Stud games have always been one of the most popular variations of poker. Razz is a game that has somewhat similar rules to standard stud. There are two major differences between these two games. The first one is that the player to act will depend on their revealed cards and the round. The second one is how you determine the winner in the end.
The main characteristic of Razz is that it is a low game. Meaning, the lower card, the better. Furthermore, Aces will always count as low. If we compare regular Stud with Razz, in Razz, the best hands are ones that would otherwise be useless.
Unlike Hold’em, Razz has limited bets — the higher ones are usually double the amount of the lower bet.
Betting and Tactics in the Third Street
Every player will have to pay an ante, or the initial bet, before the dealer proceeds with dealing. Each player will receive three cards. Two of them are hole cards and will remain hidden until the showdown, the last one is the Door card and it is placed facing up. In order to continue playing, players will have to pay a bring-in, which is the same as an ante — one-fifth of the lower bet.
Now, each player would only see the Door card, and the one with the highest value Door card will start the third street round. If there are two or more players with the same card, the suit will determine which one will act first. The spades are the strongest, hearts are second, diamonds third, and clubs are the weakest.
The player with the strongest Door will have to start the round. Their options are to pay the bring-in (which is the same as an ante), raise to the lower bet value, or fold and lose the ante.
During the third street, it is almost irrelevant what your hole cards are. You will base your bet on the Door card, and other players will do the same. If you have a strong Door, you will have the chance to steal the bring-in and the ante.
If you have a card that is a lot lower compared to other Door cards, you can always opt to raise the bring-in, even if your hole cards are two kings. This might scare the other players, and you’ll end up winning both the ante and the bring-in. Stealing the ante and the blinds is one of the most important things in Razz.
Fourth Street and Action
From the fourth street onward, all players will have an option to check instead of having to pay bring-ins. This will allow players to stay in the game, keep their cards, but without paying further (unless someone raises). Furthermore, in the fourth street and onward, each player will get an additional card facing up except the seventh street where the river card is hidden.
If it happens that your opponent has low visible cards but still checks, you should be careful. There is a good chance that they aren’t confident with their hole cards and you might exploit that. If your hand is low, by checking you might win the entire pot.
Fifth Street and the Fifth Card
There are two important things in the fifth street. The first one being that from this round forward, players can bet in higher increments. The second one is that you’ll have a pretty good idea on where you stand in the game. Since you will have five cards, and all of your opponents will have three exposed cards.
If your hands are not good, it might be a good idea to fold. Remember that there are only two more cards for each remaining player and if you already have a terrible hand, proceeding further would only mean a greater defeat.
One of the most important tips about Razz is to always pay attention to the revealed cards. Players often pay no attention to the cards in the game or from the players that quit. Furthermore, you will use one standard deck for Razz, and there is a maximum of eight players. Based on your cards and the revealed cards of your opponents, you can sometimes deduce what cards are left and increase your chances of winning.
Sixth and Seventh Street — Last Two Cards
During these two streets, remaining players will get their sixth and seventh card. The final card is also the river card, and it will remain hidden until the showdown. Each player will have three revealed cards so you should pretty much understand where you stand by now. If you have a good hand — raise. These two rounds are perfect for that.
Since Razz is a game for up to eight players, by only counting the visible cards, you have a chance of seeing almost half of the deck. Of course, with the maximum number of players, there might be a need for another community card if none of the players fold. In the seventh street, the dealer will place a community card that can be used by anyone in their winning combination.
The last part of the game is the revealing of hands. Each player will show their hand and the best five cards they have. The lowest hand will win the pot. The easiest way to think of this is that any non-pair will beat a pair. So, if you place cards from highest to lowest and then look at them as a normal five digit number. The lowest number will win regardless of the suit. If there are two identical hands, those two players will split the pot.
Additional Rules and Tips
Both straights and flushes are meaningless in Razz. Also, suits are irrelevant except when you want to determine which player should act first, if the same card occurs. A right starting hand is always a good lead, but don’t be 100% certain that you’ll win. It is still possible to get bad cards in upcoming rounds. Furthermore, it’s important to remember never to chase after the fifth street. Always pay attention to the cards!
Finally, it is not rare that you get a perfect starting hand and for it to be followed by useless cards. It’s important to remain calm and not lose it. Just keep your eyes on the prize and think long term.
Try to read other players and their hidden cards. It is not rare that you’ll end up playing against beginners, so try to use it to your advantage. Many people think that poker is a game based on luck, but there is so much more. You can always use your opponents’ tactics and decisions against them.
Razz in Tournaments
While it is not the most popular game in the world, there are still many competitions out there. Also, Razz has been a part of the world series of poker since the ‘70s, and the part of H.O.R.S.E. mixed games. When it comes to lowball poker, Razz might be the most popular and the most played version of poker.