Razz Poker is a variant of traditional poker with one very important difference. While the majority of poker games require the player to make the best poker hands with the highest value, Razz Poker requires players to make the best hand with the lowest value of cards. Razz Poker is similar to seven card stud high, except that the high card makes the forced bet in the first round, while low hands act first on all following rounds.
Razz has earned itself an enormous following of players since it first entered the scene – first at land based poker rooms and then subsequently at online poker sites. The game is one of the five that make up the popular H.O.R.S.E poker (with the ‘R’ standing for Razz).
Razz Poker became a variant in the 1973 World Series of Poker, with that competition won by Sam Angel. While the game has appeared in every WSOP since then, it wasn’t until 2004 that it really reached a peak in its popularity, with more and players joining the legions of fans with every passing year.
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Razz Poker and London Lowball
One of the most common offshoots of Razz Poker is London Lowdown, which is found almost exclusively at poker rooms across Europe. There are a couple of minor differences between London Lowball and Razz Poker, which could see players given more of a chance to win the game, for example, with one pair in London Lowball than in regular Razz Poker, but in general, the rules remain almost identical.
Hand Rankings in Razz Poker
As noted, the objective of Razz Poker is to create the lowest possible hand, which means that the hand rankings in this variant are turned upside down compared to regular variants!
The lowest high card, also known as the wheel, comprises of an Ace, Two, Three, Four and Five. Should more than one player have the same high card, the second highest cards are compared in order to determine the winner. It is very seldom that a player will win a game of Razz Poker with a pair, although the odds improve slightly if London Lowball is being played.
Razz Poker is made up of several different rounds of dealing and betting. These comprise of: Third Street, Fourth Street, Fifth Street, Sixth Street, Seventh Street, The Showdown.
- Third Street: This round begins with the dealer dealing two cards face down to each player sitting around the Razz Poker table. Another card is then dealt face up. The player who has been dealt the highest cards wagers half the low limit bet, with this process known as ‘bringing in’. If players want to raise, they wager the whole low limit bet. The game process takes place in a clockwise direction around the Razz Poker table with all the players folding, raising or calling. It should be noted that bets and raises are equal to the low limit wager size at this point in the game.
- Fourth Street: The dealer deals a fourth card to each player around the table, and the player who has the lowest poker hand folds, checks or bets. Once again, play is clockwise around the Razz Poker table and bets and raises are equal to the low limit wager size.
- Fifth Street: The dealer deals a fifth card to each player around the table and play proceeds as in the two rounds mentioned above. The only difference is that, at this stage of the game, bets and raises are equal to the high limit wager size.
- Sixth Street: Each player is dealt a final card by the dealer and, once more, play proceeds as in previous rounds. Bets and raises are equal to the high limit size, as in the Fifth Street stage of the game.
- The Showdown: All players who are left in the game of Razz now need to show their hands in the stage known as the Showdown. The player who can show the lowest ranking poker hand is the one to take home the pot.
- It is important to get off to the game of Razz on the right foot by landing a good starting hand! Good starting hands could be any three cards between Ace and Five, although pairs are not considered good hands. The ultimate starting hand is undoubtedly Ace, Two and Three.
- Razz Poker pros reiterate the need to keep an eye on other players’ face up cards to understand the state of their cards and how to proceed and wager in the game.
- Try to ‘jam’ your game play as Razz Poker doesn’t really work with slow play strategy. As such, players who have a good hand are encouraged to ‘jam it’. Players are simply advised to bet and raise when they have the best cards in order to do well in the long run.
- Know when to fold – The best poker players know when to cut their losses and fold their hands, even if they have wagered some of their bankroll. Players should rather save their money for when they have a good hand and then play aggressively. A rule of thumb: When your good hand turns bad, release it!
Razz Poker has earned itself a reputation for being one of the most frustrating poker variants around, even among pros, because it takes time to get around the mindset that the objective is to create what is considered the worst hand in most other variants. Having said that, Razz Poker has earned itself quite a cult following among land players and online poker players. Its inclusion in the makeup of games known as H.O.R.S.E Poker also means that many players need to learn its rules and strategies if they want to advance in H.O.R.S.E tournaments. Players who excel in H.O.R.S.E are generally known to be the best players in the world, as they are able to switch variants and prove their proficiency in a wide range of games.
Posted by Denise Marie