Introduction to Razz Poker
Razz poker is a "low" game, meaning the lowest (or worst) hand possible wins the pot. It is usually played as a fixed limit betting game or in rare occations pot limit. Because Razz Poker is almost identical to Stud Poker in all but a few ways we won't rehash the setup of play and rules for Stud here.
Readers not familiar with the rules of Seven Card Stud we recommend checking out our complete guide on how to play 7-Card Stud poker. Once you understand how to play Seven Card Stud you can easily learn Razz poker and the Razz rules.
What Makes Razz Poker Unique?
The 3 main differences between Stud and Razz are in the poker rules regarding:
- The player who brings in the action at the start of the first betting round
- The player who starts the action on any given street
- How to decide the winning hand at showdown
Watch the video below for a quick primer on how to play Razz:
Razz Poker Rules & Gameplay
If you want to play poker, razz is a really fun game with a lot of action, many betting rounds and alot of strategy. You need to be aware of the betting structure, where first to fourth street has one structure and fifth to seventh street has another. You also need to be aware of the hand rankings in poker and when cards are dealt face up and face down respectively. You need to know in which order the dealer deals the cards and which player is forced to bring in bets. But don't worry, we will explain it all to you.
How to Deal Razz Poker
As we mentioned above the order of play in a Razz poker game is exactly the same as 7 Card Stud. That means how to deal the game is also the same.
The dealer begins by dealing two face-down cards in sequence to each player starting with the player to their left. They then deal one face-up card (aka the "door" card") in sequence to each player.
Once every player has their two hole cards face down and one door card you're ready for one player to bring it in.
- Just as in Stud, before the betting begins, the player required to bring in a Razz game (ie. make the first bet) is decided by the value of each player's door card. Unlike Stud, in Razz the player with the highest-valued door card is required to bring.
- Door cards are ranked according to face value from lowest to highest: jack, queen, king.
- Aces are viewed as low or "good" in Razz, meaning the highest-value card rank available is a king. If two players tie for high card, the suits of their door cards break the tie.
- In Razz suits are ordered alphabetically from worst to best: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.
- Again, similarly to in Stud, the player required to bring has two choices:
- Bet an amount equal to the ante
- Complete the bet, betting the full amount of the small bet
Rules for Razz Poker Betting
The only difference between a betting round in Razz and a betting round in Stud is how you decide where the action starts for the hand.
In Stud, the player with the highest-valued show cards starts the action. In Razz it's the player with the best Razz hand, or lowest-valued cards, who starts the action on the betting round.
Pairs are always viewed as "high," meaning a player holding K Q has a better two-card Razz hand than a player with 2 2 . A hand is only as low as the value of its highest card, meaning that out of these hands:
... the best two-card Razz hand is
Even though A 5 has an ace, which is lower than either the 2 or the 4 , the highest card of A 5 is the 5 . The lowest two cards, without having a pair, are the 2 4 .
Once you've determined the best hand, this player gets to start the betting round. As in Stud, this player has two options:
- Check (same as a call, but since there is no bet to match, they are calling nothing)
How to Play a Hand of Razz Poker
Just as in Stud, players in Razz are dealt up to 7 cards each. After the first three cards are dealt and betting begins as explained above, each player still in the hand receives another exposed card (The Fourth Card/Fourth Street).
The first player to act is again the player with the lowest exposed hand. The betting procedure is exactly the same on the third and fourth street. The player can check or bet an amount equivalent to the small bet.
After another round of betting the fifth card (Fifth Street) is dealt - also an exposed card every player can see. Again the person with the lowest exposed cards goes first. The player can now check or bet.
Starting on Fifth Street all bets and raises for the rest of the hand are now in increments of the big bet limit at the table.
Sixth Street - same as fifth street.
Seventh Street (River) - On the seventh street all players still in the hand get a seventh card (final card) dealt face down after which the final round of betting begins. Bet amount and order is the same as fifth and sixth street.
Note: Because each player can be dealt 7 cards and a standard deck of cards only has 52 cards, Razz tables are maxed out at 8 players. That still, technically, could result in 56 (8x7) cards being required but that rarely occurs. If it does happen a single community card is dealt face up for all players to use as their final card.
What is the Best Hand in Razz Poker?
After the final betting round has been completed the players still in the hand enter into the showdown. In the showdown each player makes the best five-card hand possible out of their own seven cards.
