A lowball variant of 7 Card Stud, Razz Poker has steadily grown in popularity within live poker venues since the game was first included among the World Series of Poker events in 1971. However, Razz Poker remained largely absent from online poker sites
until 2004, when ESPN broadcast the WSOP Razz final table, igniting interest in the stud low form among internet poker enthusiasts. Now, online Razz Poker cash games and tournaments are imminently metamorphosing into a standard offering at web-based poker rooms.
Played in exactly the same fashion as 7 Card Stud, each Razz Poker player's objective is to attain the lowest possible hand. Since the basic rules of Razz Poker relegate Aces to the lowest card value in the deck, and ignore the standard value of straights and flushes, the best possible hand one can attain in a game of Razz is 5-4-3-2-A (also called 5-High, or "the wheel"). However, Razz can also be played as a "deuce to 7" lowball game, giving straights and flushes their normal, high ranking.
Played with antes instead of blinds, Razz Poker is dealt in the same manner as its parent form, 7 Card Stud. Each player receives two, face-down hole cards, and one face-up card. A forced bet - called the bring-in - is often implemented in Razz Poker, requiring the player with the highest ranking exposed card to open the first betting round by posting a minimum bet, regardless of the action they choose to take.
The next three cards that each player receives are dealt face-up, with a betting cycle implemented between the distribution of each round of cards. The seventh, and final, card is dealt face-down, giving each active player a total of three private cards hidden from the view of their opponents. If the hand goes to showdown, the player with the lowest ranking hand wins the pot. Generally, in the case of a tie, the pot is split evenly between the players.
As with many poker forms, there is no record of the first instance of Razz Poker being played, though this lowball variant is certain to have made its inaugural appearance soon after the introduction of 7 Card Stud Poker
. In 1971, Limit Razz was one of four preliminary events added to the second annual World Series of Poker; the $10,000 first place prize won by prominent WSOP regular, Jimmy Casella. Though the following WSOP - like the first - was absent of any preliminary events, as of 1973, Razz has been a recurring fixture in every subsequent World Series of Poker affair.
While Razz Poker's prominence among casino poker enthusiasts was fueled by its continued presence in the annual WSOP, the televised final table of the 2004 WSOP 7 Card Razz event was the catalyst that sparked interest among internet poker players. The $1,500 buy-in tournament was won by TJ Cloutier in a pivotal game that effectively generated the demand for Razz Poker to be added to the game selection of the most heavily trafficked online poker
sites. Razz Poker tournaments and cash games can now be found at nearly every sufficiently active online poker room
While Razz Poker is very easy to learn and play, the game is widely regarded as one which skilled poker players
have the greatest edge at. With most of the deck dealt out in the course of a fully-seated hand, poker players with well-honed observational and mathematical skills tend to dominate Razz Poker in both tournament and ring game structures.