Razz is not as popular a game of poker as Texas Hold'em, Omaha, and Seven-Card Stud games, but you can find it online in a few virtual casino poker rooms and professional card rooms. It is an eight handed poker game, dealt and played basically just like Seven-Card Stud High-Low, but played only for the low end of the hand.
The object is to have the best low possible using the Ace as a low card. The best possible hand you are looking to make is A-2-3-4-5, which is the nut low (also called a wheel). It can't be beat, only tied, and there aren't any high hands in Razz to split, so the pots will be larger than in High-Low split games.
Razz poker is an eight-handed poker game and every player is dealt a total of seven cards, two down and one up on Third Street, with three additional cards dealt face-up on Fourth Street, Fifth Street, and Sixth Street. However, on Seventh Street your card is dealt face-down, just as it is in any Seven-Card Stud game.
To make the best five low cards, you will not want to see any paint — Kings, Queens, or Jacks — along with any Tens or Nines. And an Ace is considered a low card only, so just think of it as being the number one.
The deal and the action are exactly the same as they are in any Seven-Card Stud game. If there is an ante, the computer software will automatically subtract it from your chips and place it in the pot. Then the cards are dealt and the player with the highest card, not the lowest card as in most other games, has to bring in the action.
What does “bring in the action” mean?
When a player brings in the action it means that the person with the highest card must place a low-limit bet, whether or not he likes his cards. If it's a $3/$6 limit game, then the bring-in bet is usually $1.
Let's say your cards are (2-4)-A. The only way you would not play your cards is if your two hole cards were over a Nine. If that's not the case, these are three very good starting cards for Razz poker. And with four more cards to come, you have a good chance of improving your hand.
The betting remains at $3 until Fifth Street, when the limit is raised to $6, and there are usually three maximum raises allowed.
You should now be looking at all your opponents' door cards and counting how many low cards are already exposed on the board. Out of a deck of fifty-two cards, there are thirty-two cards that are Eight or under to keep track of.
One high card is bad enough if it is with two lows, such as A-2-K or A-3-K, but when you have two high cards, 2-Q-J, don't even think about it — muck your cards immediately. And remember, think of the Ace as the number one, and not as the highest card in the deck.
If you learn to keep track of these cards as more and more cards are revealed on the following streets, you will be in a better position to figure out whether there are enough low cards still left in the deck to warrant your calling the raises when there is only one more card to come.
By Sixth Street, your hand has become (2-4)-A-6-J-9. You have a decent low going for you but you still need one more low card, without duplicating any of the cards you already have in your hand.
Quite simply, when there is still one more card to come, and your hand still needs that one more card, you are playing a trap hand. But if you've been keeping track of the exposed cards, this hand just might be a little better than one would think.
The Best Starting Hands
Since there is no need for any card over an Eight in Razz poker, deciding on starting cards should not be difficult. If you hold no cards under the Nine in your hand, fold. If you have two high cards and one medium-low card, fold. And you don't want to see pairs and sets, even if you have a low pair with an Ace. It's hard enough to draw for two perfect cards, but to pay for the privilege of drawing three perfect cards is just not playing good poker.
Following are the premium starting-hand cards you should look for when playing Razz poker:
Of course there are many Razz players who will play any starting hand that contains any three low cards. But if you play tight, you will want to stick with these examples.
If you play just high-only games and decide to check out Razz, find a play-money game online so you can practice and get the feel of working toward making a hand that you previously would have folded in a high-only game. And get used to the fact that an Ace is no greater than the number one.
The Worst Starting Hands
Since there is no such thing as a pair, set, straight, flush, or full house in Razz poker, and no card over an Eight has any value, knowing what cards you should not have in your starting hand on Third Street should be relatively simple. Any three cards that contain three high cards or two high cards and a medium-low card is a bad starting hand. If you have K-K-5, you have a bad starting hand. A-K-8 is also not a good starting hand, but there are those who will call to see a flop with this kind of hand. But this kind of starting hand, the A-K-8, will either go very well or very badly very quickly, so there is no need to see any more cards if you draw another high card on Fourth Street.
If you are rolled-up, have three of a kind, or hold a hand that in any other poker game you would usually pray for, it's useless in Razz, so you might as well muck your hand.
These are the hands you shouldn't have played past Fourth Street, but, unfortunately, you didn't follow your gut instinct.
Your cards are (A-2)-J. There are three raises by the time the action gets around to you on Third Street, and you choose to call all three raises. On Fourth Street your hand now looks like this: (A-2)-J-9. True, there are still three more cards to come, and you have been keeping track of all the exposed cards and feel you have a good shot — but you should fold. However, you decide to call the raises and see your Fifth Street card.
Why am I always getting trapped?
You keep getting trapped because you play too many drawing hands all the way to Seventh Street. If you stick with the premium starting hands and make your low by or before Sixth Street, you'll cut down on the number of trap hands you tend to play.
On Fifth Street your cards are now (A-2)-J-8-5. You have four to a low, but not the nut low, so many other opponents can still beat you. You ideally need a three and a four, so if you don't see more than one of either of them on the board, you're probably thinking that you have a good chance of catching your low. So you called all the action to see Sixth Street, and this is what you now have: (A-2)-J-8-5-9. Now you are good and trapped, and probably on your way to calling the action all the way to Seventh Street.
However, at this point you should fold, because even if you do catch a fifth low card on Seventh Street, it probably won't be good enough to win the pot. But any player who has called this far will probably call all the way to the river.