The vast majority of poker games involve players looking to make the highest possible hand with the available cards. This is not the case for every game of poker though and there are some games that reward players for making the lowest possible hand. One of the most common and popular low hand poker card games is Razz. Razz is a 7 Card Stud Poker variant and it is commonly played in an ace to five low nature – sometimes referred to as lowball poker. In essence, players have access to seven cards in total and they are expected to produce the lowest five card hand possible.
In Razz, the ace is commonly played as low and flushes and straights will not be counted against players as being low. This means that the best hand which can be played is 5,4,3,2,A which is sometimes referred to as 5 High, the Wheel or the Bicycle. Poker players that enjoy HORSE will play Razz as the game for the letter R. Unlike some of the other poker games that include a low element, there is no “8 or better” rule in Razz.
How to Play Razz
The Razz game begins with every player in the game placing an ante into the pot. This amount is generally a nominal level which will be clearly stated or discussed before the game begins. Once every player makes their ante, they will be provided with three cards. Two of these cards will be placed face down and the remaining card will be placed facing upwards. The player that has the highest ranked facing upwards card gets to begin the betting round. This player is referred to as being the ‘bring-in’ and they have to place a nominal bet or make a full bet. The betting round will continue around the table in a clockwise manner until the round of betting has been concluded.
Once this betting round has been concluded, every player remaining in the game receives card which is facing upwards. This is called Fourth Street and the betting begins with the player who has the lowest hand on display. It should be remembered that the lowest hand is the strongest hand in Razz, so this is in line with other poker games. The player that begins the betting round can bet or check and then a round of betting takes place.
Once this betting round has been concluded, all of the players that are still in the game will get another card that is facing upwards. This is called Fifth Street. The beginning of the betting round once again falls upon the player that has the lowest hand on display. This player can bet or check and then another betting round takes place. At this point in the game, all of the raises and bets in the game are considered to be big bet increments.
After the conclusion of this betting round, the Sixth Street takes place, which is where players receive another upward facing card and the round once again begins with the player who has the lowest ranked hand. The betting round continues in the same fashion as the previous round.
The next round sees players receiving their seventh card, the Seventh Street and this is the final card. This card is delivered face down and the betting begins with the player that holds the lowest ranked poker hand. There is yet another betting round and if there is more than one player left in the game at this point, the showdown takes place.
The showdown begins with the player that made the last bet or raised last being the first to show their cards. If there was not bet placed on the final round of the game, the player that is sat at the earliest seat begins the showdown. The flow of play revealing hands continues in a clockwise manner.
The player that holds the lowest hand, with no qualifier part of the game, wins the entire pot.
Tips & Strategies
When it comes to the best starting hand in Razz, players should be looking for cards that will help them to make a wheel. Examples of cards that would constitute this include a 3,2,A or a 5,4,3 or a 4,3,A.
After this, the next set of cards that would constitute a good opening would be a combination that can help players to create a low 6. This means that a 6 will be the highest card of the three. Examples of this style of hand would be a 6,4,2 or a 6,3,A.
After this, players should be looking for low hands such as a 7 or 8 low and anything above this should be considered as a bad opening hand.
When playing Razz, it is important to pay attention to the cards that are facing upwards. Knowing which cards have been removed from the game by players folding is of great importance in determining what you can do and with what opposing players may have as their hole cards. Knowing what cards are dead can help you to make a more informed decision of what your opponents who are still in the game can do. This means that you will be in a better position to judge your own chances of winning. It can be difficult to do all of this analysis in a short period of time but this is where the best Razz players develop their skills to make these decisions on the spot.
One of the most important elements for regular players to learn is knowing when to fold. Razz is a game that should be considered for the long term and if a player is looking at a likely loss, they should fold and conserve bankroll for games that are still to come.
As Razz goes against the natural instinct for many poker players, it can be difficult for players to adapt to the game but those that do will find that the games will often be very lucrative.