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Razz Poker

Razz is a lowball variation of seven-card stud poker; in fact it is often simply called 'seven-card stud low'. If you already know how to play stud poker, razz should be easy to learn because it has exactly the same betting/dealing structure as seven-card stud. The thing that really sets razz apart from stud poker is the ‘lowball’ system of hand rankings. Under lowball rules, the best razz hands are those that would traditionally be the worst. Since straights and flushes are not used in razz, the best hand is A2345 (any suits) which is known as the wheel. Whether you are looking for a totally new game, or just a change from your traditional stud routine, razz might be the perfect game for you. Today, razz can be found in many online poker rooms, and even some casinos have razz tables.

Rules for Playing Razz Poker

Razz can accommodate up to six players, but as few as two can play at a time. As we go through these basic rules, we’ll be assuming that we are playing $2/$4 fixed limit, aces to five razz. Before play can begin, all players must pay an ante. This is a small fee, $1 in this case, that is contributed to the pot. Players who do not post an ante are not dealt cards and must sit out for the hand. After all antes have been paid, the dealer can go on. Starting to the dealers left, each player is dealt three cards. One of these cards is face-up, and the other two are face-down ‘hole cards’. Each player is free to examine their own hole cards, as well the face up cards of their opponents.

Once these first cards have been dealt, all of the face-up cards on the table are compared. The player with the highest face-up card must post the ‘bring in’. If two or more players are tied for the highest card, then you must inspect their cards’ suits. Here are the suits ranked from highest to lowest.

  • - Spades
  • - Hearts
  • - Diamonds
  • - Clubs
  • K is the highest card possible when assigning bring in's.

The ‘bring in’ is usually worth 1/3 to ½ of the size of the low limit. In our $2/$4 game, the ‘bring in’ would cost $1. Once the ‘bring in’ has been paid, the first round of betting opens up and players bet, one at a time, clockwise around the table starting with the player to the left of the ‘bring in’. The first bettor can choose to either call the ‘bring in’ by wagering the same low ($1) bet, or they can complete it by raising it to the low limit ($2).

All of the players can simply call the ‘bring in’ until it is completed. If one player completes the ‘bring in’ by betting $2, then the following players can either call, or raise in $2 increments. Since we are playing with fixed limits, there is a maximum of three total raises in any given round of betting. Players can choose to fold their cards and withdraw at any point in the game, and if only one player is left in the game, then they are awarded the pot.

When each player has either folded, or bet as much as every other player, then the round comes to a close, and the dealer gives each player another face-up card and the cycle continues. There are a total of five betting rounds, each taking place directly after each card has been dealt. The first two rounds use the low limit ($2) while the final three rounds use the high ($4) limit to designate the minimum bet and required raise. When the dealer finally deals the seventh card, it is dealt face-down, and in the end, each player should have three face-down hole cards, and four face-up cards. There is one final round of betting after each player receives his or her seventh card. If more than one player is still in the game after this round, then the players must show their best five-card razz hand, and the winner takes the pot. Keep reading to learn what makes a ‘good razz hand’ as we explain the hand rankings.

Understanding Razz Hand Rankings

The goal in razz poker is to get the lowest possible hand. Basically you want to take what you know about traditional poker hand rankings, and reverse them. In normal ‘Aces to Five razz’, straights and flushes do not count against you, but combinations like pairs, three of a kind, and four of a kind do give you a high hand which is not good. Ideally, you want to be able to put together a five-card hand of unique, low cards. As mentioned before, the best razz hand (aka "The Wheel") is A2345.

If you find that two or more players are playing hand without any repeating ranks, there is a very simple process you can use to determine who’s hand is lowest. The first step is to look at every player’s highest card. The lowest high card automatically wins. If two players have the same high cards, then you move on to see who has the lowest the second-highest cards. You can keep going down the line until there is a clear winner, but if two or more players share the same hand, then they must split the pot. Here’s and example hand to show you how this is done.

Player Final Hand High Card 2nd Highest
Jack A 2 3 7 8
Jill A 4 9 T K
Thomas 3 3 6 7 J
Mike 3 4 5 6 8

In the example above, the first thing we see is that Thomas has a pair (3 3). Since no other players have a pair (or higher) he automatically has the highest hand and is eliminated. When we look at the remaining three players' highest cards it becomes obvious that Jill's K is the highest so she is also eliminated. Jack and Mike both have 8's, so we need to go to their second highest cards. Mike's 6 is lower than Jack's 7, so Mike wins and takes the whole pot.

London Lowball

One popular version of razz, particularly in Europe, is London Lowball. This game closely resembles the traditional version of razz that we discussed above, but there are a couple of differences. First of all, in London Lowball straights and flushes do count against you! This means the wheel (A2345) would register as a straight: a relatively high hand that would normally lose. The best hand in London Lowball is the A2346 (non-suited).

Also the betting limits in London Lowball are rarely fixed. Normally London Lowball utilizes pot limits. This means the maximum size of your bet is equal to the size of the current pot. To calculate the pot, take the sum of all previous bets, and add on the amount you would need to bet to call the current bet. This total is the maximum bet you may place, and as the pot increases so does the betting maximum. After five rounds of betting, a London Lowball game can have a very large pot.

Deuces To Seven Razz

While explaining razz above, we were assuming that you would be playing under ‘aces to five’ rules. The only other popular option to this is ‘deuces to seven’. In deuces to seven razz, straights and flushes count against you (as in London Lowball), and Aces are high. Because of these two small changes, the best hand in deuces to seven, as the name suggests, is 23457 (non suited). Use the same technique to determine the winning hand (looking at the high cards), but keep an eye out for straights, flushes, and remember that aces are high!