Razz, one of the oldest variations of poker, has been played for over a century. While its popularity declined a bit, thanks to Texas Hold’em, it is still a part of tournaments and mixed games like H.O.R.S.E. (R is for razz).
The rules of razz are rather similar to any other stud poker. Each player will get a mix of up and down facing cards, and they will try to get the lowest possible combination. A total number of cards they will get by the end of the game is seven, and players will use five of them to try and win the pot.
Like in every other type of poker, you will play against other players’ hands, and try to figure out their hand based on exposed cards and the action they might take. The game is with limits, and they will depend on specific rules or casino.
What is different, when it comes to razz, is that it is the opposite of usual stud. Straights and flushes do not count, the ace is always low, and the lowest hand will win.
How to Deal Razz
There are a total of seven rounds in razz if two or more players remain till the end. You will have between two and eight players, a “dealer” token, and a deck of cards.
Ante, Third Street, and Bring-In
Before you proceed to deal cards, all players will have to pay the initial bet or ante. This bet is the cost of getting their first hand and starting the razz game. When each player has paid the ante, you can proceed with card dealing. Each player will get three cards, two of them face down, and they are called hole cards. The final card is dealt face up, and it is a door card. The round where each player gets a starting hand is also called the third street.
The second stage of the third street is so called bring-in. Each player will have to pay bring-in, which is usually the same amount as ante (ante is fifth of the higher bet). The player with the highest card will have to take action first. If two players have the same card, then the suit will determine which one will play first. Spades are the strongest, hearts are second, diamonds are the third, and finally, clubs (reversed alphabetical order).
Each player could opt to pay the bring-in, fold (where they will only lose the ante), or raise for the lower bet amount. If none of the players raise, everyone will pay the bring-in, and you will proceed to deal the fourth street.
During the fourth street, you will deal one extra card facing up to every remaining player. Unlike the previous round, the one with the strongest combination will take action. They will have an option to check (which will allow them to remain in the game, without investing more chips), fold, or raise for the lower bet. The other players will take turns clockwise, where they can fold, check, raise, or follow (if needed).
Fifth Street and Sixth Street
During the next two rounds, you will deal one card per round to each remaining player. From the fifth street and forward, they will have the option of raising to the higher increment. Both cards in these two rounds are facing up, and everyone will be able to see them. Naturally, both rounds will have a betting at the end.
Seventh Street and the Showdown
The last of the “street” rounds is the seventh street. You will deal one final card to each remaining player, and it will remain facing down until the showdown. This card is also called the river. The round of betting will take place after the cards are dealt, and players will have to make their final bets.
If two or more players remain after the seventh street, you can proceed to the showdown. Of course, if only one player remains after all the others have folded, he will automatically be the winner, and he’ll take the pot.
The showdown is the final stage of the razz game where each player will reveal their cards and the best (lowest) five cards out of seven they have. Unlike the previous rounds, if two players have the same hand, they will, simply, split the entire pot equally.
Since the maximum number of players is eight, if all players remain until the showdown, they will have to have seven cards each. Considering the standard deck of cards has fifty-two cards (and not fifty-six), you will have to place a community card on the table during the seventh street. Placing the community card for everyone to use, and they will be able to combine it with their cards, creating the best possible hand.
At the beginning of the third street round, you will deal one card to each player counting clockwise until all players have three cards (two hole facing down, and one door card facing up).
During the next four rounds, you will deal one card to each remaining player counting clockwise. If any of the participants opt to fold, they will not have to reveal their hidden hole cards. This is rather important since you might use the entire deck for the game of razz with a higher number of players.
It’s worth mentioning that razz is one of the poker variations where each round might have a different starting player. Unlike most other games, there will not be a certain player that will start each round.
Since the goal of razz game is to have the lowest possible combination, it is completely opposite from regular stud poker. Aces will always count low, and kings are the highest possible card in the game.
Even though there are types of this game where you would include straights against players’ hand, it is not the standard for razz. The best combination or the winning hand for razz is 5, 4, 3, 2, and an ace. Because there are no flushes either, you can complete the hand using any suit you want. If you opt to play the European version of razz (or London lowball), the winning combination will have a six instead of five to prevent you from getting straight. Also, this is the second best combination in regular razz.
The basic rules for ranking other cards are simple. Every seven will defeat eight or higher. The lower your card is, the more likely you are to win. But beware, a non-pair is stronger than any pair or three-of-a-kind. Naturally, three-of-a-kind is better than having four, and so on.
The game’s goal is to give you the opportunity to win with a hand that would be almost useless in any other version of poker.
Razz has always been one of the most popular types of poker, and it has remained ever since. Even though it fell behind Texas Hold’em, almost every tournament and the online casino will have razz among their games. Seven-card stud variations have been one of the most popular games in casinos as well as homes throughout the USA and Canada.
Since the seventies, razz has been a part of every World Series of Poker tournament.