Razz is played like 7-Card Stud, except for the fact that it is backwards. Instead of trying to make the best poker hand, you are trying to make the worst. It is much like the 2-7 Triple Draw game we talked about in another article, except that straights and flushes don’t count against you. In other words, the lowest five unpaired cards win.
The game starts by having each player ante in order to receive a hand. For instance, in a $20-40 game (used as specific example), the ante would be $3 per player. The cards are then dealt to each player with the first two face down; the third is face up - followed by a round of betting. The player with the highest ‘up’ card (or door card) has a forced bring-in bet. The bring-in bet would be $5. This player also has the option of starting the betting off with a full $20 bet. The action follows the bring-in bet in clockwise order. To stay in the hand, each player must call the $5 bet, or complete the bet to a full $20.
After the round of betting is complete, a fourth card is dealt face up to all of the remaining players. The player with the lowest board cards is first to act. This player can either bet $20 or check. Once again, the action follows this player clockwise. Then comes 5th street, another up card to all remaining players and is followed by another round of betting. This time the bet is doubled to $40. This is followed by 6th street, the final up card for everyone, and then another $40 betting round. The final card (7th street or river card) is then dealt to all remaining players, but this one comes in face down. This is followed by a final $40 betting round.
Remember, the lowest board cards act first. For instance, a board that reads K-Q-9-3 is a lower board than 7-5-2-2 because the second player has a pair. Each player now has three down cards, and four up cards. The lowest five-card hand wins. With Aces always being low in this game, the best hand possible would be A-2-3-4-5 (a wheel or a bicycle).
The strategy in Razz is really quite simple, play the small cards. Your goal is to make a wheel. While it would be great to make that hand every time, it just isn’t realistic. What you are trying to do is make 6 and 7 lows (low hands that are headed by either a 6 or a 7). Eight lows are fine too and will often win, but just don’t put too much money in the pot with them. It would be great if you could pick and choose the cards that you are dealt, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. So when you are dealt big cards to start, don’t waste your money by chasing long shot draws. Wait until you have a good starting hand to get involved.
Getting started on Third Street is very important. The lower your three cards are, the better your hand is. Ideally, you would like to start with A-2-3. However, you are probably going to play any three unpaired cards under a seven. Playing an eight with two babies (A-2-3) is fine also, but not for more than two bets. What you want to avoid is getting started with a picture card in your hand. Even if you have two babies to go along with it, trust me when I tell you that you are going up hill most of the time. Now, remember earlier when I said that this is the easiest game to learn, here is why.
Fourth Street is the most important street in Razz. When one player catches a good card, and the other catches a bad card (or banana as it is commonly referred to), it is easy to see. For example, suppose that you and I both start with the same hand, (A-2) 6 then you catch a Jack on Fourth Street and I catch a seven. This gives us hands that look like: Your hand (A-2) 6-J. My hand (A-2) 6-7.
I know for sure that I have the best hand right now, and I’m a big favorite to win the hand. Even if I don’t know what your hole cards are, I know for sure that you only have a Jack low right now, while I have four cards to a seven low. While you have to catch two good cards in the last three, I only have to catch one. As a matter of fact, any time that your opponent catches a big card, and you catch a little card, you should bet. It is true that the card you caught might have paired you, but your opponent doesn’t know that. This remains the same throughout the remainder of the hand. Anytime one player catches a big card, and another player catches a small card, everyone at the table will know who was helped and who was hurt. Because of the fact that there are so many up cards in this game, it remains fairly simple to figure out if you are ahead or not throughout the entire hand. Another reason why this game is so simple is that you don’t ever have to worry about your opponent making straights and flushes because you are only trying to make low hands. Also, it is a good thing if he pairs one of his ‘door’ cards, because that way you know for sure that your opponent didn’t improve on that card. One more important part of Razz that is different than Stud is that you don’t need to remember the big cards that have appeared in your opponent’s hands. They simply don’t matter in Razz because your opponents will be playing the small cards too.
As you can see, because of the nature of Razz, this is not the game for you if you want to gamble it up and build monster pots. But if you want a game that requires little people reading ability, yet is still fun, than you better give Razz a try. You just might find something you are good at.