Razz Poker – or 7 Card Stud Low Poker – is a version of stud poker in which players aim to make the lowest possible five-card hand from the seven they are dealt. Razz Poker is played in a similar format to 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker in terms of how each hand progresses, but there are some significant differences to determining the winning hand that might catch some players out.
The most significant difference is that there is no “qualifying” criteria for determining the winning hand. In 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker, the low hand has to be comprised of five cards with an individual value of Eight or lower. In Razz Poker, it is possible to win a hand with a pair of Kings! Other important differences to note is that Ace is always low, and that straights and flushes do not count in Razz Poker.
How to Play Razz Poker
If you have bypassed Stud Poker and started playing Razz Poker straight from games such as Texas Hold´em and Omaha Poker, the other big difference you will notice is that there are no community cards. Each player is dealt their own seven cards – the first two “face down” that can only be seen by the player they belong to, the next four “face up” and the final card “face down”.
As mentioned above, the object of each hand is to make the lowest possible five-card hand without duplicated cards. Hands are ranked from the highest of the five cards, so a hand comprised from A♥3♦ / 4♠6♣7♥10♦ / Q♣ will be called a “Seven High”, as the Seven is the highest value card in the five used to make up the best Low hand. If two players have “Seven High” hands, the winner is determined by the second highest card.
Therefore A♦2♠ / 2♣4♥5♥7♣ / K♥ will beat A♥3♦ / 4♠6♣7♥10♦ / Q♣ because the second highest card is lower. Please also note that the paired 2♣ is disregarded as another Deuce appears in the first hand.
Starting Each Hand
Depending on the stake of cash game that you are playing at, or whether you are entering the later stages of a Razz Poker tournament, each player may be required to pay an ante into the pot at the start of each hand. Thereafter three cards are dealt to each player – the first two “face down” that can only be seen by the player they are dealt to, and a third card “face up” that every player can see.
The player with the highest value exposed card starts the betting. He or she has the option of paying a “bring-in” or making a “Small Bet”. In a game of $0.25/$0.50 Razz Poker, the “bring in” would usually be $0.10, the “Small Bet” $0.25, and the “Big Bet” – which I shall come to later – $0.50. In the event that two players have the same value High card, the order of betting is determined by the suits of the cards – Spades having the highest “value”, followed by Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs.
The betting action proceeds around the table in a clockwise direction, with each player having the option to “call” any bets made prior to their turn, to “complete” the hand by raising the “bring in” to a “Small Bet”, or by raising any bets that have been made prior to their turn. Players also have the option to fold their cards, and the first round of betting is usually concluded when all bets have been matched – a maximum of four raises being allowed.
Fourth street is the name given to the next round of betting action. It starts with all the remaining active players in the hand being dealt a fourth card “face up” and the player with the lowest two-card combination starting the betting. That player has the option to “check” or “bet” in units of the Small bet (in my example $0.25), and the action continues around the table in a clockwise direction with each subsequent player having the option to “check”, “bet”, “raise” or fold their cards.
When the second round of betting has concluded, a fifth card is dealt “face up” to the remaining active players in the hand. The betting action starts with the player showing the lowest three-card combination of their exposed cards, but, for the remainder of the hand, players are now betting in units of the “Big Bet” (in my example $0.50).
Sixth street follows the same pattern as fifth street. A further card is dealt “face up” to the active players still remaining in the hand, and betting is started by the player showing the lowest four-card combination of cards. During any round of betting, a hand can be concluded if one player bets and all the others fold their cards. The winning player scoops the pot without having to reveal their “face down” cards to the other players.
The final card to be dealt is known as seventh street or the river. This card is dealt “face down” so that only the player to whom it belongs can see it. Betting begins with the player showing the lowest four-card combination of cards – so the same player as in the previous round of betting – and concludes when all bets have been matched or when every active player has “checked” on their turn.
Once all the betting action has been concluded, the player who was the last to make a bet shows their hand. Going in a clockwise direction, the other players can either show their hand or return their cards to the pack unseen if they cannot beat any exposed hand. The pot is won by the player(s) revealing the lowest five-card hand of poker, and – as there is no suit hierarchy in determining the winning hand – it is possible for the pot to be shared if two or more players have cards of the same value.
Razz is a simpler game to play than most other forms of Stud Poker because the need to observe other player´s discarded hands is not so great due to folded hands usually consisting of high-value cards that would not help you in constructing the lowest-value hand. Nonetheless, there are a few words of advice I can offer:
Pairs – Be aware that a paired card does not count in constructing a low hand. At the top of the page I gave the example of a hand consisting of A♦2♠ / 2♣4♥5♥7♣ / K♥. The second Deuce is disregarded in the construction of the low hand, so the best low hand that could be made from those seven cards is A♦2♠4♥5♥7♣ rather than A♦2♠2♣4♥5♥.
Odds – As most games of Razz Poker are played at Fixed Limit rather than No Limit or Pot Limit, it is quite easy to work out the odds of making a hand and the pot odds you will receive for calling a bet. One thing you should be aware of is your “implied odds”. This is how much you may have to pay to get to showdown, and can be influenced by the aggressive nature of players you have seated with you at the table.
Kings – I mentioned at the beginning of this Guide to Razz Poker that it is possible to win a hand with a pair of Kings. This happens more often than you may think (or with combinations of other high ranking cards). Consequently you should gauge your betting actions of the information you have about other players and their cards, rather than necessarily what cards you have – especially if your Kings are “hidden” and you have four low value cards exposed.
Enterprise – Enterprise often pays off in Razz Poker, and by “enterprise” I mean bluffing. By leading the betting whenever possible in the early streets, you can create the image that your first two “face down” cards are super-low. This may discourage players from calling your bets when the “Big Bet” comes into play on fifth street, and it doesn´t hurt to get caught bluffing once or twice. This may encourage more players to call your bets when you have an unbeatable hand.
Responsible Gambling – So, having advocated bluffing, I am now going to go in the opposite direction and advocate responsible gambling. Pots sizes can quickly build up during a hand of Razz, so you should know what your limits are. In a hand played at $0.25/$0.50 stake limits, you could contribute as much as $8.00 to each pot in each hand – much more at higher stake limits. Consequently, choose the games you enter with care; and, if there are no games of Razz Poker going on at limits you can comfortably afford to play at, don´t play at all!