If you’re looking for a new poker variation that’s a bit “niche,” it might be worth learning Razz poker rules and hitting the tables.
It is basically a low-only variation of 7 Card Stud, so hand rankings are different from those in games like Omaha or Hold’em. So, if you want a breath of fresh air and feel like you’re getting tired of standard game variants, you should at least give it a try. Here’s a brief, but solid video primer on the game from PokerListings:
This short article won’t teach you everything you need to know about playing Razz – not even close. However, the three tips below should give you a good idea of what this game is all about and provide you with some important basics of strategy when you do decide to jump into the action.
Play low cards
If you’ve ever played any low poker format or a hi-lo split game, you should have a pretty good idea of how hand rankings work in Razz. Basically, you want to make a hand that’s lower than any other hand held by your opponents.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you want a five-card hand, i.e., a hand that contains five distinct cards of different rankings.
Beyond this, the winner is determined by figuring out who has the lowest card in their five-card combo. In Razz, the wheel (A, 2, 3, 4, 5) is the absolute nuts, and if you make this hand, you have nothing to worry about (other than building the biggest possible pot to scoop).
When comparing hands, the highest cards are compared first. For example, if you have 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, and the opponent has A, 2, 4, 5, 10, you win, because a 9 is lower than a 10. If the highest card is the same, the second-highest is compared, etc.
As mentioned, you want to have the best possible five-card hand made out of seven cards you’re dealt. Because of this, pairs and trips are bad news in Razz. You don’t want any of your cards to pair up because this reduces your chances of making a winning hand.
This is something to keep in mind as you play. If you have a nice start but then your cards double pair on the next two streets, it is probably the time to hit the brakes and reconsider continuing until showdown. If your opponent is showing decent face-up cards and you’re stuck with a double-paired hand, you need to forget about how good the hand looked on the first four streets and face the new reality of the situation.
Stay disciplined early on
Your hand selection in Razz is just as important as in other poker variants. So if you lucky to find a juicy mixed game in casinos like Running Aces poker room that offers it, make sure to stay disciplined early on.
You ideally want to start with good hands only; hole cards not containing a value over 7.
If you have an 8 or higher, you need to proceed very carefully unless your opponent is displaying even worse card face-up, and you have A2 or something like that in the hole. This alone will put you ahead of most players, so do not treat it lightly.
Do not chase after Fifth Street and always observe discarded cards
Picking the right starting hands is essential, but equally as important is to recognize the crucial moment in hand, and in Razz, that’s usually Fifth Street.
By this point, you should have a lot of information available to you, not only about the strength of your hand but also about where your opponent might be. You’re able to see three of their cards and should have a pretty good idea of what direction their hand is headed in.
Critically, you need to have the discipline to give up on clear or likely losers at this point in a hand. There is very little point in chasing hands past Fifth Street when big bets come into play. You might get lucky and outdraw them every now and then, but in the long run, these types of plays will cost you a lot of money.
Of course, you should also utilize any information you’ve collected during the hand at this stage, in the form of your opponents’ face-up cards. Sometimes you can still win with a weak hand with aggressive plays if you are fairly certain opponents’ hole cards are unlikely to be strong.
You’ll only be able to do this if you keep a close eye on which cards have been discarded during previous streets, so you must stay alert for the entirety of any hand you decide to play.
Remembering what face-up cards other players already folded will give you a tremendous edge in lower-stakes games since most players don’t usually consider this information. So always observe the action to get a better idea of actual odds and then stick to solid strategy while letting others make the mistakes.