There are many different poker variations out there. Even though Texas Hold’em and PLO poker are by far the most dominant ones, there are quite a few “niche” games that you’ll find both online and in some brick and mortar venues that can be a lot of fun and quite profitable.
Razz poker is one such variation.
Razz belongs to the group of so-called lowball poker variations, which means that hand rankings are different from those used in “high” games.
The goal in Razz is to make the lowest hand possible.
Even though this game isn’t so popular and you won’t find tons of Razz poker action everywhere, there are still some individual cash game tables and tournaments available in the mix.
On top of that, it is also a part of the 8-game mix rotation, which is a very popular variation played at the highest of stakes.
If you have an aspiration to one day test your skills against the poker elite or simply want to break your routine and learn a new game, this article is worth a read.
You’ll find everything you need to learn how to play Razz poker right now, from the basic rules of the game to tips and advice to help you play solid strategy from the very first hand you’re dealt.
Razz Poker Hand Rankings
One of the biggest differences between Razz and other forms of poker you may have played is poker hands rankings and how the hands are valued.
Hold’em and Omaha use what one would call the standard poker ranking system, ranging from a high card to a royal flush.
Razz poker, together with other games in the “low” bracket (such as Omaha 8 and Stud 8), use a different system, where the best hand is the lowest one possible.
In this case, that would be the wheel, i.e., A, 2, 3, 4, 5.
When comparing hands in Razz poker game, the way to determine the winner is by looking at the highest card in the sequence.
For example, a hand like A, 2, 3, 4, 8 losses to 2, 3, 4, 5, 7.
Like in most poker variations, the first goal is to make a five-card hand (out of seven cards dealt). Any complete five-card hand, no matter how weak, will beat a four different card hand, i.e. a hand such as 5, 7, 8, 10, K, albeit very weak, beats a hand like A, 2, 2, 6, 9.
This is because the second hand can’t form a legitimate five-card hand (a hand containing five cards of different rankings).
Straight and flush don’t count against players in Razz (like in some other games), so your 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (a 7-low) beats A, 2, 3, 4, 9 (a 9-low).
If you’re completely new to low poker variations, it will definitely take some time to get used to this new ranking system.
It’s not uncommon for new players to sometimes forget what game they’re playing and start pursuing high hands while playing Razz poker. This is one of the reasons why this game can be exceptionally profitable at lower stakes.
How To Play Razz Poker: Rules & Betting
Razz is basically the low-only variation of 7 Card Stud poker. If you have some experience playing stud games, you’ll find the transition much easier.
But even if you’re completely new to the game, Razz rules aren’t all that complicated, especially once you’ve figured out hand rankings and get that part out of the way.
Game is usually played in the fixed limit format, with small and big bets, just like Fixed Limit Stud or Limit Hold’em.
At the start of the Razz hand, the dealer will start from the first player to the right and move clockwise. All players are dealt one card face-down each, followed by another card dealt face down. Finally, the dealer gives all players one card face-up (door card).
So, to begin with, all players at the table will have three cards, two face down and one face up. In Razz, this is known as the third street.
Betting Rounds in Razz
Once all players have received their initial three cards, it is time to determine the “bring in.” In Seven Card Stud, it is the player with the lowest card showing that gets this unpleasant honor of making a forced bet.
In Razz, the player with the highest card showing becomes the bring in since low cards are more valuable in this game.
Keep in mind that Aces are counted as low in Razz, so the highest card is a King, followed by a Queen, etc., down to Deuces.
In the event of two or more players have the high door card of the same ranking, suits are used to determine who will bring in.
Clubs lose to all other suits, and diamonds are the second-highest, followed by hearts and spades (the highest suit).
Third & Fourth Street
The player who is deemed the “bring in” will have to put at least the amount of the ante into the pot. They can also choose to complete the bet by making it the full amount of the small bet if they want so.
The next player in line can either call the amount in front of them, complete the bet themselves (if the bring in opted just to place the ante), or raise.
Raise amounts are fixed like in all limit games, so if the small bet is $1, they can only raise to $2.
Of course, any player can always elect to fold their hand, not putting any more money into the pot.
The action continues clockwise following standard poker positions, and all players will have these same options.
Raises are done in increments of the small bet (i.e., $1 to $2, $2 to $3, etc). In most games, the number of raises per round is capped at three or four, and this Razz poker rule is only usually waived in heads-up pots.
Once all the betting is done for the third street, the dealer will deal the fourth card face up to all the players still involved in the hand.
The action begins with the player showing the lowest combination. Usually, this is the player with the lowest card, but if a player is showing a pair, they have a worse hand than any of the unpaired players.
For example, a hand like 10 Q is stronger than 3 3. Other than this, the lowest card shown at the table begins the round.
The player starting the betting can either check or bet the amount of the small bet. The next player in line can fold, check or bet themselves (if checked to) or call or raise (if there is a bet in front of them). During the fourth street, a small bet is still in play.
Fifth, sixth and seventh streets: Big Bets in Razz
Once all the action is done for the fifth street, the dealer deals out the fifth card, face up. Once again, the action begins with the player showing the lowest card or the card combination (i.e., 6, 9, K is lower than A 2 2 since pairs still count as high).
The only difference in betting here is that the big bet comes into play.
In the example used here, that would be $2 (double the small bet). So, the first player who chooses to bet will have to bet $2, and all raises are done in increments of the big bet from now on ($2 to $4, $4 to $6, etc.).
