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Poker Strategy | Seven Card Stud

Razz Strategy Guide

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Razz is a game that most people seem to love to hate, and I've never understood why.  Granted, most poker players are used to going after the best cards, so a game that plays like Seven Card Stud, with an objective of getting the worst hand possible, might seem, well, stupid. But I love the game, and it's one of the few poker games I've had success at other than that really popular one you see on TV a lot.

I usually do well in Razz cash games, and I've been to several final tables of 50 or more players of Razz MTTs. Most of the time those tables are filled with bloggers, who tend to be very good poker players.

So how do I do it? Well, I've got some tips for you if you want to give it a try.

Here's a quick refresher. It plays exactly like Stud, except the objective is to get the worst hand, and straights and flushes don't count. See? It's simple, really.

Once you get beyond that, here's how you can win at Razz (and impress your home game to boot!).

• Start with a good hand - A good tip is to never start with a card higher than a 7. I sometimes bump that up to an 8 but never beyond that. Remember, the objective is to get the lowest hand possible, so if you start with, say, a Queen, you've already got a tough draw.
• Pairs suck, but they don't kill your hand - If you're hand is, say, 5-5-4-3-2-A-K, you've still got the nuts (A-2-3-4-5). But if you get two pair, it's tough to draw to a good hand, so even if you have A-A-2-2-3-9-J), that means your hand is a J-high, despite all the pretty cards. You should probably pitch double pairs. And I almost never start a hand with a pair in it, unless it's something like A-2-2.
• Bluffing is difficult - It's certainly not impossible, but it's a limit game, and you've got a lot of cards showing, so if someone bets into me and he or she has some good low cards, unless I've got them, too, I tend to believe the player and fold. Of course...
• It's also easy to see when you're ahead or behind - If your hand is A-3-5-8, and your opponent has a Queen showing, you know you're ahead so far and you can bet with confidence until sixth street or even check-raise. If you have the Queen showing, you might consider folding.
• Decide by 5th Street if you want to continue - It gets more expensive after that, so you need to figure out if you want to go on with the hand. You need to fold a lot in Razz, just like Hold 'Em, and just like Hold 'Em, a good starting hand does not mean you shouldn't fold when you're behind. So if your opponent has all low cards showing and you "brick" a King, you might consider folding. I also like to fold by Fifth Street if I can see I'm behind based on what the board shows. Players who chase beyond Fifth Street typically lose money in Razz.
• Stay out of trouble - Just like Hold 'Em, you need to stay out of potentially costly hands in Razz. You wouldn't play A-J to a raise and a re-raise, so why would you play a hand like 8-5-A to a raise and a re-raise in Razz?
• Pay attention to the board - This is where Stud skills are important in Razz, and it's still my weakest area because I'm not a great Stud player. If you need, say, a 3, and three 3s have been out on the board, your chances of hitting are low.
• Attack bricks - If your opponent bricks a Queen or a face card on 4th Street, bet out at it (I'm assuming that your starting hand is a good one, which is why you're in the hand in the first place, right?). I'm also assuming you haven't bricked as well.
• Attack checks - If your opponent has low cards showing but checks, usually it means they're afraid of their cards underneath. I have found this to be the case much more often than someone setting me up for a check raise. I always like to bet in this situation if my visible cards look good. Hey, if you do get check-raised, you can fold with confidence, right? So it's a good move either way.
• A brick does not mean you're dead, but it should help you get away from the hand - If you love your hand, you can take one brick (and in fact it may help you deceive your opponents), but you should start to divorce yourself from the hand as soon as it hits because it increases the chances that you're going to have to fold.
• Finally, look for chances to steal the bring-in and antes - If you have an A, a 2 or sometimes a 3 showing as your door card, and your opponent's door cards don't look too low, I always like to raise and try to steal the pot. I especially like this move in tournaments, when the antes and bring-ins are high. It works almost all the time, and it only has to work part of the time for it to be profitable.

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