Game Rules for Razz Poker
When Poker first began over a hundred and fifty years ago the goal of the game was simple. When it came time to show your cards you want to be holding the best possible hand. Throughout time new game variations continued to be invented and tweaked with.
After 7 Card Stud was introduced, it’s lowball variant of Razz soon followed. As stud poker became more prominent before and during World War II, players began developing variations.
Just like the origins of many poker games, there are no accounts of when Razz was first played or who invented and developed the game.
Razz isn’t as prevalent as other poker games in brick and mortar casinos. Of the games that make up H.O.R.S.E. (Hold ‘em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, Eight or Better), Razz is probably the game that is spread the least on its own.
Online you will of course be able to find a Razz game to jump into and we definitely recommend doing so as it is a great game.
If you’re more accustomed to flop games like Hold ‘em or Omaha then Razz will be very different for you. Not only is there not a flop or community cards, but you’re trying to make the lowest possible hand, not the highest.
If you’re familiar with 7 Card Stud, however, Razz should come quite easily to you. Most of the rules are the same but there are a few key differences that you will need to pay attention to.
The Basics of Razz
A game of Razz is structured the same as all other variations of 7 Card Stud. A maximum of 8 players are seated at a table, and betting is done with antes, a bring in, and small and big bets.
Right off the bat you will see that Razz operates very differently from the games that you might be typically used to. Prior to the dealer dealing the cards every player must post an ante to be a part of the hand. The amount of the ante will be relative to the betting limits, something we will touch on in a later section.
Once the dealer collects all the antes they will then begin the deal. Each player will receive two cards face down and one card face up and the action will begin.
In Razz there is no dealer button. That means that every hand starts with the dealer dealing to the 1 Seat first and continuing to the left. Every proceeding street will continue in the same fashion.
The action starts with the HIGHEST face up card placing a forced bet called the “bring in”.
The amount of the bring in is a set amount relative to the betting limits. Just like with antes, we will cover this in a later section when we discuss the betting limits.
If you have played 7 Card Stud you might be used to the lowest card having to post the bring in. Given that in Razz you are trying to make the lowest hand, it works the opposite in that the strongest card is essentially the weakest.
In Razz an ACE is low (in the 7 Card Stud variant the Ace is high, however). Therefore, a King is the lowest, or better said as the weakest, card. I know what you’re thinking, what if the lowest card face up is held by more than one player.
In the instance that two or more players share the lowest face up card, and this happens fairly often, the suits of the cards become the deciding factor. Let’s say two players are dealt a King face up.
Player A has the King of Clubs and Player B has the King of Spades. In this case, you will refer to the suit. The suit strengths go from low to high in alphabetical order as follows:
So as you can see Clubs are the weakest suit and Spades are the strongest. That means that in our example above, Player B with the King of Spades will be the bring in. Action then continues to the left of the bring in.
After a round of betting the dealer will burn a card and then deal each player still in the hand another face up card. Once this happens you will see that position will most likely change.
What happens now is that for every proceeding street, the player with the strongest hand showing will be first to act, and action will continue to their left.
Remember, when we say strongest Razz hand we mean the lowest hand!
That means that form street to street, the first player to act can always change. As the hand continues and the dealer continues to burn a card and deal a card face up to each player still in the hand they will continue to call on the highest showing hand to act first.
When it comes time to deal each player their last card, the dealer will burn a card and then deal each player’s final card face down.
If you are still in the hand after the river, or 7th Street as it is often called, you will be looking at four cards face up and three cards face down. You must make your best 5 card hand out of the 7 that you are holding.
There are no community cards to share in Razz so you will be using your cards and only your cards.
What If There Are Not Enough Cards in the Deck?
In the event that there are not enough cards to continue the deal due to the amount of players remaining in the hand there is a solution in place.
- If there are not enough cards left in the deck for all players, all the cards are dealt except the last card, which is mixed with the burn cards (and any cards removed from the deck, as in the previous rule).
- The dealer then shuffles and cuts these cards, burns again, and delivers the remaining down cards, using the last card if necessary. If there are not as many cards as players remaining without a card, the dealer does not burn, so that each player can receive a fresh card.
