Found primarily in larger online poker rooms
, Razz Poker
is a recurring event at the annual World Series of Poker. Additionally, Razz poker is a crucial component to the mixed game, HORSE, elevating the importance of learning this variant for any poker player
who intends to develop a well-rounded game knowledge.
Essentially a low form of 7 Card Stud
, issuing victory to the lowest hand rather than the highest, Razz Poker rules are very similar to its parent game. Played with a 52-card deck, up to eight players may participate at a Razz Poker table, though special rules for the last card will be employed in the rare case that there are not enough cards to deal the final round.
Unlike most Hi/Lo variants, basic Razz Poker rules do not feature an "eight or better" rule. Aces are always considered low, and straights and flushes are ignored unless otherwise indicated (such as in a home game). The best possible Razz Poker hand one can achieve is 5-4-3-2-A, called the "wheel". Pairs, three-of-a-kind, and full houses retain their normal hand ranking value.
Stud games - including Razz Poker - are played with antes, as opposed to blinds. Generally, Razz is played with a Limit betting structure, and the ante is commonly a percentage of the small bet - the exact amount may vary depending upon the venue and stakes. Every participating player must contribute an ante to the pot before they can be dealt into the hand.
With the pot established by each player's ante, the dealer first distributes to each player two cards, face-down. These private hole cards will not be revealed to opponents unless the player remains an active participant to the end of the final round. Each player then receives a third card, upturned for all players see. Called "Third Street," this card will determine who acts first.
Razz Poker home games often do not employ a "bring-in" (described below), prompting the player with the lowest card to act first - check, bet, or fold. However, the use of a bring-in modifies the Razz Poker rules on the subject of who has the first action in the initial betting round (see below). Without a bring-in, if two or more players show the same lowest card, the first of those players to the left of the dealer will instigate the round.
Online poker sites
and brick-and-mortar casinos, that actually offer Razz Poker cash games or tournaments, implement a forced bet called a bring-in. Typically half the size of the small betting limit, the bring-in is paid by the player who possess the highest - and therefore worst - exposed card. The player who incurs the bring-in may pay either the bring-in amount, or complete the bet with a full, small limit wager. This act opens the betting round.
The next player, clockwise from the bring-in, may call the current wager, even if the minimum bring-in was issued. In fact, until someone raises the stakes to the small bet, the bring-in amount may be called by each successive player without ever increasing to the low limit. If the bring-in is raised to the small bet, in accordance with Limit betting rules, any subsequent raises must be made in increments of the small bet.
When players tie for the opening card in Razz Poker with bring-in rules, suit rank is used to determine which hand is highest. Suits are ranked, highest to lowest, spades, hearts diamonds, clubs (reverse alphabetical order). The King of Spades is the highest possible Third Street card one can receive, and will always pay the Razz Poker bring-in.
Once every player who still has an active hand in the game has contributed an equal stake to the pot, the "Fourth Street" card is dealt to each player, face-up. From this point on, all betting rounds will begin with the player showing the lowest (best) hand. Because the bring-in is only paid on the first round, ties are no longer settled by suit. If two or more players tie with the two lowest exposed cards, the one nearest the left of the dealer button acts first.
Each player may check, bet the small limit or fold, until a player opens the bet with a wager. If that occurs, players may either call the bet, raise the amount of the small limit, or fold. The betting round ends when each player has either submitted an equal stake to the pot, or folded their cards.
The next card is also dealt face-up for all opponents to see. This is the fifth card, referred to as "Fifth Street." At this point in the hand, the stakes shift to the big bet. The player who acts first may check, bet the higher limit amount, or fold. Raises will also be confined to the higher limit from here on out.
With the third betting round completed, all players who are still active in the hand receive their "Sixth Street" card face-up. Another betting round ensues, with the same rules as the previous cycle, with any bets and raises being made at the big bet level.
If the game has not yet ended with all but one player folding their hand, players receive their final card face-down. Players will still be showing the same hand they had in the last round, which means unless that player folded in the previous betting round, the same player will be first to act. Again, bets and raises must be in the higher limit amount.
Note: Occasionally, the deck may not have enough cards left to complete the Seventh Street deal. This happens in eight-handed games of Razz Poker, where an insufficient number of players have folded; causing the use of more cards than a typical game among reasonably experienced players would require. When this occurs, the Seventh Street card is dealt as a community card, face-up, in the center of the table.
Once all bets have been equalized, the players actively remaining in the hand participate in a showdown. Unlike games such as Texas Hold'em
, where the player's final cards are revealed simultaneously, in Razz Poker - and other Stud games - the last player to open or raise the bet must reveal their cards first. In clockwise order, each successive player takes a turn, choosing to either reveal their cards, or muck them unseen if the player is certain they have been beaten by the current prevailing hand.
The lowest hand is determined first by the highest card value a player has, followed by the next highest, and so on. For players new to Razz Poker, it can be confusing at first to determine the lowest hand. Lining up the cards from highest to lowest can simplify this process. Interpreting a hand of 9-8-3-2-A as 98,321 will help. When compared to a hand of 9-7-4-2-A, reading it as 97,421 will quickly put the 9-7-4-2-A hand into a clearer perspective as being of lower numerical value, and therefore, the better Razz Poker hand.
However, if there is a pair (such as 5-4-2-2-A), the hand is ranked higher - and therefore worse - than any King-high hand that has no pairs. Such a hand should instead be arranged 2-2-5-4-A, with the pair of deuces being the highest value in the hand. If no other player manages to form a hand lower than one pair of deuces, the hand will prevail and that player wins the pot.
In the case of identical winning Razz Poker hands, the pot is to be evenly divided between each of the tied players. Neither a sixth card, nor suit ranking is ever used to settle a tie in Razz Poker.