In a “Lowball” poker game, the pot is
awarded to the lowest ranked hand rather than the highest ranked hand. Razz is a Lowball version of Seven Card Stud. Stud Poker (Razz,
Seven Card Stud) is an altogether different type of poker from Flop Poker (Omaha, Texas Hold’em), and Draw Poker (California Lowball,
Jacks or Better). One difference is that both Flop games and Draw games use “blinds” to seed the pot, while Stud games use “antes.” In
Flop Poker games, the players share “community cards,” which they combine with their own “hole cards,” in order to form their hands. In
Draw Poker games, players discard their unwanted cards and replace them with new ones drawn from the deck. In Stud Poker games, players
are dealt some of their cards face up, so that their opponents may see them, and some of their cards face down, so that they are seen
only by the player. In a Seven Card Stud game, like Razz, players are dealt a total of seven cards, from which they must make their best
(which in the case of Razz is their lowest) five card poker hand. If you want to be able to play mixed games such as H.O.R.S.E., you
will need to learn how to play Razz poker.
Razz is usually played as a limit game, although it can also be played no limit or pot limit also. Betting takes place in organized
betting rounds, with a clockwise betting order. Limit games have structured betting, which basically means that the bet amounts are
predetermined, and depending upon house rules, betting is limited to either a bet and three raises or a bet and four raises on any given
betting round. Over the course of a Razz hand, five betting rounds take place, one after each delivery of cards by the dealer. During
the first two betting rounds, a half sized bet, known as a “small bet,” is used. On the third through fifth betting round, a double
sized bet is used, which is known as a “big bet,” or a “large bet.”
The five betting rounds are often called “streets,” and are numbered corresponding with the number of cards each player has in his hand
at the time. Each time a new round of cards is dealt, a betting round follows. There is no first street or second street in a Razz game.
The first betting round takes place after the delivery of the three card starting hand, and is called “third street.” The second betting
round takes place after the delivery of each player’s fourth card, and is called “fourth Street,” The third betting round is “Fifth
Street,” and the fourth is “Sixth Street.” The fifth betting round, instead of being referred to as “seventh street,” is most commonly
called “the river.” When players are engaged in betting on a particular betting round, they are referred to as being “on” the corresponding
street. A player’s up cards, specifically fourth street, fifth street, and sixth street, are also commonly referred to by their street names.
If you are already familiar with Stud, learning how to play Razz poker shouldn't be too difficult.
In Razz, just as in other types of Seven Card Stud, players must “ante up” before they receive a hand. This means that prior to the
start of each hand being dealt, each player posts a small amount of money, known as an “ante.” These antes are taken in by the dealer
and seed the pot. Once the antes are taken into the pot the dealer deals each player a three card “starting hand.” The starting hand
consists of two cards delivered face down followed by one card delivered face up. In Stud games, like Razz, players refer to their first
“up” card as their “door card.” In Razz, the player with the highest door card is called the “opener,” and is required to “bring it in.”
The bring in is a forced wager, which means that by rule, the player who opens must bet, and may not check or muck in the alternative.
Typically, there are two options for the opener. They may either bring it in for a minimum amount, or they may “complete” the bet to the
full amount of the small bet. The opening bet is the only time you will see a forced bet in Razz, and the opener is under no further
obligation to call if his opening wager is raised or completed. After the betting is opened on third street, the betting rotates
clockwise from the opener. Fourth Street begins with the delivery of a fourth card, face up, to every player. At this point, the
criterion for who starts the betting changes now and for the remainder of the hand. Now, it is the lowest ranked (best) combination of
up cards which starts the betting. There is no forced bet other than on third street, so the player with the lowest board may bet or
check, whatever their preference. After the conclusion of the fourth street betting round, Fifth Street is delivered, face up, to each
player. This is the third betting round, so the large bet is now used. Again, the best (lowest valued) combination of up cards on board
establishes first action. It is possible that this will be the same player who started the action on Fourth Street, or a completely
different player. It is a characteristic of stud games that you cannot be sure about where your position in the betting order will lie
from street to street. Sixth Street brings each player’s fourth and final up card, and the fourth betting round. The final card, “The
River,” is delivered face down and is followed by the final round of betting. When the betting is concluded, the players holding live
hands show them down so that a winner may be determined.
When learning how to play Razz poker, players must always remember that it is a lowball game, which means that the lowest valued hand
takes the pot. The rules of Razz state that high cards, pairs, sets, full houses, and four of a kinds count against you, straights and
flushes do not. Therefore, you needn’t consider the impact of cards that lead to the completion of a straight or flush in your hand, they
are ignored. Your only concern is that you make a lower ranked five card combination than your opponents. Cards which have paired may not
be double counted, and aces always are counted as low cards. This means that 5-4-3-2-A, commonly referred to as a “Wheel,” is the nut
lowest hand possible. Hands are typically read from the highest card to the lowest, as this makes it easiest to decipher who has the lowest
valued holding at showdown. For instance, if a player held A-3-3-5-6-9-J, their hand would be read as 9-6-5-3-A.
Now that you understand how to play Razz poker, it is a good idea to test out your knowledge with some small stakes online Razz poker
games before playing for big money.