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How to Play the Game of Razz

by Shirley Rosario

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How To Play Razz PokerRazz is not the most well-known poker game, but it did get a burst of popularity from a few different things: ESPN's televised coverage of Dutch Boyd's pathetic heads-up play versus T.J. Cloutier during the 2004 World Series of Poker, online card rooms adding Razz to their online game selection, and the growing interest of players looking to expand their knowledge of a wide variety of games hoping to become an all-around great player. Whatever your reason for wanting to play Razz, your first step in learning the game is knowing how it's played.

Razz is dealt in the same format as Seven Card Stud, but instead of trying to make a 5-card high hand, players are trying to make the lowest (worst) 5-card hand possible. Straights and Flushes do not count against you and aces are always low. The lowest possible hand in Seven Card Razz is A2345, otherwise known as the wheel.

Stud and Razz tables are typically eight handed and the hand begins when the dealer deals the first card to the first player to the left and proceeds dealing in a clockwise motion. Three cards are dealt to start the action. The first two cards each player receives are dealt face down and the third card is dealt face up.

After the first three cards are dealt, the player with the bring-in starts the action. A bring-in is a forced bet and is typically half the small bet, so in a $2-4 game it would be $1. In Razz, the highest card by suit starts the action with the bring-in. This is one of the differences between Stud and Razz because in Stud it is the low card by suit that has the bring-in. Although players are forced to bring-in to start the action, they are not restricted to bet the bring-in amount. If their hand warrants and they so desire, they may bring-in for the full amount. On third and fourth street in fixed limit games, the bet is the lower limit and on later streets it is the higher amount.

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Once the high card brings-in, then the first player to the left of him can call, complete (if it hasn't been done already), raise or fold his hand. The action continues to the left with each player acting on his/her hand. Once all players have a chance to act on their hand, the fourth card is dealt to the players who haven't folded. This next round is called "fourth street" and is almost identical to the previous round ("third street"). The difference is that there is no bring-in and the low hand is the first person to act. Rarely two players have the same low hand, but if they are tied, the first player clockwise from the dealer starts the action. Fifth and Sixth street are dealt in the same manner as third and fourth, but the amount bet is the higher limit (as mentioned above). The action concludes with the dealer dealing the seventh and final card to all players remaining in the hand. This card is dealt face down. Once again, the player with the lowest hand showing is first to act and the action continues until all players have acted on their hands.

When all betting has concluded, the person that made the last bet/raise will be the first person to show their cards. The person to the left of him either shows his cards or mucks (throws the hand away). The person with the best five card low hand is declared the winner and all chips are pushed in his/her direction.

If you are looking to round out your knowledge of the most popular games, especially if you have intentions of joining the “HORSE” craze, understanding and adding Razz to your poker playing repertoire is a must. Playing a game still in its “online infancy”, most Razz practitioners in general still have a lot to learn, so join in the fun while the gettin' is good!

Learn Razz Poker on PokerStars.

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