Razz is poker variant that offers something a little different from your traditional Texas Hold ‘em or other stud play styles. Sometimes known as Seven Card Stud Low, this lowball poker variant sees players seeking the lowest hand rather than the highest and has quickly become one of the most popular alternatives for those seeking something unique for play. We’ve taught you how to play Blackjack before, and now we’re here to do the same with Razz. Sit back, relax, and get ready to learn all about this incredible poker variant.
A Brief History
Created around the same time as Seven Card Stud, it’s easy to see just why Razz is so similar to its counterpart. In true poker fashion, this variant of stud poker has no known source and so the true creator and date of development are unknown. Its popularity truly started to skyrocket when the World Series of Poker introduced this variation into their line-up. The $1,000 limit game saw Jimmy Casella win a healthy $10,000 and from there, this variation has featured in every WSOP tournament since.
This was only helped further when ESPN finally began to show Razz as part of their coverage with their first being T.J Cloutier’s bracelet win throughout the WSOP in this particular game. Of course, the now regular coverage has only further projected this game as a potential for newbies and experienced players alike, which has only gone on to encourage online versions, the introduction of Razz into WSOP’s H.O.R.S.E event and more.
The Differing Rules
When trying your hand at Razz, adjusting to the seemingly ‘opposite’ style of play can often be the hardest part of the entire process. Despite its similarity to other stud poker games, the fact that you have to play for the worst hand can throw a lot of players off.
The first rule worth noting is that a player is required to ‘bring in’ to start the game. The difference, however, is that the player with the highest door card is the one required to do this. As you might expect, the door cards are ranked lowest to highest in the traditional order of ‘Jack, Queen King’, so there’s no need to worry about flipping this around. Players required to bring will be able to decide between two potential outcomes: they can bet an amount that is equal to the ante, or they can bet the full amount of the small bet.
Also worth noting is that ‘ace’ is low in this particular variation. They’re seen as good, being the lowest possible card a player can get and leaving the King as the highest card – which you’ll want to avoid! Players that are dealt a King are often thought to have a terrible hand and often fold while those with 5-4-3-2-A will have the best hand. Also found online, this unusual version of Seven Card Stud is popular among pros, probably due to the inversion of card value. The suits are ranked in differing order, too. From worst to best they are clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades.
For the most part, this game is played in the same way regardless of whether it’s at a table, or at an online poker room, so by learning the basic rules and honing your craft, you have the potential to dominate regardless of your preferences. The gameplay follows something called ‘streets’ and is as follows:
The start of Razz sees players have to put in an ‘ante’ to be able to play the next hand. This tends to be around 10-15% of the bidding limit and may differ from place to place. Once all players have put their ante in, they are then dealt their first two cards face down – which they are allowed to have a look at – and a third face up. This third card is the aforementioned ‘door’ card. Play begins with the player with the highest door card, and participants are given the opportunity to place their bets. This betting round is referred to as the third street.
Another card is dealt out to each player (unless folded in the last round) which is placed face up next to the initial third card. The fourth street doesn’t begin with the door card and instead begins with the player who appears to have the worst hand face-up on the table. This would be the highest cards. The betting limit here will remain the same as the third street betting limit.
Again, another card is dealt out to players face-up beside the third and fourth cards and another round of betting begins (fifth street). This round sees the betting limit rise, however, and will go up to the ‘big bet’. For example, if the smaller bet limit was $2.00, players could bet up to $2.00 during the third and fourth streets, however, once the fifth street betting round began, this would increase to a higher betting limit – say $4.00.
The sixth street follows after another card is placed face-up and a similar betting round begins. The seventh card that follows, however, is placed face down on the table. Players are once again able to take a peek at this card before they place any more bets. The limit for bets will remain the same, so players will be able to place bets of a maximum of the big bet amount.
The winner will be the player with the worst hand according to the scoring:
All traditional Razz games will utilize an Ace to Five style of scoring which is essentially a reverse of the opposite seven card stud alternative. In simple terms, the lowest hand on the table at the time of the ‘showdown’ will be the winning hand overall.
Hands are evaluated from highest to lowest. For example:
- Player 1 has a hand of 7-5-4-2-A.
- Player 2 has a hand of 7-6-3-2-A.
- Player 1 would win against Player 2 in this case, as 5 is a lower number than 6 when the cards are placed in order, despite 4 being higher than 3 next.
Flushes and straights aren’t much use in Razz and do not count as a made hand. This makes 5-4-3-2-A the lowest and best possible hand in the game. However, pairs and sets are slightly different. A Pair will win against a set, a set against four of a kind, and no pair hand always wins against a pair or better. For example:
- Player 1 has 4-4-3-2-A
- Player 2 has 5-4-3-2-A
- In this case, Player 2 would win as they have no pairs.
For the most part, Razz’s betting structure sticks to being a ‘limit’ game. However, there are no limit and pot limit alternatives but these tend to be very rare. A fixed limit essentially means that players can only bet up to a certain amount. This often keeps the game accessible, especially for those who might be looking to play with limited funds. Tables have been known to be worth thousands, however, though these are often reserved for leading players in the world.
The betting rounds – five to be precise – see two different betting limits between them. Round one and two will see a lower stake (the small bet) while three, four and five see a higher stake (big bet) and players can bet anything from nothing to the stake limit.
Razz offers a unique style of gameplay for those seeking out something different. This ‘opposite’ style gives Seven Card Stud players something new to master and due to the fact that it’s still relatively new and quiet, the potential to dominate tables with a good understanding is huge. Make sure to check out this article if you want to learn more about mixed games!