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Razz

Razz is often described as the most frustrating poker game!
Razz is often described as the most frustrating poker game!
D. Biondi

Razz is quickly becoming a popular poker game, both online and in live poker rooms around the world. Its popularity stems from it being both a fun “low” game (worst hand wins) and the fact that anyone who has ever played 7 Card Stud already knows the rules – it’s exactly the same except best low hand wins, not best high hand. In fact, for anyone who has ever played 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo – you have already played Razz – it’s the lo part of the game.

Because it’s a game where each player may be dealt as many as 7 cards, it’s only for a maximum of 8 players. It’s also the “R” part of the popular mixed game, H.O.R.S.E.

In razz poker, all ace cards are low. These are the best cards you can get because you are trying to get the lowest hand possible. Straights and flushes are do not count for combinations. Also, all hands qualify for opening bets, unlike some games that require 8 or better cards.

Razz poker is usually played using fixed-limit rules. Although it can be played using pot limit rules and even no limit rules. Fixed limit means you can only bet and raise in increments of the stake value. If you’re playing a $5/$10 game, during the first two rounds of betting, the bets and raises can only be in increments of the low-end stake, which is $5 in this case. After the first 2 rounds, then the bets and raises can be in increments of the high-end stakes of $10.

There’s a few variations of the game, the most popular being London Lowball, a game almost exclusively played in Europe. It is almost identical to Razz in play with the following exceptions: straights and flushes count against a player for low, so the best possible hand is 6-4-3-2-A. It is also usually played as a pot-limit game, not a fixed-limit like in the U.S.

As stated before, the rules are identical to 7 Card Stud, only you’re playing for the best low hand, not the best high hand.

Strategy

The best starting hand in Razz is A-2-3. A basic strategy in a full-ring game is to only play unpaired cards, all three 8s or lower. Players want to avoid making pairs and should evaluate other door cards in relation to the strength of their hand. For instance, Tim holds 2-3-5 and sees four "dead" door cards of 2-2-5-5 behind her. This is a strong hand, as the likelihood of pairing his hole cards is now a lot less likely.

Another key strategy in Razz is stealing the antes and bring-in bets. Say you’re to the right of the bring-in bettor, and everyone else folds, you should raise with a lower exposed card showing. For example, if Jack has an 8 showing, and Cathy, the bring-in bettor, has a Q showing, Jack should normally raise if everyone else folds. It’ll be very difficult for Cathy to call any if she anything but an Ace and another low card.

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