HORSE is a mixture of five games. Razz is unique in that it is the only pure lowball game in the five game mix. Razz is the first of the three Stud games and is much hated by many players, so do not be surprised if suddenly three of the players find reasons to walk away from the table when this placard is flipped over.
Razz is dealt as Seven Card Stud with the exception that the worst five card hand scoops the pot. Flushes and straights do not count against you. Because of this the wheel, 5-4-3-2-A, is the best possible Razz hand regardless of suits even if it is a miracle straight flush.
Razz is also one of the few HORSE games where bluffing is a major strategy in the game. It is very difficult for a person showing a terrible board with a few broadway cards to call down versus a player showing wheel cards. The person with the better showing board can often take down the pot if he bets based on the strength of his visible board instead of the strength of his entire hand.
The following is an extreme version of the first bluff you can run in Razz. It shows how bad a hand you can have still have a mandatory bluff. There are $5 in antes when the bring-in enters the pot; two players fold. This bluff is so automatic, that many times the Queen and King will fold out of turn as soon as the action is on the Ace. Just raise and take this down.
Razz is considered very frustrating because there is little mystery about what cards helps or hurt your hand. You might have started with the best possible Razz hand, A-2-3, but when the board runs out bad you just must fold:
In the above situation once you have paired and then caught bad, if Villain has any reasonable hole cards, he has you crushed. For instance, if he has a Trey and Six in the hole and you are losing as an 80%-20% dog. Even if Villain had Seven and Five for a pair he has a 60%-40% advantage. Villain could hold the ridiculous King and Ten for a terrible starting hand and he is still a favorite. Villain basically needs two pair or trips to be behind you at this point. Just fold.
A simple algorithm once you get to fifth street is to ask yourself who has the best five card hand? Assume his two hole cards are the perfect low cards for his hand. With that same assumption, ask yourself who has the better draw. The person with the best draw can be winning on sixth street if he catches good. Answering these two questions will let you know where you are on the chart below.
Notice that if one player has the best hand and best draw that the action is very clear: there should be a bet and a fold from the player with the worst hand and worst draw. When one player has the best hand, and the other has the best draw it is less clear what to do. Clearly the best hand should bet, but if he meets resistance, it might be better to just call because the draw likely has the advantage.
In the below hand, the draw raises because if he has any reasonable hole cards, he can see that his smooth King is very likely to outdraw the rough Nine. While the Nine is ahead right now, even with two perfect cards it can only improve to a “seven perfect.” The smooth King can catch a single card, Deuce, Five of Seven to take the lead on Sixth or Seventh street.
Remember that this is a game of relative strength, there are times when you know your opponent is drawing stone dead. They always must use at least two of their up cards. Sometimes on sixth street you know that your full hand can beat their two best board cards – even if they have perfect hole cards and a perfect river. This is a beautiful thing, especially when your opponent is betting and raising. Yes, people make these fundamental errors in Razz an amazing amount of the time!
In summary, stick with the strong starting hands shown in the guide. After the big decision on 5th street, the last two streets are relatively straightforward to play. Just remember to bet based on the apparent strength of your board, especially when the other player is catching bad. They don’t know when good looking cards like a Trey paired your hole card on fourth street. Just bet it out, especially when they catch apparent bad cards like Jacks.
Here is another article on Razz from our friends at PokerVIP.com