Poker Game Guide: Razz

Razz is a form of stud poker that is similar to seven card
stud. The only difference is that razz is a low ball game
instead of playing for the best high hand and you’ll find some
slight differences in how action is decided.

Razz is a good game but even the best players in the world
find it quite frustrating at times, and you’ll soon find out
why. As you only get partial information on most players’ hands
in razz, it’s a very strategic game. In razz there aren’t any
community cards, except in rare circumstances which we’ve
outlined below, and each player is dealt seven cards to make
their best possible hand.

On this page we’ll give you an overview of the rules of razz
and a quick guide on how to play the game. The first section
won’t cover strategy but it should give you all the information
you need to sit down at the table or to try your luck at the
virtual felt online. After you learn how to play, the next
section introduces the strategy you need to play the game well
and have a chance to win.

Please Note

Razz is a low ball game. This means the best
hand is the wheel, which is A 2 3 4 5 of any suits. Flushes and
straights don’t count against the player in razz and the ace is
always played as low.

How to Play Razz – Game Rules

The Dealer Position

Like seven card stud, there’s no dealer in position razz.
However there’s a small difference in who begins the action,
which we’ll explain shortly.

Starting a Hand

The pot starts with every player placing an ante. If you’re
playing limit $20 / $40 razz then the ante could be $2 but the
house sets the amount. Once all players have placed their ante
in the pot the initial three cards are dealt to each player.

All players get two cards dealt face down, their hole cards,
and one card dealt face up, which is known as the door card. To
get the hand started, one player will be forced to make a bring
in wager. The bring in wager is half the small betting limit in
a limit game and based on a preset table amount in a pot limit
game. In the $20 / $40 example the bring in is $10.

The player with the lowest ranked door card will bring in,
and considering this is razz, the weakest door card would be the
king because aces are low. If two players have a king then the
suit decides who brings in. The suits are ranked spades, hearts,
diamonds, clubs, from highest to lowest. As in most forms of
poker, the action plays out in a clock wise fashion. So on each
round after the first player acts, the player to their immediate
left is the next to act.

Initial Betting Round

From here every other player in turn can fold, call, or
raise. The play continues to the left of the bring in until all
players have acted on the last bet or raise.

If the player that brings in wants to raise they can complete
for the amount of the lower betting limit. In this example a
complete bet would be $20. If they don’t complete then the first
raiser after them can complete to $20 as an initial raise.

4th, 5th, 6th & 7th Street

After all players have acted in the first round all remaining
players are dealt a fourth card face up which is called 4th
street. Because we don’t have a dealer button, the first player
to act after everyone has received their 4th card is the player
displaying the strongest hand with their two face up cards.

After this there’s another round of betting, followed by the
5th street dealt face up and a round of betting, 6th street
dealt face up with a betting round, and then finally 7th street
which is the players 7th card, which will be dealt face down.
Once all remaining players have their 7th card there is a final
round of betting and remaining players will show down and expose
their cards to determine who has the best hand and is the winner
of the pot.

Razz is usually played as a fixed limit game. Using the
limits of $20 / $40 above the limit of a bet is $20 on the 3rd
and 4th street, and $40 on the 5th, 6th, and 7th streets.

Hand Rankings

As razz is a low ball game, hand rankings are a bit more
complicated. We’ve outlined some examples below to show what
hands are strong and which ones are weak, and which hands would
win and lose in a show down situation.

Flushes and straights don’t count in razz so the best
possible hand that a player can make is A 2 3 4 5. Pairs are
always considered high in razz, so if a player has a pair and
another has no pairs but a K in their hand, then the player with
king low would win. The rank of your hand is determined by your
highest card, so even if an opposing player has one lower card
than you, and one higher card, you would win as your highest
card is lower than hers.

For example, Ace of Hearts, 2 of Spades, 3 of Clubs, 6 of Hearts, and Jack of Diamonds beats Ace of Diamonds, 2 of Diamonds, 3 of Clubs, 4 of Spades, and Queen of Hearts.

This is because the first hand is jack low and the second hand is queen low.

Another example could be when players have the same pair. Ace of Diamonds, Ace of Spades, 3 of Diamonds, 6 of Spades, and 7 of Clubs beats Ace of Hearts, Ace of Clubs, 2 of Spades, 4 of Spades, and 9 of Diamonds
because the first hand is seven low with aces and the second hand is nine low with aces.

As we touched on earlier, flushes and straights don’t count
in razz, so here’s an example of a hand where a player has a
flush but still wins.

Ace of Hearts, 4 of Hearts, 6 of Hearts, 9 of Hearts, and Jack of Hearts suit beats
8 of Spades, 9 of Diamonds, 10 of Spades, Jack of Clubs, and Queen of Clubs.

As the flushes and straights don’t count, the first hand is jack low and the second hand is queen low.

Please Note

It’s possible to run out of cards in a game of
razz. If there are still 8 players remaining when the 7th street
is due to be dealt, the dealer will place the last card in the
middle of the table and this will act as a community card for
all players to use.

