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Razz Poker

If you're a card-game gambler and like to shake things up a bit, try razz poker.

If you like to shake things up a bit, Razz is your game. A lot like Seven Card Stud in format, the key difference with Razz is that it’s played low. The lowest hand wins, with players attempting to make the lowest ranking hand they can from seven cards dealt. Popularized by the World Series of Poker, Razz is now a common feature in online poker rooms, and a key part of HORSE and other multi-format poker games.

Razz Poker Explained

Razz is mostly played with limit betting, capping the maximum each player can bet per round. Players pay in to get dealt their cards, and are dealt two down/one up in much the same way as a regular game of Seven Card Stud. The highest card on show starts the betting by ‘bringing it in’, contributing the mandated bet amount to get the pot moving — usually set at a proportion of the regular bet amount.

Players can choose to chip in the mandated amount, or increase their buy-in to the regular bet if they are feeling confident. Because Razz is inverted, the worst card possible to be dealt on your first round is a king, with the king of spades trumping others. Aces are always played low, so it’s still a good thing to see an ace appear in your hand.

Once every player has bet or folded on the first round, another card is dealt face up to each player and the betting process starts again, this time with the player showing the lowest hand getting things underway, and this continues until each player has five dealt cards. After the fifth card is dealt, face up, the increments for betting double. The sixth card is again dealt face up, and the seventh card face down, with each subsequent round subject to the same double-increment betting. In the event that you’re running out of available cards to be dealt, a community card can be used instead, available for any player to make their hand.

After the final card is dealt and the final round of betting completed, any player left in the game must show their hand. The winning hand is the lowest five-card hand from the seven cards available. The best possible hand is A-2-3-4-5, with a similar ranking of other hands, where low cards and low pairs beat higher hands.

Razz Strategy

Like Seven Card Stud, you need to be constantly thinking about the numbers and probabilities of cards coming from the deck. With so much information on display, there is a lot to process — particularly in the early rounds where other players will be folding and thereby discarding cards that could otherwise be useful to other hands. When cards are folded, they don’t come back, so you need to remain vigilant from the off — the more you can remember from the round, the better the position you’ll find yourself in when it comes to the later stages of betting.

As a general rule, the bring-in player is usually recommended to fold early on, unless they have good reason to stay in the game. Similarly, hands equal to or higher than three 8s are unlikely to win, and probably a sign you should duck out of the round.

Strong hands come when your up cards are low, even when your hidden cards are not especially strong — weak hands on show undermine your position relative to other players, and unless you have a strong hand in pocket, this can be dangerous territory. But with lower cards showing, players can leverage this to their advantage, betting up their hand or even bluffing their position throughout the rounds.