Razz Poker

While the original appearance of Razz has been the subject of some debate, the official appearance of the poker game variety was at the 1971 World Series of Poker. In this event, Jimmy Casella was the winner of a $10,000 prize. Among poker varieties where lowball poker rules apply, Razz is the most popular game variety. However, the game was largely underexposed until it was televised as part of the 2004 WSOP on ESPN. After T.J. Cloutier won the Razz main event, the game exploded in popularity and is today featured on a variety of online poker sites. With exception to 1972, Razz has appeared in every World Series of Poker since its introduction in 1971. In the popular HORSE multi game variety of poker, Razz is the third game - positioned as the R in the HORSE acronym.

Razz Rules

Razz is actually a variety of 7 Card Stud as there are many similarities to the popular game variety. One notable difference is that only the lowest hand is considered when determining the winner. In most Razz games, the best hand possible is a straight from the 5 to the Ace. In most Razz rules, a flush is not considered when determining the quality of a hand. So, a straight flush is simply a straight. However, a variety of Razz called London lowball does exist where straights and flushes actually devalue a hand. In this case, the best possible hand includes a 4 to Ace straight with a 6 high.

Seven cards are dealt to each player in a Razz game but only the respective best 5 cards are those that can be used to form a hand. From time to time, multiple players have the same value of hand - resulting in a tie. Ties are then broken by considering suit, with Spades is the highest suit (or least valuable). From Spades, the order of suit value descends from Hearts, Diamonds and then Clubs. With this in mind, the technically least valuable suit is Spades. In other words, the King of Spades is the least valuable card. In a tie between the Queen of Spades and the Queen of Hearts, the Queen of Hearts would win.

How to Play Razz

Razz can be played with as many as eight players in each game (limited by the size of the standard deck). However, even with eight players, there is still a chance that there will not be enough cards for every player if all eight players are still involved in the game after seven cards have been dealt to each player. If this occurs, the dealer places the final card in the deck in the middle of the table, face up. Each player is then allowed to use this final card to make their hands as can be done in community card games such as Texas Holdem. Each player uses this card and it is the only situation where a community card is dealt in Razz. To combat this problem, some poker sites will simply reduce the allowable amount of players at each table.

Each game of Razz is played as limit. Before cards are dealt, each player is responsible for making a obligatory wager - called an ante. Following this wager, each player receives two face down cards and one face up card. The player with the highest face up card is also responsible for making an additional obligatory wager. Betting rounds and dealt cards proceed as they would with 7 Card Stud with the 4th, 5th and 6th all being dealt face up. However, the 7th and final card is dealt face down and the final betting round begins. After this betting round is the showdown where the player with the lowest hand wins.

Razz Strategy

One of the easiest to understand strategies in Razz poker games is to avoid playing hands that contain a pair. As the majority of cards dealt to each player are face up, it is also considered easier to determine the relative strength of each player's cards. Even one high card present on the board can significantly weaken the holder's position unless they can form a very strong low hand with the remainder of their cards - face down and face up.