While there are many versions and variations of this well-known game, there are few that have always stood out throughout history. Even though Texas Hold’em is probably the most popular game today, that wasn’t always the case. Fifty or even a hundred years ago, stud poker was the most played of all poker games.
The game is simple; each player will get a total of seven cards during the course of the game. Between every round of card dealing, there will be a round of betting. In the end, the strongest hand wins. What is different about stud is that there will be no community cards, and each player will get a mix of face-up and face-down cards. Razz poker is the same but with one small difference.
Game of Razz
Razz is a lowball poker variant which means that the person with the lowest hand, or what would be the weakest hand in other types of poker, will win. Other rules are the same; there are seven rounds; players will get three cards during the “third street,” and one card each during “fourth street,” “fifth street,” “sixth street,” and “seventh street.”
The Best Possible Hand or the Winning Combination
Since there are no flushes and straights in razz, you won’t have to worry about accidentally hitting a flush and losing the game. So the best possible combination would be the lowest non-pair cards. Since every card combo is stronger than non-pairs in razz, the goal is to collect five out of seven without pairing them (or getting three-of-a-kind or stronger).
The aces will always count as low, so that would be your best card. The next one is, naturally, two. Once again, you won’t have to worry about card suits and collecting any card will count the same. The third card is three, and so on. Obtaining an ace, followed by 2, 3, 4, and 5 will get you a guaranteed win.
The fact that there are no flushes and suits doesn’t matter in the showdown round; you are guaranteed to get at least part of the pot. If two players have this combination, they will split the entire pot equally between them. The winning hand is also called “the wheel” or “the bicycle.”
Getting the winning combination in razz is a bit easier than getting a strong hand in regular stud, which is the whole point of the game.
There is a version of razz played in Europe mostly, where you will have to watch out for the straights. Since every good poker hand is bad in razz, the last thing you’d need is a straight. In London lowball, 5 is replaced with 6 to break the straight, and it will serve as the best possible hand.
What is interesting is that the winning combination in London lowball is the second best in regular razz.
Good Opening Hand
Since every player will get a total of three cards after the ante is paid, the best door card (or the exposed card) is ace. Every player will get one revealed and two hidden cards. So the best starting hand would naturally be ace, and then two and three. But even if you don’t get these, you should be good as long as you don’t have pairs. Many professional players will fold if they get eight or higher during the third-street round.
Of course, the other determining factor during the first round is other cards. Depending on the number of players, you will be able to see several exposed cards. If they are the same as one of yours, you will have lower chances of getting a pair or worse.
Because of the two cards facing down during this round, the most important one is the door card. You could say that the other two are irrelevant since no one can see them until the showdown. If you have a strong door card, you might be able to steal the blinds even if you have two queens hidden. If your revealed card is 3, and other players have 10s or higher, this might be the perfect moment to raise and win the blinds.
One of the most critical things in razz is knowing when to try this steal and how to force other players to either pay or fold.
Take your time, practice, and focus. While you are more likely to get “the wheel” compared to Hold’em, you will still need to focus on the game and on getting the winning hand. We can all agree that “the wheel” is the best hand in razz; but in practice, the best hand is the one that will get you the pot.