How to play Razz
Razz can also be referred to as 7 Card Stud low. There is a Razz Event at the World Series of Poker and, of course, Razz is also part of a H.O.R.S.E tournaments. In this article I will explain the rules of Razz and will also discuss some beginner's strategy.
In Razz every player starts with getting dealt 3 cards. Before receiving the cards, every player in the hand has to post an ante. In a $0.50/$1 Razz game, the ante is usually $0.05, although this can vary. In all other examples in this article it will be also assumed that we're playing limits of $0.50/$1. After posting the ante, every player gets dealt 3 cards. The first two cards are faced down and can only be seen by you, while the third card, called 'door card' is dealt open for every player at the table to see.
The player with the highest door card is forced to pay the 'bring-in'. The bring-in in a $0.05/$1 game is half of the low limit bet (in this case $0.25). However, the player also has the option to bring-in a complete bet, which is the full low limit bet (in this case $0.50). All other bets and raises in the first round, also called third street, will be the size of the low limit bet.
In all following rounds, the player with the lowest open cards starts the betting. If more than one player has the same combination of low cards, the player closest left of the dealer will start the betting. On fourth street, the next betting round, again all bets and raises will be the size of the low limit bet. On fifth, sixth and seventh street, all bets and raises will be the size of the high limit bet.
If the action continues all the way to seventh street, a player will have received 7 cards at this point. Of these 7 cards, the first two and the last one are faced down, while four cards are facing up for everyone to see.
The lowest hand wins the pot at showdown. Aces count as the lowest cards in Razz. The lowest possible combination of cards, the nuts, is A-2-3-4-5. Flushes and straights don't count. When deciding on who starts the betting on and after fourth street, the lowest hand is first to bet. On fourth street the lowest possible hand is XXA2. A hand like XXAK will also 'win' here against a hand like XX22.
When deciding who has the best showdown hand, you start by looking at the 3rd highest card in your hand (as you only play 5 of your 7 cards and the two highest cards don't play) and start counting down. For example, a hand like 9-8-7-6-5 will win against a hand like 10-4-3-2-A, as the 9 is lower than the 10. If the highest cards of two or more players have the same value, you look at the second highest cards and so on. So 8-7-5-3-A will win against 8-7-5-4-A, because one player has a 8-7-5-3 low against the other player with a 8-7-5-4 low. If two or more players have the exact same combination of cards, the pot is split.
There are not too many good combinations of starting hands. Low cards, between Ace and 5, are really good and comparable to hands like TT+ in NL Hold'em. A-2-3 is obviously the best starting hand. With three cards between Ace and 5 you can bet aggressively on third street. If your range increases, for example between Ace and 7, you should already play a bit more carefully. Paired hands are usually auto-folds, and playing hands with a card above a 9 is -EV in the long run.
It is also very important to pay attention to your up cards. If you hold A-2-7 with Ace as your door card, you can easily raise. When holding a good hand, you usually get paid off the most if your higher cards are open. On the other hand, when holding a bad hand like A-K-Q for example, you can still pretend to have a good hand if your Ace is open.
The up cards of your opponents
Pay attention to the up cards in front of your opponents. If you have the lowest up card in front of you on third street, you know what to do. You have the best open hand and you can raise. You can even do this if your door card is a ten and that ten is the highest of your 3 cards. As long as it's the lowest door card at the table, you will always be holding the best hand.
You should also react to your opponents getting dealt high cards. If your opponent gets a queen and/or a king on 4th and 5th street, you can often pick up the pot by being aggressive and betting. If your own hole cards are bad, but your open cards are good, you can often pick up the pot with little resistance.
In addition to that you should watch out for opponents with open cards that have the same value as your cards, as this would reduce the chance of you pairing one of your cards on one of the following streets. The more cards you see of the same value, the better. On the other hand, you can also use this information to predict the strength of your opponents hand. If two of your opponents already have an Ace as one of their up cards and you yourself have one as well, the chance is pretty low that another opponent will be holding the case Ace. Don't only pay attention to the cards of players who are still in the hand, but also try and remember the cards of players who have already folded.
Razz is an ante game. This means that, before you get dealt any cards, you have to put money in the pot. The game is played with a maximum of 8 players per table. If it then gets checked towards you, while the player directly left of you paid the bring-in (and therefore has the highest door card), you can try and steal the pot with antes and bring-in. The same counts if you have the lowest door card at the table. By playing aggressive and betting you can try and pick the pot up right then and there.
Especially when you start playing marginal hands you need to know when to fold. Chasing a 10-low draw is often not a very good idea. Especially at the lower limits players will often call and seldom fold, so chasing draws or trying to bluff a missed draw could end up being pretty expensive for you.
Have fun playing Razz...