Do you love to play poker online for real money or at your local casino or cardroom? You’re probably familiar with Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em, but have you ever heard of Razz? Razz poker rules are steadily gaining in popularity and have a colorful and storied history. Razz is basically seven card stud low. If you know how to play stud rules, learning how to play Razz should be relatively easy for you.
If you’ve ever wondered what Razz Poker is all about, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll cover the history of the game, basic gameplay, rules, some basic strategy, and some suggested readings for improving your Razz play.
History of Razz
Like most other modern forms of Poker, Razz began around the turn of the 20th century when the 52-card French deck was introduced in America. Before this, most card rooms and river boats featured a game they called “straight poker” that used a 20 card deck. Four players each received five cards and then bet against each other to see who had the best hand. While it’s not clear when exactly Razz Poker was first played, most variants of poker that are currently played were invented between 1850 and 1925. Once people started playing seven card stud, a lowball version was only a matter of time.
In modern poker history, Razz was brought out into the mainstream with the advent of the World Series of Poker. With the exception of 1974, Razz has been an event at the WSOP every year since 1971. This gives players another opportunity to score a coveted bracelet. It’s also an important part of the most difficult event for every poker professional. The game of H.O.R.S.E. combines five different poker variants to determine who is the best all-around poker player. Razz makes up the 3rd, “R”, round.
Razz’ Rise to Fame
Some of the famous professional poker players who have won the prestigious Razz bracelet at the WSOP are Jimmy Casella, Barry Greenstein, Ted Forrest, T.J. Cloutier, Huck Seed, and Doyle Brunson. In 2004, the final Razz table at the World Series of Poker was televised on ESPN. This really affected the game’s popularity. Online poker sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker instantly responded to requests for Razz by adding the game. It continues to be one of the most popular forms of poker played worldwide. Better still for the game, interest seems to be growing steadily over time.
There is a famous poker legend that involves the game of Razz. It involves poker legend Stu Ungar and Archie “The Greek” Karas. In 1992, Archie showed up in Las Vegas with a bankroll of only $50. Archie grew his bankroll up to around $30,000 playing Razz, but he didn’t stop there. He then grew his bankroll up to $7,000,000 playing pool and poker around town, and his confidence only grew bigger and bigger. “The Greek” ended up at Binion’s Horseshoe with an open challenge to any poker player in the world that he could beat them head to head playing Razz.
That’s when Stu Ungar showed up. Stu Ungar is widely regarded as one of the finest poker players ever to have lived, so he naturally accepted the challenge. The two played Razz head to head for 3-4 days, like a battle to the death. At the end of this Razz marathon, Archie “The Greek” Karas had relieved one of the best poker players ever of nearly a million dollars. Archie’s incredible run is still the stuff of legend in Las Vegas, and it was all thanks to the game of Razz.
Razz Poker Rules
The object of the game is to make the lowest hand using five of the seven cards you receive. Straights and flushes don’t count under Razz Poker rules, so they can’t count against you. Always avoid pairs, they count against your hand more than high-value cards. Aces always play low, and the last player remaining or the winner of the showdown wins the pot. Easy, right? Let’s go over how a round of Razz plays out using fixed betting and $1/$2 stakes.
1) The Deal – After the players ante up, the dealer gives three cards to each player. The first two hole cards are dealt face down, and the third (called the “door card”) is dealt face up.
2) The Bring In – The player with the highest door card is obligated to contribute the “Bring-In.” The player Bringing In can choose to bet the ante amount or make a full bet of $1. After the Bring, a round of betting takes place, with bets matching the $1 amount. Try to avoid bringing in. It forces you to contribute to the pot twice in the first betting round if you intend to keep drawing cards, which is a definite disadvantage.
3) Fourth Street – All players now receive a fourth card face up. The player who receives the lowest card starts the round of betting, which must be the $1 stake amount.
4) Fifth Street – Players are dealt a fifth card, this one also face up, and the betting begins with the lowest card, but at the increased stake of $2. This doubling of stakes separates the men from the boys.
5) Sixth Street – Players receive a sixth card, also face up, and another betting round takes place at the $2 stake level.
6) Seventh Street – Players receive their final card face down, and a final round of betting takes place at the $2 amount. Note: In games with 8 players, it is possible to run out of cards, and not have enough for all of the players. In this case, the dealer simply throws out a card face up in the center of the table. Players use this as a community card for seventh street. This is the only time a community card is used in the game of Razz.
Deciding a Winner
7) Showdown – If there are two or more players remaining in the game, players must show their hands, and the one with the lowest hand wins. Split the pot if there is a tie for the winning hand.
Razz Hand Rankings
When you’re playing the game of Razz, look out for a hand called The Wheel. The Wheel consists of A-2-3-4-5 and is the lowest possible hand you can get. The second best hand in Razz is A-2-3-4-6. The fastest way to rank a Razz hand is to quickly identify the high card. For example, an 8 high hand is worse than a 6 high hand. Always avoid pairs, they count against you heavily. For example, 6-6-4-3-2 would lose to K-Q-J-T-9 even though the King is the higher card. It takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize you’re just thinking backward. The worst possible hand always wins in a game of Razz!
Razz Poker Strategy
Since you always want the lowest possible hand in a Razz game, you always want to start out with three low hole cards, like A-2-4. This would be considered an excellent starting hand for playing Razz Poker rules. These cards give you a good chance to draw to a Wheel or other quality low hand. A good Razz starting hand has 6 and under. A fair starting hand has 7 or 8 high. A poor starting hand has a 9 in it. Based on the quality of your hand with your hole cards (Excellent to Poor), you can choose to fold, or bet and stay in to see more cards.
When playing Razz poker rules, another important strategy is to keep a close eye on all of the other players’ face up cards. If you see other players have one of your cards on the table, the likelihood of you drawing into a pair is much less, so your hand is stronger. For example, if you have A-2-3 and two other players have 3’s showing, the chances of you drawing a pair of 3’s is small. This is the best way to make sure you’re not staying in a hand that you’re likely to draw a pair on. It takes some practice to keep track of all the cards, but you’ll get accustomed to it over time.
Low – In the case of Razz, or Seven Card Stud Low, Low means worst hand possible. The player with the worst hand possible wins the pot.
Bring In – Under Razz Poker rules, the player with the highest value window card is obliged to contribute the “Bring In” to the pot, at the amount of the ante or the full fixed bet amount. At the end of the round of betting, he will be required to contribute the bet amount as well to stay in the hand.
Razz Poker Rules – Conclusion
If you love to play poker and you’re looking for something different or to improve your poker skills, you might want to try Razz Poker. It’s a fun variation of Seven Card Stud where the lowest hand wins the pot. Razz has been around for about a hundred years, but recently regained popularity with television coverage of the World Series of Poker. Many poker pros prefer to play Razz because they feel they have an advantage when they play this poker variant. Because it is a low game, it requires players to think opposite to what they’re used to, which takes some practice. Once you get the hang of Razz Poker, it is one of the most enjoyable and lucrative forms of poker that you can play today.
Suggested Reading Material
Razz on its own is a complex beast, and Horse poker even more so. Hopefully, we’ve given you a good starting point, but as always we recommend more learning! In addition to our top poker reads for 2016 we can also suggest the following three books specifically for razz poker rules:
Play Razz Poker To Win: New Strategies For Razz And Horse Players That Are Proven To Work! by Mitchell Cogert
Doyle Brunson’s Super System by Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Joey Hawthorne
Sklansky On Poker by David Sklansky
We hope you enjoyed reading about razz poker and wish you luck at the tables! Don’t forget to leave your thoughts on Razz Poker Rules in the comments below!