The remaining two cards are "dead" and contribute no value toward the hand at all. They are never used to evaluate the strength of a hand.
The last bettor or raiser is required to show his or her cards first. If there was no bet in the final round, the player in seat 1 or closest to Seat 1 shows first. More hands are then exposed clockwise around the table.
The player with the best five-card low hand wins the entire pot - there is no "qualifying" hand required. Here are the rules for evaluating a winning Razz hand:
- A hand of Razz is won by holding the "worst" hand at the table
- Straights and flushes don't count in Razz hands meaning the absolute best hand possible is the lowest straight (known as the wheel) A-2-3-4-5
- There is no qualifier for the winning hand - even if a player has two pair or higher if it's the lowest hand on the table, it's declared the winner
- Hands are evaluated from the highest card down, meaning A-2-3-4-8 is a losing hand to 3-4-5-6-7 (7-low beats 8-low)
- If two players have the same winning hand the pot is split between them. Suits are not taken into account for evaluating the winning hand.
Once the pot is shipped to the winning player the cards are collected and shuffled in preparation for the next hand. Starting with each player placing their ante, the whole cycle begins again.
Play Razz Poker Online
There are many online poker sites available but, if you want to play Razz Poker online - on its own or as part of a Mixed Game - there's really only one option. That's PokerStars, where you can practice your Razz skills in either free games or cash games.
You can also play Razz tournaments from time-to-time throughout the year, specifically during the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) and Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP). For more information check out our dedicated page about the best online poker tournament series throughout the year.
Essential Things to Remember About Razz Poker
- Straights and flushes DO NOT COUNT!
- Aces are always low!
- No qualifying hand is required to win the pot. If a full house is the lowest hand, it wins!
- The player with the lowest exposed hand always leads the betting
Top 10 Razz Starting Hands
- A, 2, 3
- A, 2, 4
- A, 3, 4
- 2, 3, 4
- A, 2, 5
- A, 3, 5
- A, 4, 5
- 2, 3, 5
- 2, 4, 5
- A, 2, 6
Best Razz Poker Strategy Tips
1. Pick Your Starting Hands Well
As you can see above, getting dealt A-2-3 is getting a Razz hand off to a good start and you should definitely play it to the max.
Basically any starting hand with three-cards to the wheel is very strong but remember: you still have to hit to more cards to make that wheel so don't necessarily take it all the way to the death.
Any starting hand with 7-low and better are generally considered strong. 8-low begins to get into the range of just "good" starting hand.
2. Steal Blinds and Antes
If you have lowest door card and the action is folded to you, raise. Stealing blinds and antes is very important in Razz so If you have an A, 2 or 3 showing as your door card (and your opponents are higher) there's a good chance you can scare them off their hand.
3. Attack Checks
If your opponent's exposed cards are low but he or she checks, it's probably a sign their hidden cards are worrisome to them. If your up cards look low, try and take the pot right there. If you do get check-raised, that's some good information, too.
4. Don't Chase Past 5th Street
In Razz it's fairly easy to see where you stand by 5th street given that a lot of cards are exposed. Even if you started with a good starting hand, if you brick a high card on 5th street and your opponent has a few low cards showing, it's smart to fold. Chasing cards after Fifth Street is a good way to lose money in Razz.
5. Pay Attention to Up Cards!
Just like in Stud games it's very important to pay attention to the cards showing on the table and what may have been folded along the way. If the card you need to complete your low is already out there a few times it's that much less likely you'll hit it.
Razz Poker at the WSOP
Undoubtedly the epicenter of Razz Poker is the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas where several Razz events are played every summer
The exact origin of the game of Razz is uncertain (although some say it's been around since the turn of the century) but it's been an event at the WSOP since 1971. It was left off the WSOP schedule in 1972 but returned for good in 1973.
It's consistently one of the most popular Lowball games among pros and amateurs and some of the most famous players in the world - including Phil Hellmuth - have won Razz bracelets at the WSOP.
Huck Seed, Doyle Brunson and Barry Greenstein also lay claim to WSOP bracelets in Razz. The 2004 Razz Championship, won by TJ Cloutier, was even televised on ESPN.
If you check the player list of any WSOP Razz event you'll see a laundry list of the game's best pros from old-school icons like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Ted Forrest to new school heroes like Calvin Anderson and James Obst.
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