Razz is much less popular than many poker games found online, but that is not to say that there aren’t players that enjoy it.
Razz Poker uses the rules of 7 Card Stud in terms of the cards dealt and betting rounds, but the hand that wins is the lowest hand only.
Other types of poker have a low version – think Omaha Hi-Lo, but these normally share the pot between the best High hand and the best Low hand.
Razz Poker doesn’t do this – only the best Low hand wins the entire pot.
Unlike some types of poker, Razz has no cards that are available for all players to use – known as community cards. All cards dealt – with one unlikely exception – are yours and yours only. Some are dealt face up and some face down as with Seven Card Stud.
We will take you through the rules of how the hand rankings work later in this article, first though let’s take a look at how the rounds themselves work.
Razz Poker Rules
Razz Poker uses one standard deck cards. There are no Jokers in this game.
Aces only count as low as the aim is to get the best possible low hand so there is no reason you would use it as high. The standard hand rankings of Straights, Pairs and Flushes aren’t important in Razz as we will explain later.
Razz uses Ante bets as opposed to Blinds as in other forms of poker. These are forced bets that all players in a hand need to pay to continue.
At the start of a hand, the Dealer for that hand is chosen and signified with a disc that is displayed in front of them. Cards are dealt to all players beginning with the player who is on the left of the Dealer. At the end of the hand, this disc moves one position clockwise to ensure it is fair to all players.
All players are now required to pay an Ante bet irrespective of what cards they have. This is to ensure there are funds available to play for. The Ante bet is normally quite small compared to other bets and depends on the stakes on the table you are playing at or the level if you are in a tournament.
Once ante bets have been collected from all players, the first cards are given out. The player on the left-hand side of the Dealer chip receives a card first and every player gets 2 cards which are dealt face down so only they can view it. Each player then receives a third card which is dealt face up and therefore visible to all players.
As in 7 Card Stud, there is a maximum of 8 players involved in a hand, this is different to other forms of poker such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha where there can be up to 10.
The 2 cards dealt face down are called Hole cards and the card you have received face up is the Door card. Together they consist of a starting hand.
An example of how cards will look once they have all been dealt is below, notice that some are face up and others face down.
The layout is the same for 7 Card Stud, as in the first 2 cards are dealt face down, the next 4 dealt upturned and visible to all players with the final card dealt face down. They are all your own cards as there are no Community Cards in Razz, except in one case which is mentioned later in the article.
Once the first 3 cards have been dealt, 2 face down and one face up, we have a first betting round. There are 5 of these in total. This is 1 more than in versions such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha that have 4 but is the same as 7 Card Stud.
The player who shows the highest Door card is first to act. Please note that this is the only difference between 7 Card Stud where it is the player with the lowest Door card that goes first.
As Razz is aimed only at the best low hand, it is the player with the worst starting hand that acts first.
Should 2 or more players have the same highest value Door card, the suit of the card comes into play. If anyone has the highest value card in Spades, they act first, if not the Heart of that value followed by Diamonds and then Clubs.
This is the only time the suit of the cards matters and the winner is determined by this, and therefore Flushes, are unimportant.
The player with the highest value card has to pay a ‘Bring In’ bet, the value of which is determined by the table limits. Depending on what they have in their Hole cards, they may decide to pay a higher bet, known as the Full bet, which is usually double the Bring In.
Once this bet has been made, play continues in a clockwise direction. Each player now has 3 choices. They can ‘Call’ the existing highest bet which involves matching the largest bet to have been made in the betting round so far; they can ‘Fold’ which is to leave the hand, discard their cards and any chance of winning the hand but not invest more into the pot; or they can ‘Raise’ the bet – make a bet of double the current bet. The bet can only be Raised 3 times per betting round, after which players can only Call or Fold.
Once all players have either made a Call or Fold, the next card – known as Fourth Street – is dealt face up.
The player with the Lowest exposed hand now goes first. This is the player with the lowest value card face up. If there is more than 1 player with the same lowest value card, the other face-up card is then compared, and the player with the lowest value card goes first. If more than one player has the same 2 cards, the suit of the lowest card comes into play again.
Another round of betting then occurs which follows the same pattern as the previous round.
