Razz Poker Rules – Master the Basics

While Texas Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha may be the two most popular poker variations these days, they are certainly not the only ones you will find in live and online poker rooms around the world. 

Razz poker is one of the less popular but very interesting games that is not played too often as a standalone but is a regular part of mixed games tournaments and cash games, especially at the highest levels. 

You will find Razz poker tournaments at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) every year, as well as online at poker sites like PokerStars, while HORSE and 8-Game cash games that include this game can be found in poker rooms in all corners of the world. 

So, if you want to be a great all-around poker player, you will need to master Razz poker rules and understand how this game differs from other poker variations. To get started, let’s take a look at the most basic Razz poker rules and the way the game is dealt and played. 

Basic Razz Poker Rules – The Goal of the Game

Razz is a variation of Seven Card Stud, which means it is a game played without any community cards and with each player dealt a total of seven hole cards instead. 

Like in other forms of poker, players are looking to make the best five-card poker hands, except for the fact Razz is a “lo” game, which means the best hand is actually the worst. 

Poker hand rankings are inverted in the game of Razz, which means the worst possible cards are the best, and the best cards are the worst. Your goal in Razz poker is to have the lowest cards possible, with A2345 being the absolute nuts. 

We are going to take a look at the Razz poker hand rankings in more detail a bit later, along with things you should be aware of. Before we do that, let’s take a look at how Razz poker is played and what each hand looks like in action. 

A close-up image of a hand of Razz poker cards spread out on a green felt table, showcasing the unique gameplay and strategy of this intriguing variation of Seven Card Stud, where players aim to form the lowest possible five-card poker hand, with A2345 being the ultimate goal, against a backdrop of poker chips and players' hands.

Looking for an opportunity to play some Razz? Check out Cardplayer Lifestyle’s upcoming Mixed Game Festival!

Antes, Bring In, and the Third Street in Razz Poker

Before a hand of poker can begin, some forced bets must be put into the pot to get the action started. If you are a Texas Hold’em player transitioning into Razz, you will immediately notice that the “blinds” are not in play in Razz. 

Instead of posting the blinds, players at the Razz table post ante bets, with each player forced to post one ante bet to start the hand. 

Once the antes are all in the pot, the dealer deals the first three hole cards to each of the players, with two hole cards facing down and one hole card facing up. 

The player with the highest (worst) card showing is forced to post the bring-in, another forced bet that will drive the action for the duration of the hand. 

At this point, the player with the best Razz hand (lowest showing card) will act first and is allowed to complete the bet or raise it up to make it two bets to go. 

Razz poker is played in a limit format, which means all betting must happen in increments of one bet at a time. The small bet is used as the betting increment on the third and fourth streets, while the big bet is used on later streets. 

Further Betting Rounds in Razz Poker

Once all players have acted on their hands on third street, the dealer will give each player another hole card, face up. The fourth street betting round comes next. 

On the fourth street, the player with the lowest hand exposed will act first, and this will be the theme for all remaining betting rounds. So, you can expect the order in which players act to change quite a bit from one street to the next. 

On fourth street, players will once again bet in increments of one small bet, with up to four bets allowed per betting street. 

When all fourth street betting is done, another hole card is dealt to all remaining players, with each player now holding five cards, three of them facing up. 

During the fifth street, all bets will be made in increments of one big bet, which means the price of poker doubles from this street forward. Once again, the player with the highest up-card goes first. 

The same action happens on sixth street, as players receive another up-card and are once again given a chance to bet their hands. 

Finally, the final card is dealt to each player face down, and the seventh street starts. All the same rules apply during seventh street. Once all betting is completed, the dealer announces a showdown, with players exposing their hole cards and comparing their hands. 

Player Actions in Razz Poker

On each of the betting streets in Razz, poker players are given a variety of options they can utilize to act on their hands. 

Here is a short list of all the possible actions you can take in Razz poker, with a short explanation of when you can use them and what they do:

  • Complete: On third street, the player required to bring in can choose to complete the bet instead. Other players looking to enter the hand can also complete by posting one small bet. 
  • Call: Call the value of the current bet without putting more money into the pot. 
  • Fold: Throw your cards away and end your participation in the current hand. 
  • Raise: Raise the bet by one increment of one small or one big bet, depending on the betting street. 
  • Check: On betting streets past third street, pass the action to the next player without making any bets. 

As you can see, player actions in Razz poker are quite simple, and there aren’t too many to memorize. However, you can utilize these simple options in many different ways to create a highly entertaining and exciting poker game. 

Razz Hand Rankings – What Beats What?

If you are a player transitioning from any of the typical poker games played in most places, you will probably not be familiar with Razz poker hand rankings just yet. 

To begin with, you will need to forget all about typical poker hand rankings, as hands like one pair, two pair, straight, flush, or full house mean nothing in Razz. 

In fact, pairing up your cards is the worst possible thing you can do in Razz, while flush cards don’t matter at all, as the suits are not considered when evaluating hand strength. 

