online is marked by the vast majority of players folding far too often. Whenever you have an opportunity to steal the initial bets, you should attempt to do so. There are three main considerations here:
- What is my exposed card?
- What is the bring-in player’s exposed card?
- What are the exposed cards of the players yet to act (and those who have already acted)?
You need also to consider that, given all the cards showing, does it look like you will be able to make a strong hand. As an example, if you show a 7-8, but there are a bunch of 5’s and 6’s showing, you are not in great shape to attempt stealing the pot.
Most Razz poker players defend their bring-in bets way too often. Do not make the classic beginner mistake of basing the strength of your hand on the hole cards more than your exposed cards.
Another strategy consideration is trying to get the pot heads up going into the second round of betting. By its nature, the more players remaining in the hand, the less likely you are to win at the showdown.
Razz poker is a game where powers of observation and analysis are a huge key to success. Being able to calculate odds is also a great help. But most of all, knowing when to steal and when to defend is essential.
Strong Opening Hands:
For the purposes of analysis, you can divide opening play Razz poker hands into categories such as excellent, good and fair. Excellent hands start with three cards that could potentially make a bicycle (or wheel), like 4-3-A or 5-4-2. Generally, you should play these hands aggressively. Good hands have three cards that could potentially make a 6-low hand, like 6-3-2 or 6-4-A. These are also decent hands to both steal and defend with. Fair hands can make a 7 or 8 low, and can be ‘ranked’ according to their lowest cards. Obviously, there are also positional considerations to factor into your decision whether to steal or defend.