The sixth street is dealt face up, followed by another round of betting.
Finally, the dealer will deal the seventh street if there are still active players remaining in the hand.
The final card is dealt face down, and the ultimate betting round ensues. Once again, the fifth and all later streets use the big bet as the starting point.
The Showdown: Who Wins the Pot In Razz Poker?
Provided there are still two or more players with live hands at the end of the final betting round, the showdown will ensue to determine who wins the pot.
Players will turn over their hands, and the one with the best (the lowest hand) wins.
Any player with a different five-card combo will beat all players who only have four card combinations.
The player showing the lowest card in their five-card combination wins the pot.
If two players have the same low (an 8-low, for example), the next card is used to determine the winner.
For example, A, 2, 4, 7, 8 losses to 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 because 5 is lower than 7.
In the event two or more players have the exact same low hand, the pot is split equally amongst them. Suits don’t play any role in determining a winner in Razz poker games, and flushes have no impact in the game whatsoever.
Razz Poker Strategy
Being a stud game, Razz poker has many similarities to games like 7 Card Stud. Advice such as paying attention to mucked cards is still very important here, as this will give you heaps of extra information that your opponents might have missed.
You’ll want to pay special attention to any low cards that are being mucked.
If you have an 8-low, for example, and have seen two more 8s hit the muck during previous betting rounds, you’ll be able to play more aggressively against an opponent showing a 7-high four-card combo.
They’re unlikely to have an 8 as one of their cards or to get dealt an 8 if they’re looking to improve.
The importance of keeping your eye on the mucked cards in Razz poker can’t be overstated. This is one of the most powerful tools available to you, and you do not need any poker software to track this.
In lower stakes games, especially, most players just can’t be bothered to think about these things, which will give you a tremendous edge.
You’ll often find yourself in a situation where you’re 100% certain you have the winner, yet your opponent keeps betting into you and raising your bets. Quite an easy money, isn’t it?
Picking Your Razz Starting Hands
Like in any poker format, it is very important to know what constitutes a good starting hand in Razz.
By this point, you should have a pretty good idea about what your goal in the game is, which should help you figure out what good starting hands are as well. You want to make low hands, so you want to start with low cards.
Any three cards to the wheel are a very strong starting hand (i.e., A, 2, 3 / A, 4, 5 /A, 2, 5, etc.).
A hand like A, 2, 6 is also a very decent initial holding that you’ll want to get involved with.
Beyond this, you should play hands that have the potential to make a 7-low, such as 2, 3, 7, or A, 6, 7 as these hands have a pretty good chance of being winners by the showdown.
If you have an 8 or a higher card in your first three cards, you should approach it very carefully and not look to get too involved, especially if there is a lot of action in front of you.
Go After Weak Plays
Finding good spots in Razz is a skill that will take some time to develop, but attacking weakness is generally one of the best poker tips for all games.
When your opponent is showing what looks like a solid hand, but they are checking, it probably means their down cards are bad and don’t go well with what’s shown on the table.
In this case, you should be aggressive and bet into them to put them in a tough spot.
You should especially do this when your up cards are decent, and there is real potential that you could already have a stronger made hand.
Since you already know they’re not happy about their holdings, why would you give them a free shot at changing that situation?
Know When to Give Up
Stud games are rather unique in that you’ll usually know where you’re at by the fifth street. If you know you’re behind by this point, it’s probably time to give up and move on.
Chasing past the fifth street will get you in trouble and will become very expensive, as this is where the big bet comes into play.
If your opponent is showing four low cards and you’re dealt a high card on the fifth (and don’t have two low cards in the hole), you should just let them have it.
Chasing long poker odds is not advisable, and it’s definitely not a winning Razz poker strategy.
Quick Razz Poker Tips to Live By
Razz is a complicated game that you won’t learn overnight. It will take time and effort to become a really good Razz poker player.
However, with time and experience, you’ll definitely get better at it. In the meantime, here are a few quick tips to always keep in mind when playing:
- In Razz, low hands are winners, so forget about pairs and full houses
- Good starting hands contain usually don’t contain a card higher than a 7
- There is no minimum qualifying hand in Razz (unlike other hi-lo variations), so you can win even with a hand as weak as A A A 2 2 2 10, provided no one has a better hand.
- Remember that Aces are low in this game
- It is the highest card in your combination that counts in the end
- Force yourself to keep up with mucked cards and practice memorizing them to the best of your abilities
- Don’t chase the losers past the fifth street
Keeping these quick and simple Razz poker tips in mind at all times should help you play a solid game even if you’re completely inexperienced.
As you play more, you’ll get better at recognizing good situations and develop skills that you’ll need to thrive at the tables, or even play poker for a living sticking with this format.
Conclusion: Learn Razz Poker Rules and Strategies To Win More
While Razz poker may not be nearly as popular as some other variations, this is a game that is well-worth learning for a number of reasons.
First of all, it is different from most games that you may have played in the past, so if you want to break your routine and rekindle your passion for poker, this might be a great way to do it.
Secondly, this game is an important part of the 8-game mix and HORSE, both of which you’ll encounter at cash game tables and in tournaments.
What this means is there is plenty of money to be made with Razz even if the game itself feels a bit obscure and out there.
The thing about Razz is that you probably won’t master the game by reading this article and learning some basics – but you don’t really have to.
In many lower stakes games, even knowing the basics will create a huge skill gap between you and most of the competition. When you feel ready to move up, there are some good advanced poker training sites available as well, but you have to start somewhere.