- If the dealer determines that there will not be enough fresh cards for all of the remaining players, then the dealer announces to the table that a community card will be used. The dealer will burn a card and turn one card face up in the center of the table as a community card that plays in everyone’s hand. The player who is now low using the community card initiates the action for the last round.
Betting in Razz
Razz is typically played as a fixed limit game. We mentioned above that Stud also includes an ante and a bring in. So what exactly are these forced bets?
- Bring In
- Small Bet
- Big Bet
In Razz, each player must post an ante to be dealt into the hand. The size of the ante is relative to the betting limits. Often the ante will be anywhere from 10%-25% of the first bet in the betting limits.
The bring in is the first forced bet that is the responsibility of the player with the highest face up card to post. The size of the bring in is relative to the betting limits. In some cases it may be equal to the ante, in others it will be somewhere between the cost of the ante and the first betting limit. Additionally, if you are confident in the strength of your hand you can also bet the full bet to start as opposed to just the bring in amount.
To complete the bet is to put in the first possible raise when the betting starts. The bring in is a fraction of the first bet. When a player wants to raise the bring in they will “complete” the bet to the first bet amount. For example, let’s say you’re playing in a $10-$20 Razz cash game with a $3 ante. The bring in is likely to also be $3 in this game as well. The bring in will post their bet of $3 and then next player can raise by completing the bet to $10.
In fixed limit games like Razz the betting on every street is capped, meaning there is a limit to how many times you can raise. Usually betting is capped at four or in some cases five bets.
In stud there is a big bet and a small bet. Using the same example from above in a $10-$20 Razz cash game, $10 is the small bet and will be the betting increments on the first round of betting and again on Fourth Street.
Building on the description of the small bet, the big bet in the above example will be $20. Betting in big bet increments occurs on Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Street. Additionally, when there is pair on board on Fourth Street, a player may place a big bet.
One thing to keep in mind when starting out in Razz is that whatever you think about a winning poker hand, start to think the opposite. In Razz, as we’ve mentioned, the lowest possible hand is the winner.
That being said, the best possible Razz hand you can table is 5-4-3-2-A, also known as a wheel. While yes it is also a straight, straights and flushes are not relevant in Razz.
Just like with any lowball game variation, when two players have the same highest low card you then look at the next card in descending order to determine who has the better hand.
It is not uncommon for players to table hands in Razz that contain pairs. Sometimes the run out of the draw is not as you had hoped and you are holding a very bad hand. Even if two or more players showdown hands with pairs, there will still be a low hand amongst them.
Consider this example:
- Player A: J-J-9-6-5 (K-Q)
- Player B: J-J-9-7-3 (K-10)
In this example, both players show a pair of Jacks. The cards in parentheses represents the two cards out of the seven that the players are not using for their hand. In this example Player A has the better Razz hand.
They both share a pair of Jacks, we then move on to their next card where both are sharing a 9. As mentioned before we keep moving down the hand until we see a difference. Player A’s next card is a 6 while Player B’s is a 7. This means that Player A has the better hand because the 6 is better than the 7 in Razz.
If you have played 7 Card Stud 8 or Better, think of the strength of Razz hands as you would the strength of the low hands on the 8 or Better side of the game. The only exception being there is no qualifier for a low hand.
By now you should have a good understanding of the rule set required to play Razz. Let’s quickly recap some of the specifics:
- Players receive 7 cards each, 3 face down and 4 face up.
- Betting is done in fixed limits.
- Action starts with the highest card face up after the deal.
- The strongest face up hand begins the betting on every street thereafter.
- Position can change from street to street depending on the strongest hand showing.
- Suits can be a factor in deterring the strength of the bring in if two players share the same highest card.
Razz Rules Recap
The rules of Razz are far different than Texas Hold ‘em if that is what you’re used to.
By now though you should have a solid understanding of how Razz is structured and the rule set you have to follow when playing the game. The only thing left to do now is pull up a seat and post your first ante.
If you want to expand your Razz knowledge a bit further before pulling up that seat, however, we suggest checking out our Guide to Razz Poker section where we cover some of the basic strategy plays as well as clue you in on which sites offer the best Razz games.