Razz Strategy

Razz is just like all other forms of poker in that you can do
certain things while playing that increase your chances to win.

In this section we give you all of the strategy items needed
to advance from a losing player to at least a break even razz
player. With the long term goal of being a winning player, you
can’t advance to that level without learning the strategies
covered below.

Once you master everything in this strategy section the odds
are you’ll already be making a small profit at the tables. Once
you reach that level the main thing that’ll help you make more
profit is experience.

Starting Hands

Your starting hand in razz goes a long way toward your
chances to win any single hand. If you only stay in the pot with
your best hands and fold everything else you have a better
chance to win than most razz players.

In other words, the biggest difference between good and bad
razz players is how many hands they play. Of course this isn’t
the only difference, but it’s the one area that every player can
use to instantly improve their results.

Beginning players focus too much on the forced ante and worry
about going a few hands without trying to win a pot. If they go
10 hands without trying to win a pot they feel they’re losing
money because the antes keep adding up.

The truth is that when you focus on playing good starting
hands you’ll often go 10 hands or more without seriously
contesting a pot. You’ll also have times when you win three or
more pots in a row.

Players who focus on or even think about the ante aren’t
looking at the game in the correct way. The goal is to win as
much money as possible, not to win as many hands as possible. We
realize that sometimes the two go together, but they don’t

It’s better to win one pot with $250 in it than five pots
with $40 in each.

When you play pot limit razz you don’t have to win many pots
in an entire session to show a profit.

The key is maximizing the amount of money in the pots you win
while minimizing the amount of money in the pots you lose. This
may seem simple on the surface, but remember you don’t always
know when you have the best hand.

Strong Starting Hands

The best three card starting hands are three un-paired low

Here’s a list of strong starting hands.

  • A 2 3
  • A 3 4
  • A 2 5
  • 2 3 4
  • 2 3 5
  • 3 4 5

Medium Starting Hands

The next level of starting hands includes three non-paired
cards nine high or lower.

Here’s a list of medium level starting hand examples.

  • A 5 6
  • 4 5 6
  • 2 4 7
  • A 6 7
  • 3 5 8
  • 5 7 9

In most games if you don’t play starting hands worse than
these you’ll probably be able to make a small profit or at least
break even. The problem is most players get bored playing so few
hands so they start playing more.

Many factors go into how profitable a hand is in the long
run, like your ability, the abilities of the other players at
the table, how many hands they play, and the variation of razz
you’re playing. Variation means limit or pot limit.

We rarely see a razz player who doesn’t play enough hands.
It’s almost always the opposite, so don’t worry about playing
too few hands. You should worry about playing too many hands if
you want to win more.

The final series of hands you can consider playing are three
un-paired cards with only one high card.

Here’s a list of these hands.

  • A 3 J
  • A 5 K
  • 2 4 Q
  • 3 8 10
  • 6 7 J
  • 8 9 K

Please note the last hand on this list is particularly weak
and needs to be folded in most games.

When we play razz we’re tight with our starting hand
selection. We simply fold every hand that has a pair or worse.
This means the only hands we consider playing have three
un-paired cards. We also don’t play hands with three high cards
and rarely play ones with two cards over a nine.

If we’re forced to place the bring in wager with one of these
hands we fold at the first opportunity unless the hand improves
before we can fold.

For Example

If we have a starting hand of A 10 J and have to make the
bring in, if we get to see the fourth card and if it’s a low
card, 2 through 7 or 8, we may decide to continue in the hand.
But if the pot is raised after we make the bring in wager we’d
fold in most games.

We know many players reading this are thinking that this is
extremely tight, but re-read the beginning of this section. Our
biggest advantage at most tables is the fact that we play better
hands than our opponents.

Table Selection

If playing fewer hands is the first thing you do to improve
your chances of winning while playing razz, proper table
selection is the second most important thing to consider.

Most poker rooms don’t offer razz, and many places that do
offer it only have a single table running most of the time.

This can make it difficult to find places with a choice of
tables, but it’s worth the time it takes to see if you can find

Our Advice

You want to find tables filled with players who
play too many hands and make mistakes on every round of betting.
Players who chase long shot draws and play half their hands put
a great deal of wasted money in the pot.

The truth is it doesn’t matter how good or bad you play razz.
Of course you want to play as well as possible but all that
really matters is your ability in comparison to your opponents.

If you can play with a table full of players who aren’t as
good as you the odds are that you’ll win money and show a long
term profit. On the other hand, if you play at tables filled
with player’s better than you, the odds are that you’ll lose
money in the long run.

When you play with better players it usually helps you get
better, but it can be a costly education because they tend to
take your money in exchange for the lessons.

We know this sounds simple, but that’s the magic of basic
razz strategy. It isn’t that hard.

If you find games with poor players and don’t play too many
starting hands you can start winning right away.

So why don’t more players win?