A 5th card – Fifth Street – is then dealt to all players who are still in the hand, face up as before. As before, a betting round commences with the player who has the lowest upturned hand. The main difference in this round compared to previous rounds is that the minimum bet is now the equivalent of the Full Bet or Big Bet.
Once all players have either bet the same amount or folded, the 6th card – Sixth Street – is dealt. Again, this card is visible to all. A betting round identical to the last betting round now takes place.
Once this has been completed, should 2 or more players still be in the hand, the 7th card – known as Seventh Street and the final card – is dealt. This is also known as the River and is dealt downwards and therefore private to each player.
On rare occasions, should 8 players still be involved in the hand, there will be too few cards left in the pack for each player to receive one.
In this case, a single card is placed in the center of the table which acts as a Community Card and is available to all players.
The last round of betting now takes place as per the previous betting round.
Should 2 or more players be involved at the end of the betting round, we head to Showdown which will decide who wins the pot.
If betting took place after the Seventh Street/River, the player who made the last bet shows their cards first. If no betting took place in this round, the player who is on the left of the Dealer reveals their cards first.
Play then continues clockwise around the table, if the following player to act has a better hand, they must show it otherwise they can choose to Muck and admit defeat but not have to show their cards.
The lowest card in a hand determines the winner. Therefore if one hand has an Ace but the others don’t that hand wins irrespective of other cards.
If more than one player has an Ace, or if no one has an Ace but two or more players have an equal lowest card, then we look at the 2nd lowest card in the hand with the lowest card winning. We continue like this not taking into account pairs until a winner is decided.
For example, if a player has a hand of A, 4, 7, 9, 10 as their best 5 cards, they would beat someone with a hand of A, 5, 6, 7, 10. You would compare the lowest card – so, in this case, an Ace – and as both have it, compare the next lowest, so 4 compared to 5 – the player who has the 4 will win.
As with Seven Card Stud, you should be thinking after each card is dealt about the numbers and possibilities of cards that you need coming out of the deck. There is a lot of information on display – much more than in other versions of poker – so this is not always easy, particularly in the early rounds when other players may be folding. Make a note of the cards they have that are visible as once these cards are out of the deck, they won’t be dealt with again during the hand.
The more you can remember about other players cards, especially the lower value ones, the better you will be at working out whether to continue or fold.
As in Texas Hold’em, the later you act in a round the more you will know about other players hands. The main difference in Razz Poker is that the position can change after every new card as it is the lowest visible hand that starts. Having said that, the Bring-In player at the start of a hand would normally be better advised to fold unless they have a good looking hand – anyone with hands higher than 3 8’s should consider folding as they will not stand much chance of winning the pot.
The main part of any hand is the upturned cards, even when your hole cards don’t back this up. For example, if you have 3 low cards visible to other players, you will be in a strong position to win the pot with a big bet even if there are 2 high cards face down. A bluff is easy in this position as other players will know your hand is strong from what they can see, so the pot is there for the taking.
Make sure you are happy with the rules of Razz when it comes to hand rankings as these are completely different from other forms of poker. Flushes, Pairs, and Straights don’t count, and it is only the 5 lowest cards of different values that are important.
The best starting hand in Razz is A23 but any starting hand with unpaired low cards – up to 6 or 7 – is a strong start and worth a Raise. Similarly, though, any hand with mainly picture cards or a pair, whilst good in some forms of poker, is poor in Razz and you should consider Folding. Remember, although you need to choose your best 5 cards from the 7 dealt- if you have a pair you effectively have to choose your lowest 5 from 6 as you are unlikely to win without 5 different value cards.
Razz Poker Tips
Look for weak players. As with any form of poker, there are strong players and weak ones, the rules of Razz means you may well come across players who don’t fully understand the hand rankings. It’s wise to take advantage of this knowledge and try to win the pot against these players. If this type of player is still in the hand when it is your turn to act, consider playing with a lower value hand than you otherwise would.
Don’t slow play when against a larger number of players as this will give your opponents the chance to hit a low card for minimal outlay. When you have a good hand in Razz Poker, get the chips in as soon as you can to maximize your chances of taking down the pot.
If you are playing heads-up and your opponent gets dealt a high card, always bet to make them pay to stay in the hand.
Like any form of poker, Razz should be fun first and foremost. If the fun goes out of the game or you start losing more than you can afford, stop playing and walk away.