As previously mentioned, the goal of Razz poker is to make the lowest possible poker hand, which means A2345 is the best possible hand, not because it is a straight, but because it is made up of the five lowest possible unpaired cards. 

All hand comparisons are done by this same pattern in Razz poker, with your highest card being evaluated first and your lowest card last. 

So a hand like J432A still loses to 97654, despite the former being made up of many small cards. The highest card in the hand is a Jack, which loses to a Nine. 

To put it in short, here are the few main things you need to pay attention to in terms of hand rankings in Razz poker:

  • The lowest poker hand wins the pot.
  • Pairs count as high, with all unpaired cards counting as lower than paired cards.
  • Flushes and straights are not considered in Razz.
  • Your highest card is your first point of evaluation. If your highest card is higher than your opponent’s highest card, you lose!
  • Two players with the same hand split the pot, regardless of suits.
A detailed close-up image displaying Razz poker hand rankings, including explanations of how pairs, flushes, and straights are irrelevant, with emphasis on the importance of forming the lowest possible hand, against the backdrop of a vibrant green felt table.

Two of Phil Hellmuth’s seventeen WSOP bracelet victories have come from Razz tournaments.

How to Play Razz – Strategy Tips for Beginners

If you are completely new to Razz poker and have only just learned Razz rules, you will also need a few pointers in regard to poker strategy to get you started. 

Simply knowing how the game works doesn’t mean you know how to play it right, which is why we want to give you a few quick pointers that will take you the right way and help you at least hold your own against more experienced players. 

Let’s start with the basics!

Razz Poker Tip #1. Play Tight on Third Street

While many different approaches work in games like No Limit Hold’em or Pot Limit Omaha, where pure aggression can be the way to win, you will need to have some cards if you want to win in Razz. 

Razz poker is a game of patience where taking the good spots and avoiding the bad ones is the way to win, instead of bluffing or winning pots through pure aggression. 

The best starting hand in Razz poker is A23, but you will rarely be dealt such a strong hand to begin with. Yet, you don’t want to play too many hands that don’t have at least some of these cards in them. 

For the most part, if your hand is not made up of three cards lower than an 8, and you are playing in a full-ring Razz game, you can fold your cards right there on the third street.

If you are playing short-handed and a few players have already folded, you may try to get away with playing a hand that has a low card showing and two not-so-stellar cards in the hole, but with extreme care. 

Always fold hands that have a pair in them right away, as those are literally the worst starting hands you can possibly have, and you definitely don’t want to get involved with junk that will leave you chasing all the way down to seventh street. 

Razz Poker Tip #2. Steal the Antes Often

Like many other limit poker games, Razz is all about stealing the antes whenever you can, and you will do so by raising it up on third street and getting other players to fold. 

If you are holding a low up-card, and most of the other players have already folded, you will get a great chance to steal the antes even if your other two cards aren’t amazing. 

If the bring in does decide to call, you can always go ahead and keep up the aggression whenever you pick up a low card and they pick up a high one, even if the card you got paired you up. They don’t know that!

Stealing the antes and winning pots on fourth street is a big part of Razz poker, which is why many often consider the game to be somewhat uneventful. 

Razz Poker Tip #3. Know When to Stop Chasing

There will be times in Razz when you have a mediocre hand and you get involved trying to chase down a good hand by fifth street. 

This is all fine and dandy, as you only need to pay two small bets to get there, but once the big bets roll in, you need to make sure to get out of the way unless you have a really good Razz hand. 

By fifth street, you will already know how your odds are looking and what cards you are looking for, so make sure not to chase after miracles once the price of poker goes up. 

Razz Poker Tip #4. Remember the Folded Cards

When a hand of Razz starts, you will get to see up to eight door cards right away. Many of those will be folded right then and there, but these give you information you can use later in the hand. 

By knowing which cards were folded early and which are still potentially in the deck, you will be able to better gauge the odds of any draw you may have. 

For instance, if two players folded Fives on third street, and you need a Five to complete your Wheel, your odds go down quite significantly. 

Conversely, if you see a bunch of big cards get out of the way early on, you know that your odds of picking up the low cards you are looking for are that much higher. 

The top pros always know all the door cards that were folded on third street in every hand, and this helps them navigate Razz and other Stud games a lot better than amateurs. 

A beginner's guide to Razz poker strategy, offering essential tips for newcomers to grasp the game's nuances and compete effectively against seasoned players, against a background of green felt table.

Poker sites like PokerStars offer new players a chance to play Razz for low stakes.

Play Your First Hand of Razz Poker Today

Razz poker is definitely a game that’s been dying for some years, but that does not mean you can’t still learn it and capitalize on playing it in those situations it comes up. 

The biggest use you will get from learning how to play Razz well is that you will be able to win in Razz rounds of HORSE and 8-Game tournaments, as many other players won’t really know how to play this game that well. 

For all the low rollers out there, online poker operators like PokerStars offer a variety of low-stakes Razz tournaments on a daily basis, which is probably the best place to practice your Razz skills and learn how to beat this game when you play against better and more experienced players.

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