Razz is one of the more unusual forms of poker offered at some American online poker sites. This is basically the low form of 7-Card Stud. Certainly, it is only going to be found in some of the best, top rated real money online poker sites. Razz can be a frustrating game and there are many professional players who think this is probably one of the most difficult forms of online poker to master.
Having said all of that, Razz has gained some national attention due to its being televised during major tournaments like the World Series of Poker. During the 2004 WSOP event, this game received a lot of air time and attention, causing a spike in the number of the best online poker rooms offering real cash versions of the game in 2023 and beyond.
A strong benefit for learning the game of Razz is that it is a vital component now in a number of mixed event tournaments, like HORSE and many of the live events will also have some Razz or other lowball poker events. Not to mention the fact that when playing this at online poker sites, having just a bit of extra knowledge and skill can really set you apart from your opponents.
While there are two specific forms of Razz online poker sites may offer, chances are you will be playing the ace-to-five form, with the lowest possible hand being the A2345. The other version is the deuce-to-seven, with the lowest possible (i.e. the nuts) being the 23457. Strategy for both versions are basically the same, so we will focus on the first (ace-to-five) for this Razz online game guide.
Razz is also an ante game. This means that rather than choosing players to post blinds (big and small), everyone puts in a small wager, anywhere from one-tenth to one-half of the minimum bet. This is really just the online poker sites' way of ensuring there is always some real money in the pot to rake.
Dealing out a hand of Razz at online poker sites is basically the same as a hand of 7-Card Stud. Each player will receive two cards in the hole, or face-down, along with a single face-up card. This is followed by the first betting round, also called third street. The player with the highest up card at this stage makes a forced bet called the bring-in bet (normally between a third to half of the minimum wager). Fourth street is another up card and betting round. Fifth street sees the players receiving another up card and betting round. The same goes for Sixth street. The final round is when the players receive a card face-down and the last betting round follows.
There is an interesting quirk when Razz is played at some online poker rooms. If all players remain in the pot to the end of the game, at an eight-handed game, the deck will technically run out of cards. In order to avoid this, the seventh round (where all real cash players would normally receive their third hole card) is replaced by a single community card dealt face-up in the middle of the table. This is the only time a community card is used in Razz or any version of Stud at online poker sites.
Here are some basic strategy guidelines to help getting started playing Razz at online poker sites in real cash games. These are really just basic tips, but should give you solid strategy to help you actually win some real money and decide whether or not to pursue this game more seriously. Really the key to the Razz game (and any type of game offered for online poker) is to start with a good hand—you will see some starting hands criteria below to give a better idea of how to specifically approach this.
Bluffing is very tough to pull off at most poker sites, Razz online games are ones with a limit and this makes bluffing incredibly difficult. Not only that, but a lot of people like the action offered by this game and tend to play way too many hands and make too many calls.
Pay attention to the board and know your odds. This is a big area. Since there are no community cards, you really need to pay attention to each individual hand. Know how many of your needed cards (and the cards of your online poker playing opponents) are still alive, and how many are dead. Then, know the odds for you (and maybe them as well) drawing what is needed. It is also helpful to know how to calculate the pot odds so that you can compare whether or not making this particular call and drawing is a better play than folding, odds wise.
If your opponent(s) miss their draws, be ready to attack. You really need to make them pay for choosing to stay in a game. Always try to make them have a difficult decision, rather than you needing to make tough choices when playing at online poker sites for real money. This assumes you have (or are very much in the process of making a good hand without missed draws).
Always look for chances to steal the antes and the bring-in bet. Admittedly, this is not as easy as you might think. However, if you have an ace or a 2 (maybe sometimes a 3) as your door cards and your opponents cards are a bit high, consider trying a raise to get everyone to drop. This is a really great move to make in tournaments or other situations where the antes and the bring-ins are fairly high.
With straights and flushes being ignored in online poker room Razz, the starting hands are pretty easy to remember. They are certainly not nearly as complicated as many other versions of online poker. For example, the best starting hand on Third street would be an A23. This is a hand that you should really consider raising with, or possibly check raising, depending on the door card of the other players.
There are other solid starting hands. Holding anything between an ace and a five is a solid hand. So is any three cards between the ace and the six. Play both of these aggressively, but with a bit more caution, especially if other door cards are decent and their holders are starting to ramp up the online poker site action. Three cards of seven or less is good enough to see Fourth street, even if you need to call a bet.
Be very careful with anything higher than these hands listed above. A three card eight might be all right provided you can limp in, or maybe even have a chance to steal the antes (hopefully, the eight is hidden and you are showing a lower door card, or else trying to steal probably won't help at most poker rooms). If you play three card eights routinely, it will have a damaging effect on your bankroll.
By Fifth street at most online poker sites, you really want to have decided if this is hand you are going to play through or not. Just like Hold’em and any other real cash game of poker, you need to be folding a lot. After Fifth street, things tend to get a lot more expensive, much quicker (this is not a slow game, by the way). If you can see you're behind by this time, it’s normally the best move to give up the hand. Even a good hand that doesn't look like the best should be folded most of the time. Chasing only leads to you losing money in Razz.
Attack players who are checking. Generally speaking, if your opponent has low cards showing but they are checking, it means they are afraid of the hole cards and possibly their over online poker hand. This is especially true if they are not experienced Razz players, or coming from another game. Provided your visible cards look good, it is usually right to bet. You might be set up for a check raise trap, but this is where situational awareness comes into play.
Pay particular attention to the board during these later rounds. This is also where knowing how to count outs and then calculating odds can really help you make better online poker site decisions. Knowing exactly where you stand in comparison to the others left in the hand is very important. Once you are good at reading the board and how players bet, you will be able to put them on certain hands and can then play much better, becoming a top American Razz player.
Many players starting out at online poker sites are too timid in general and this is very true in online Razz poker. If you have a good hand, get aggressive and attack. Remember this is not a slow game and you need to raise, especially if you start out with some of the premium hands like an A23 or 5 or lower with an ace. By jamming the pot this way you can actually change the pot odds so that even if don't get the best card drawn on fourth street, you still have good enough pot odds to make a call and stay in play.
Be careful to not play in too many hands, this is simple common sense. Most beginners prefer having action to sitting a hand out and watching from the sidelines. Too bad because the only cure for action junkies seems to be losing a lot of real money.
Most beginners simply worry about their own hand instead of watching the action all around them. The board is there for a reason—and online poker rooms know this is a valuable tool. Pay attention to which cards have been played. You should even know the up cards in hands that have been folded. Otherwise, how will you be able to know the correct odds and make the proper decisions?