Razz Rules and Basic Strategy

Rules of the Game

Razz is a Seven Card Stud Lowball game where the best hand is A2345.  Suits and straights do not count against you.  On the surface it is a somewhat simplistic game, yet there are many nuances that an expert can master to extract more profit in various situations.

“Old school” Razz is played eight handed with moderately sized antes. The vast majority of those pots are contested by a few players starting with mostly legitimate hands consisting of three cards eight or lower.  Play is much more straightforward and in most cases the better board will win as someone catching bad will often exit the hand early as his opponent typically has a strong range.

Six handed online games with higher antes plays significantly different and is a much more interesting and challenging version.  Ante stealing with a high card is much more prevalent thus defending appropriately with less than stellar hands becomes a much more important skill to master.  Then as the hand progresses one cannot fold as quickly to stronger boards because your opponent often has at least one high card in the hole.

Basic Strategy

With many low cards left to act behind you typically need a legit three card to an eight to contest the pot.  Card removal means a lot in this game.  If you hold a hand such as (47)6, there is a huge difference if you look around and see many cards out that you need (aces, deuces, threes, fives, and eights) as opposed to those that will pair you.

If you have a legitimate hand and the cards out benefit you should complete the bet. However, if the cards out are bad your hand is marginal thus limping becomes an option and it is usually correct to fold to a few raises behind you.  Occasionally you can balance this action by limp re-raising very strong hands.

When there are two or fewer low cards behind you can try some steals with a high card in the hole.  Your opponents will realize this is a possibility and will often re-raise you with any playable hand of their own, which doesn’t always contain three cards lower than an eight.  Thus you must often continue on and see 4th street even when you have a less than stellar hand yourself.  Always folding semi-steals such as (J4)5 will set you up to be too easily exploitable.  A hand such as (44)5 may be slightly better than (K4)5 as the king will never usually play and when you hold an extra four it is a blocker against your opponent catching that card and if he does you have the knowledge that it was not likely to pair him which can end up saving you money.

One of the biggest leaks in the game by beginners is defending your high card bring-in too often.  Kings and queens should not be defended even heads-up unless the game is full, the ante is high, and the bring-in is half of the completing bet. Defending jacks and tens is also a mistake in multi-way pots.  You are getting very good pot odds but the chance you will win the hand is going down faster than the size of the pot is going up.  Everyone needs to brick out on 4th street just for you to catch up.  This means that you will not often realize your equity and if you try to to too often you will face reverse implied odds.

Further Learning

Sklansky on Poker
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02/18/2024 10:38 pm GMT

Sklansky on Poker by David Sklansky,  (Rating 9/10) – This is an older book that has a very large chapter on “Old School” Razz.  This book will teach you how to play eight handed games with a normal sized ante more or less perfectly.  However, in more aggressive higher ante six max games following the advice will probably make you hit the fold button too often which is why it doesn’t receive the highest rating.  However, it remains the best possible resource available to get initiated with the game of Razz.