Avoid a Beating: Understand Razz Rules in 4 Steps
Let’s take a look at the exact rules and basic strategies for players just starting up with Razz.
- 1 Avoid a Beating: Understand Razz Rules in 4 Steps
- 1.1 The Complete Rules of Razz
- 1.2 Essential Razz Strategy
- 1.3 Razz will test your ability to handle bad beats
- 1.4 Understand Razz to avoid frustration
The Complete Rules of Razz
Razz is played almost exactly like 7 card stud, except the lowest five card hand wins instead of the highest.
The best possible Razz hand is an A, 2, 3, 4, 5, which is called a wheel. Straights and flushes do not count. Final five card hands are ranked from the highest card to the lowest in order to see who wins.
Razz Hand rankings
In other words, read the hand backwards like a 5 digit number and the lowest number wins. This can be confusing for new players so here is a quick example of 4 Razz hands from smallest to largest:
- A, 2, 3, 4, 5 (lowest)
- A, 3, 4, 5, 7
- 2, 3, 4, 5, 8
- A, 2, 3, 4, 9 (highest)
Razz can be played as limit, which is the most common, or pot limit. I suppose that it could be played for no limit, but I have never seen it offered that way. Here is a step-by-step explanation of how to play.
Play after ante and deal
Each player makes an ante and receives two cards face down and one card face up. (The face up card is often called the door card.) The player with the highest hand showing is forced to open the betting round. Aces are low, so a king is highest, followed by a queen, etc.
If two players have the same rank of card for highest, the suit is often used to break the tie. Spades are usually highest, followed by Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs.
The player with the highest card on the opening betting round must bet at least an amount equal to the ante, or may complete the bet by making a wager equal to the lower betting limit in a limit game.
The rest of the hand
Play then continues to the left. After the betting round is completed another card is dealt face up. After the first round, the player with the best low hand showing opens the round. They can either check or bet.
Play continues to the left. This action continues for two more face up cards and a final face down card followed by the final betting round. In a limit game, like 5/10, the lower limit is used for the first four cards and the upper limit is used from the fifth through seventh cards.
Essential Razz Strategy
Pay attention to which cards were shown and folded
The first step to becoming a winning Razz player is to pay attention to all of the cards dealt face up. Understand how these cards change your chances to win and change the possible holdings of your opponents.
While something as simple as paying attention may seem like common sense the majority of Razz players don’t seem to have any clue to what cards have been shown and folded earlier in a hand.
For example, if you hold A, 3, 4, 7, Q, Q and it looks like a 7 high hand will win do you have 12 outs for the final card? This depends on if any 2s, 5s or 6s were dealt face up and folded earlier and if there are any showing in your remaining opponent’s hands.
Once you determine how many outs you have you can figure out if the pot is giving the correct odds to call, bet or raise.
Razz will test your ability to handle bad beats
The other basic strategy to become a winning Razz player has very little to do with the actual cards and a great deal to do with your mindset and psychological ability. Players must be able to take the beatings that Razz can deal out without letting it change your game.
Years ago I was watching a Razz game that Howard Lederer was involved in. One of the players called Razz the “hated game” or something similar. He had just had a great looking hand turn to nothing as his hand paired twice on the last two cards.
Razz is the type of game that can turn a great starting three or four cards into nothing quickly, so there are plenty of chances to go on tilt.
Good poker players understand that they must maintain clear thinking in order to play at their best.
If you have trouble keeping a level head while playing poker Razz may not be the best game for you. If you are one of the players who can keep their eyes and mind on the long term and avoid tilt Razz can offer a great opportunity to take advantage of the players who do tilt easily.
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Understand Razz to avoid frustration
So how can you start avoiding tilt while playing Razz? The best way is to understand the math behind the game.
Don’t be scared if math isn’t your strong suit. You just need to understand the difference between short-term variance and long-term probabilities. The more you understand how the probabilities play out over 100 hands the better you can handle the times when a hand doesn’t go your way.
You are deciding to call or fold to a bet against a single opponent after the sixth card has been dealt. The bet is $20, creating a pot of $200. You have to call $20 for a chance to win the $200. You can’t consider any money you’ve already put in the pot.
Once you’ve figured out your outs you compare the odds of completing your hand to the odds the pot is offering you. Let’s say your outs say your hand will be made 33% of the time. In this example the pot is offering much higher odds than that. So when you pair one of your cards on the final round and lose the hand it’s easy to get upset.
That decision is still a long-term winner
You have to understand that if you put yourself in this situation 100 times you will lose 67 times. But you will also win 33 times.
Of the 67 times you lose you will lose 67 X $20 (that you paid to see the seventh card), or $1,340. But the 33 times you win you will not only get your $20 back, you will also get 33 X $200 (the whole pot), or 6,600. As you can see it is highly profitable to remain in the hand in this case.
One of your main jobs as a poker player is to put yourself in situations that offer long term profit as often as possible. The results always take care of themselves in the long run. Once you have a solid understanding of how this works in Razz or any other poker variation it will help you not let emotions change the way you play.