Beginners Guide To Razz
Razz is a variation of 7-Card Stud in which players are aiming for the lowest possible poker hand rather than the highest. Each player is dealt a total of 7 cards, 3 that only you can see and 4 that are visible to all players. 5 of the 7 cards are used to determine the best hand at showdown. In Razz poker the best possible hand is A-2-3-4-5. This is known as a 'wheel'.
Before any cards are dealt all players post an ante which is usually a fraction of the starting bet. Each player is then dealt 3 cards, 1 (called the 'up-card') is visible to the table and the other 2 are private. The player with the highest up-card then posts a forced bet called the 'bring in' and betting continues clockwise around the table. A total of 4 more cards are then dealt to each player - the final card is also face-down to your opponents. At the start of each betting round the lowest cards showing act first, this means that it is possible for a different player to start the betting on each round. After the 5th card is dealt (known as '5th Street') the betting amount doubles.
Starting hand selection in Razz involves playing 3 low cards, the strongest starting hand being A-2-3. Generally speaking you should look for 3 cards below a 7 to start with, it may be possible to play higher cards if these are hidden from your opponents.
An important aspect of starting hand selection (and indeed throughout the hand) is to be aware of the cards that your opponents are showing on their up-card boards. If you see your own low cards duplicated by opponents this is positive. For example you have 3-4-6 to start and have seen 2 other 6's and a 4 in your opponent's hands. This means that you have less chance of catching a pair on 4th street - as your 5 card poker hand needs to be all different cards pairs are not helpful. This can also work against you, if several opponents are showing aces and 2's in the same hand you may already be behind - and your chances of hitting the cards you need to improve are reduced.
As the hand continues you need to keep an eye on your opponents cards, if you catch a 'brick' (high card) on 4th street and your opponents catch low cards then it can be a good idea to exit the hand early. If your opponents catch bad cards - for example a King or a showing pair - then you should bet into them, if they call then they are paying you to catch up in the hand.
Bluffing is an important aspect of playing Razz. If you have a very low card showing but high cards in the hidden part of your hand it may be possible to raise as a bluff. If you then catch other low cards on the next streets and bet into your opponents they may give you credit for a made low-hand and fold. This is particularly the case when opponents catch high cards themselves. If you are called in several places or raised then you must give up on the bluff quickly. The size of the pot compared to the bets on later streets will usually ensure that opponents will call.
Good luck at the tables!
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