Razz: A Fun Game of Seven Card Stud Poker Turned Upside Down
The origins of Razz Poker are a bit fuzzy as with most forms of the game. Razz poker is a variation of Stud Poker, more specifically an adaptation of Seven Card Stud. It is believed that Razz has been around almost as early as Seven Card, but nothing can be confirmed as it didn't gain much fame or popularity until much later.
Razz poker was added to the World Series of Poker in 1971 and since then has been in every WSOP event to this day (except 1974). The 1971 poker event was arguably the first ever official Razz tournament which was won by Jimmy Casella. Many big names in Poker have played in the Razz World Series of Poker and won the 1st place bracelet such as Doyle Brunson and Barry Greenstein.
The game made headlines after the Razz World Series of Poker 2004 event, resulting in a growth in popularity and more tables being added in land-based and online casino sites. Razz was aired on ESPN, and T.J. Cloutier took it down and won the bracelet. This made online sites like Full Tilt Poker, and eventually, Pokerstars add Razz cash games and tournaments, the latter of which currently offering the most cash games and tournaments.
Razz still dwarfs in popularity in comparison to Texas Hold'Em or Omaha but still has an increase in following with poker fans. If you want to play a form of poker that is utterly different to any form of poker you have played before, Razz is an excellent option.
Razz Poker is played almost identical to Seven Card Stud, with one significant difference. The rankings are reversed. Most forms of poker are won by the highest ranked poker hand, this form of poker means the worst or lowest ranked poker hand is best.
Like Seven Card Stud this game can be played between 2 to 8 players. Razz is only played with Antes and a fixed limit. An ante is a set amount of money every player must put into the pot before the cards have been dealt. Fixed Limit means you have some fixed bet sizes instead of an optional bet size like you get in No limit and Pot limit games.
Once all antes have been collected, the dealer will deal everyone three cards. Two face down and one face up. The player with the highest card will be forced to post the 'bring-in'. This is different to Seven Card Stud which has the player with the lowest card to post the 'bring-in'. The 'bring-in' amount will vary for each game but is generally a small amount. This player may choose to post the minimum 'bring-in' size or complete it to the full amount of the limit bet size.
After the highest card player has posted the 'bring-in', they will also start the action that moves around clockwise, and the remaining players may call, raise, or fold. Calling is matching the same amount of chip's the 'bring-in' decided to play. Raising is raising a fixed amount of chips. Folding is throwing your hand away.
Each player will be dealt another card face up. This time the player that will start the action is the player with the lowest face up two cards. This player may bet or check. Checking is a neutral move and is the same as passing the action to the next player.
Another card is dealt face up, and again the player with the lowest three cards will act first. Another betting round will commence, and all remaining players will be dealt one more card face up. Players now have a total of four face-up cards and two face-down cards. The player with the lowest four face-up cards will start the action. Action will again go around clockwise and after this betting round is over all remaining players will be dealt one final card face down.
Next, one final round of betting will take place, and if there are at least two players who have not folded, they will now need to flip their three face-down cards to face up and make the lowest ranked five card hand available of the seven card options in hand.
Razz poker hand rankings work with Aces always being low. Think of the Ace as a card below the 2. Straights and flushes do not make your hand stronger and are removed from this variation of poker. The table below shows hands ranked from weakest to strongest. With an A-5 hand being the strongest hand possible in razz.
Pair of Jacks
Pair of Threes
Pair of Aces
High Straights Removed
King High + 7
8 – 4 High
8 – 3 High
8 – A High
6 – A High
5 – A High
The most basic concept to remember is you are not trying to get pairs, straights, flushes and typically good poker hands! You are trying to catch the lowest ranked poker hands where straights and flushes are irrelevant and do not harm or improve your position. In many ways, this can be hard to reverse your thinking if you have played a lot of Poker and become very familiar with the regular hand rankings.
Another thing to take into consideration is even weak hands like one low pair are likely going to be too strong a lot of the time. Even hands like K high will often be too strong. You want to strive to get those really, REALLY low hands without any pairs.
Keeping an eye on your opponents face-up cards is crucial to playing these games effectively. If you see that your opponents have very low face-up cards and your cards are pairs or better, it is highly advised to fold.
Representing a low hand can be a good strategy as well when you are holding low face-up cards, the correct move will almost always be to bet and raise. You could very well have a really low hand, and your opponents will be forced to respect this.
It is essential to pay close attention to what other players are doing around you. This advice can be applied to most forms of poker. When first starting a new game you want to take in your surroundings before jumping into uncertainty. Value bet more, bluff less. What Value betting means is betting and raising more when you have a low hand and bluffing less when you have a high ranking hand in this particular game.
The longer you sit at the table, the more you will recognise patterns and tendencies in your opponents and find opportunities to gain an advantage. However, when you first sit down, you are in the dark. Try to read the game and opponents first, and act when a good spot arises.
Play fewer hands in this form of poker. Razz is only played in the limit format while most other types of poker can be played in a variety of betting structures. There are no flushes or straights you may draw to; you are drawing to super low cards. If you see multiple opponents having low value face-up cards, this is a bad sign since they are now blocking you from being dealt the low cards already taken.
Razz is poker turned upside down. Try to remember to aim low and always aim low. This is a game that feels fresh because it is so different from other forms of poker you might have played in the past. While Razz may not have the same feeling as traditional poker, the goal is the same. Try to catch good hands and out-smart other players at the table.
This game has five betting rounds which will give you plenty of room for skill and strategic moves that you can learn and develop. Reading strategy articles or watching videos of this game can skyrocket your understanding and give an advantage over the other players at the Razz poker table.
While studying is great, one of the best ways to learn the game is to play it. Play low stakes initially until you feel comfortable with the game rules and basic strategies. When confidence increases on how to play correctly other aspects will come into play such as seeing what your opponents are doing, which will help you improve performances. This game is not going to have so many players or tables running in comparison to Hold'Em and Omaha tables, but it is still popular enough to have games and tournaments running both online and a good number of brick and mortar venues.