There’s a kind of cognitive poker dissonance at the Rio at present. The “Big One” of the 52nd annual Main Event is now in the rear-view mirror, and yet hundreds of poker players are still contesting substantial prizes as the series trundles towards the completion of 88 bracelet events.
The motivations for these players, many of whom have been playing non-stop poker for seven weeks, cover a wide spectrum. For some, an event like the $10k Razz Championship is a “summer saver:” an opportunity to get unstuck from all the buy-ins earlier in the series that failed to produce a significant cash. (Given the unique timing of this year’s series, “fall saver” would be more appropriate, but nobody is using that because it does not alliterate.)
Others, like Phil Hellmuth, are searching for one more bracelet to add to their astounding tally. Yet another consideration is the player of the year title. And some simply love playing the game against the world’s best. But don’t you have to be pretty desperate to slap down $10k to play Razz?
In the seventy-eighth event of the series, 109 players were quite happy to do just that, thereby creating a prize pool of $1,016,425. Like the recently-concluded Event #74, the Razz Championship required a day of overtime to complete. When it was finally in the books, Benny Glaser won his fourth bracelet and the first prize of $274,693.
Now you hazz Razz
The name of the game, which is played as seven-card stud low, suggests it can test the patience of players. In common parlance, “razz” means to tease, usually in a somewhat friendly way. The game teases, but one can argue whether or not it’s friendly.
In hold’em, if you start with AA you are guaranteed to have AA by the end of the hand. While not a sure winner, you still have some hand strength. Contrast this with Razz. The perfect start is A23 and is less common than being dealt pocket aces in hold’em. But the subsequent board run-out can leave a player with something completely useless like three pair.
The etymology of the name leads to further questions as to whether this is a sensible game for adults. Razz is an American word that derives from raspberry, which in turn comes from the Cockney rhyming slang “raspberry tart,” abbreviated as is conventional to just the leading word, and meaning “fart.”
The term came into common U.S. usage no later than 1919, which roughly coincides with the earliest record of seven-card stud low being played. That the pioneering practitioners chose to name the game after a flatulent phoneme likely reflects their frustrations with the variant.
Heads-up for the bracelet
Phil Hellmuth and Erik Seidel were among the notables who ran deep in this event. Hellmuth scored yet another cash in a hugely-successful 2021 WSOP campaign, just pipped by Seidel in seventh. John Monnette is also having a spectacular series, with six cashes prior to this event, including a bracelet in Event #16. His elimination in third set up the heads-up showdown between Benny Glaser and Everett Carlton.
The final two faced off earlier at the end of Day 3, with Glaser in a commanding chip position. Carlton fought back, setting up today’s overtime. In the first large pot of the day, Glaser extended that lead, but Carlton again refused to lie down, pulling the chip counts back to even.
His face housed in a contraption derived from the apparel of post-surgery cats, it looked like Carlton would use the momentum to win his first WSOP bracelet. But the tides turned once more, and on the final hand Glaser’s nine-six got underneath Carlton’s ten-eight to give him the title and his fourth WSOP bracelet.
Featured image source: Haley Hintze/Poker.org