More to Poker than Hold'em Part 2: Stud and Razz

Part two of a three-part series. Part one introduced you to Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo; this second installment will focus on Stud and Razz.

My goal in these articles is to give you enough knowledge to get interested in and start playing other forms of poker. Before Hold'em became the go-to game, the most popular cash game being spread was Stud.

Technically, when you say "Stud," you could be referring to Seven-Card or Five-Card Stud. But since Five-Card Stud is rarely if ever spread anymore, if you don't preface it with "Five Card", Stud always refers to Seven-Card.


The Basics

You start by throwing in your ante. Everyone's dealt three cards, two face down and one up. The player with the lowest-valued show card is forced to "bring it in."

Before I explain what a bring is, I should mention that suits matter in Stud. The order of the suits in poker is easy enough to remember (for all of you bridge players, you'll be used to this). It's alphabetical: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.

For all of you out there who were sure that the order was Diamonds, Clubs, Hearts, Spades, you're not totally wrong. That's the "Chinese" suit ordering used for Big Two.

Doyle Brunson
Doyle Brunson has more experience playing seven cards than most anyone.

The Bring

As I mentioned, the player with the lowest-valued show card is required to "bring it in." They have the option of paying half the small limit, or completing the bet to the full small limit.

For example, in a $10/$20 Limit game:

Ante: $1

Bring-In: $5

Complete/Small Bet: $10

Big Bet: $20

Betting Rounds

The first and second betting round use the lower fixed limit, while the final three rounds play with the upper limit.

At showdown, the player with the best five-card hand made from their seven cards wins. In the case of identical hands, the pot is split among the multiple winners. In Stud, and all of its variants, suits are only taken into account for the bring-in bet, never for the showdown.

Basic Strategy

Oddly enough, basically everything you need to know about starting hands you can learn from one scene in Rounders.

Out of the mouth of Mike McD.:

"You only play premium hands. You only start with jacks or better split, nines or better wired, three high cards to a flush. If it's good enough to call, you got to be in there raising, all right?"

Need a translation?

Jacks or better split: A split pair means that one of the two jacks is your up card, while the second is one of your two hole cards.

Nines or better wired: A wired pair means that both nines are your two hole cards.

Three cards to a flush: All three of your starting cards are like-suited.

Players new to the game seem to get overwhelmed with all the cards they get, and all the draws they can find with them. Until you've got a few thousand hands under your belt, I'd stick right close to the Rounders advice.

The majority of the cards on the table will be face up in Stud. It's important to remember all up cards that have been folded on previous streets. You should be able to look at all the up cards (and there could be upward of 20 of them) and know how they effect your hand and your draws, and what possibilities they create for the other players.

Sometimes it's simple. If a player is showing a pair of aces, and all you have is a pair of kings, you know you're beat. The rest of the time you're going to have to use your reads and logic.

If someone's showing three to a flush, you need to remember how many like-suited cards have been folded, and are currently shown in your own hand. If five have been folded, and you hold two, that leaves three in the deck, with the player needing two of those to make their flush.

If they have one under making them a four flush, they're drawing to a two-outer to make it. Stud, more so than Hold'em, is mostly an experience game. You can learn a lot about Hold'em by reading books, but the only way to get good at Stud is to play the game. You need to learn to count and remember cards, while playing in the third level of thought.


Todd Brunson
Todd Brunson: like father, like son.

The Basics

Razz plays almost identically to Stud. There are only two differences between the two games:

  1. The pot is won by the worst, or lowest-valued, hand.
  2. The player with the highest-valued up card off the deal has to bring.

In Razz, flushes and straights don't count against you, making the nut Razz hand A-2-3-4-5. If two players have the same winning hand, the pot is split among all winners, as in Stud.

Unlike in an Eights-or-Better game, there is no qualifying requirement for the winning Razz hand. A full house can be the winner if it's the worst hand out there!

Elementary Strategy

Razz is an easier game to learn than Stud. It's easier to read other players' board cards to get a solid idea of their hand and of where you stand. As a beginner, you want to read board cards to look for made hands.


Someone is showing: 2-4-5-7.

They only need a single A, 3 or 6 as a down card to have a made seven. A made means that the hand is "made"; they no longer have to draw a card to make their hand. If you read someone as being one to a made hand better than your own, chances are you should fold.

As a beginner in Razz, you almost never want to be drawing against a made hand.

Starting Hand Requirements

The only hands you should play in Razz are hands starting with three cards below eight. Lots of players will get dealt A-2-K and start dreaming of hitting the bike. After the deal, you only have four more cards coming. You're going to have to have three of those hit between two and ten to have a decent hand. That doesn't leave much room for error.

Making a Bluff

Because everyone is looking at board cards, if your first three up cards are showing A-2-3, it doesn't matter what your down cards are, because no one will call any bet you make. Razz is a very easy game to learn, and can be lots of fun to play. I highly recommend spreading it with your home game crew.

Until Next Time

Just remember you can't play it with more than eight players. 7*8=56. A full Razz or Stud table runs with eight players, based on the assumption that at least one player will fold before the river. If you do run out of cards, instead of dealing everyone a fifth street, you deal one community card for them all to use.

In the final installment of this article, I'll go over the final Stud variation of Stud Eights-or-Better and Five-Card Triple Draw Lowball.

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