Razz Poker is a variety of 7-card stud that has become one of the more popular poker variants that exists. As opposed to most traditional poker games, which see the person with the highest-ranking cards win the showdown, razz sees the person with the lowest-ranking hand win the pot.
This game is, in many ways, similar to Omaha hi/lo and Texas Hold’em, but differs slightly when it comes to determining the winning hand and the way in which cards are dealt. The biggest difference is the fact that all players in a game of razz are dealt 7 cards, which is more than the 4 dealt in Omaha and the 2 dealt in Hold’em. With these 7 cards, players are asked to put together the best possible 5-card low combination.
Razz utilizes the California system for ranking low hands, which means that straights and flushes do not count against a hand and that the Ace is always the low card. Understanding this, it should be made clear that the best possible hand in razz is 5, 4, 3, 2, A.
Gameplay – Razz Rules
Right from the offing, the game of razz differs from most other poker variants because it forces all players at the table to ante (place a forced bet before receiving any cards). In other forms of poker, the big and small blinds are the only forced bets. Once everyone has offered up their ante, players are dealt 3 hole cards. 2 of the hole cards will be placed in front of the player face-down, while the remaining 3rd card will be face-up.
The player who holds the highest-ranking face-up hole card is determined to be the “bring-in”, and is the person who begins the betting action. The size of this bet depends on the type of game you are playing. If you are playing a $5/$10 game of razz, a player can opt to be the full low amount or, in this case, $5. Once everyone has had a chance to either bet or fold, all remaining active players are dealt a 4th hole card, known as the 4th street. Like 1/3 of your first three hole cards, the 4th street is dealt to player face-up.
Once everyone has received their 4th card, the person with the lowest-ranking exposed hand is tasked with beginning the betting action. At this juncture, the person who is set to place a wager can either place a bet or check, passing the action to the next person. If a bet is made, it will be the small bet. Continuing the previous example, the wager would be $5.
After this round of betting, active players are then awarded their 5th hole card face-up; this card is known as the 5th street. As it was in the previous round, the person whose hand is the strongest (lowest) is who begins the betting action. For example, if there are only 2 remaining players and one of them has a 7-high hand and the other has a hand consisting of a pair of 8s and a Q, the person with 7-high would commence betting. At this juncture, any bets or raises made would have to be of the higher increment. Continuing the running example, any wager made in a $5/$10 game would have to be in increments of $10.
Finally, after this round of betting, each player is awarded a 4th face-up card, known as the 6th street. Just as it was following the 5th street, betting begins with the person who boasts the strongest face-up hand.
The 7th street, or river, is given out next, and yet one more round of betting begins. The 7th street is dealt face-down and is known only to the player whom it is given to. One final round of betting takes place and, if any players remain, the showdown is reached and players reveal their best possible 5-card hands.
Other Rules Worth Knowing
In razz, there are a few situations that may be confusing if you do not take the time to learn the game’s finer details. With regard to the initial bring-in, which is determined by the person with the highest-ranking face-up card, a tie is broken by the card’s suit. Suit rankings as it relates to the bring-in are as follows, from strongest to weakest: spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. So, for example, if one player possesses the K♥, and the other player holds the K♣, and King is the highest showing card, the player holding the K♥ will be awarded the bring-in.
If, during the 3rd street round, a player’s ante forces them all in, the bring-in bet will move clockwise to the next active player regardless of the ranking of his or her high card.
Because razz is played with up to 8 players, there exists a small likelihood that a round will reach the 7th street without enough cards to be dealt to everyone still playing. In this instance, one face-up community card will be laid on the table for players who have not received a 7th street to share.
Razz Poker: A Brief History
As is the case with most poker games, razz was nothing more than a byproduct of the still-popular 7 card stud game. Being that razz would not exist without 7 card stud, it is only right that we talk about razz’s history as it relates to its parent variant.
Though the exact date of razz’s origins are not agreed upon, 1971 is the year razz became well-known by players around the world thanks to it making an appearance at the World Series of Poker. Initially, razz was a hit amongst 7 card stud players who gravitated towards the new game due to its striking similarities to the aforementioned game.
When online poker became increasingly common in the 1990s, razz was often overlooked by sites who instead opted to only offer the most popular forms of poker, such as Hold’em and Omaha. By the time the early 2000s rolled around, however, razz was being seen added to online casinos rapidly. Still, even to this day razz is overlooked by many online sites because it is not regarded as one of the most popular poker variants. With each passing year, that much seems to change though.