Seven Card Razz is probably one of the most frustrating game in all of poker. A lowball variant of Seven Card Stud, the objective to Razz is to make the worst possible hand. Players all over the globe have had the “joy” of starting off perfect in a Razz hand and then have it go the wrong direct and lose. With the growing popularity of HORSE and other mixed poker games, it is important that well rounded poker players learn this game. Today we will go over how to play Razz poker.
Razz poker is a variant of Stud. As such, the game is played eight-handed and in a limit format. For the sake of those new to limit, this means that bets and raises are in specific bet increments and there is a limit to the number of raises in a hand. Typically this limit is a bet and three raises. The only exception is when the hand is heads-up. Then there are unlimited raises. The exception the heads-up rule is in a tournament where there are limits on heads-up raises to prevent chip dumping.
Before the start of each hand in Razz, each player puts up a pre-determined ante amount. In a game of $2-$4 Razz, the ante would be .50. After the antes are posted, the first three cards are dealt. In all Stud variants, the deal starts in seat one and continues around to seat eight. Each player is dealt three cards initially, with two cards face down and one face up. This is known as a door card. The highest card showing is then the bring-in bet. In the event that two players have the same rank card, the highest suited card brings it in. Suits are ranked from low to high alphabetically. They are clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades. A bring-in bet is a forced bet that starts the betting and is typically double the ante. The bring-in bet also has the option to complete the bet to the small bet amount, or $2 in the above example. A completion is not a raise, it is what the term implies and that is the completion of a bet. After the high card brings it in, action continues around the table clockwise.
Once third street betting is completed, a fourth card is dealt to each player face up. This is fourth street. From this point until the river, the player with the lowest hand showing opens the bet. In the case where two players are showing the same rank of hand, the player closest to the dealer starts the action. All betting on fourth street is done in the big bet amount. Also, no double bets are allowed on fourth street in Razz on an open pair. Since the object is to make the worst hand, this regular Stud rule is discarded.
Once fourth street betting is finished, a fifth card is dealt to every player. This is fifth street and now the betting limits have doubled to the big bet amount. ($4 from the above example.) Once action is completed on fifth street, a sixth card is dealt to each player. This is referred to as sixth street. Note that the player that opens on sixth street will also open on the river. After sixth street betting is completed, the last card is dealt to each player face down. One final betting round then occurs on the river and then showdown. The player with the worst five card hand takes the pot.
In regards to determining the worst hand, the only thing that matters in the game is the rank of the cards. Suits are irrelevant. Straights do not disqualify a hand and the high card in the straight determines what hand they have. If someone has 4-5-6-7-8, they have eight high. Another example involving ranking of hands is if someone has A-2-3-4-5 of hearts and someone has A-K-K-Q-Q. The player with wheel will win. The wheel is five high where as the other player has two pair. Also, in the case that players at showdown have a pair as their best hand, the player with the lowest pair wins. Also, aces play low only. As such, a pair of aces beats a pair of deuces. Think of blackjack where an ace may be a one or eleven. In Razz an ace is one only.
Learning how to play Razz poker will be a test in patience. The game requires picking strong low starting hands and then the ability to get away from them when you fail to improve or someone improves better than you. There is more material on how to play the game available online and Mitchell Cogert has a good beginners book on how to play Razz poker. Take the time to learn how to play properly and you will be well on your way to expanding your poker game.