Most players are too lazy to look for profitable tables. They
just want to start playing, and losing their money, as fast as
possible. They also want action so they don’t want to fold any
hands unless they’re clearly beat.

The world is filled with lazy people and action junkies,
which creates a nice opportunity for the rest of us.

If you don’t believe that becoming a winning razz player is
this simple why don’t you test it out over your next 10 playing

Find soft games, or create your own razz game by inviting the
worst poker players you know, and only play the hand types
listed in the starting hands section above.

One or two playing sessions won’t give you enough
information, but over 10 sessions you should be able to see just
how well this simple strategy works.

The key is sticking to the plan. Don’t get impatient and
start playing too many hands.

What’s Been Folded?

One of the challenges for new razz players is remembering all
of the cards that have been folded earlier in the hand. If you
play 7 card stud you probably already are used to this, but if
you aren’t here are a few ideas to help you.

As players drop out of the hand their up cards are no longer
visible so you need to remember what they were so you can
correctly determine the outs and odds for your hand as the round

Top Tip

The best way to learn how to do this is practice.
While you can practice in live play many players find it easier
to start at home.

Get a deck of cards and start dealing out razz hands. We deal
out seven hands including one to ourselves and fold one or two
of the opponents hands each betting round. We pause after each
betting round to see if we can remember the cards that have been

This way we only have to remember a few cards each round.

We simply turn the cards face down that have been folded so
we can check their values to make sure we’re remembering

This comes faster to some than others, but if you keep
practicing you’ll eventually train yourself to remember every
folded card.

Once you remember the folded cards perfectly at home start
tracking them in live play. If you struggle at first just do it
in hands you aren’t involved in. Then add all the hands.

This is an important skill and one that any poker player can
learn if they’re willing to do a little work.

Outs and Odds

Now that you’ve mastered the art of memorizing all of the
cards you see every round you can use this information to help
you determine how many outs you have as the hand progresses.
This is best illustrated with an example.

Your starting hand is A 2 5 and the six other players at the
table show the following door cards; 2 3 8 J Q K. The players
with the J and Q fold, leaving five of you in the pot.

Your fourth card is an 8 and your opponents receive the
following cards; 4 6 8 K. Two more of your opponents fold
leaving three of you to contest the pot.

At this point you have A 2 5 8 with three cards left to be
dealt. Any 3, 4, 6, or 7 will give you a strong pat hand.
Depending on how your opponents improve a 9 may offer a winning
hand, but we wouldn’t count on it at this point.

The two remaining opponents are showing 2, 6 and 3, 4 so they
both have a possibility of a strong hand.

Let’s see how many of the cards we want are possible on the
next round and how many cards are left that we don’t want to

At this point in the hand you’ve seen your four cards and ten
of your opponent’s cards for a total of 14. That leaves a total
of 38 unseen cards. We realize that the remaining deck of cards
doesn’t have 38 cards, but all we can do is calculate unseen
cards because we don’t know what the cards that have been dealt
are valued at.

The unseen cards include three 3’s, three 4’s, three 6’s, and
four 7’s. So we can receive one of 13 cards that help us and 25
that we don’t want for our fifth card.

Realize that not all of the 25 cards are terrible for us;
they just aren’t all what we want. The ones we most certainly
don’t want are the ones that pair our current cards. But any 9
through king gives us a five card low hand with two more cards
to come to improve.

You don’t need to be a math genius or make exact calculations
at the table, but if you can get a good idea of these numbers it
helps you make profitable decisions.

If you know that 13 cards make a good hand and 25 don’t it’s
fairly easy to see that one out of roughly three times the fifth
card will be good for you. Two times 13 is 26, which is close to

You also realize that you don’t just have one chance to
improve; you have three more cards coming so you have excellent
odds to make a strong hand. The chances are so high that you
should be betting and raising at this point because in the long
run you’re going to win enough times to more than make up for
any times you don’t hit your low.

Continuing with the same example, on the fifth card you get a
J and your opponents get a J and a Q. At this point you have a
pat hand that is definitely better than one opponent and
probably better than the other.

Now you still have 13 good cards possible for your sixth card
but only 22 that aren’t good. So even if you didn’t hit a good
card on the fifth card your odds improve for the sixth card.

If the sixth card you receive is an ace, paring your lowest
card, and your opponents get a 4 and a 5 it reduces the good
cards you need by one and the bad cards by two. So the numbers
for the seventh card are 12 that can make a strong hand for you
and 20 that don’t.

We realize that all of this may seem a bit intimidating at
first, but with experience you can get a good idea of your
chances to improve.

This is an important skill that winning players develop so
you need to work on it. It’s not as important at first as table
selection and starting hand selection but if you want to
continue improving and have the chance to win the most in the
long run you need to be able to determine your outs.

Once you know how many outs you have the next step is using
these numbers in comparison to the amount in the pot and how
much you have to put in to remain in the hand. This is where the
term pot odds come into play.

In the previous example we figured out that you had roughly a
one out of three chance to get a good card at one point in the
hand. These odds improved as the hand continued. What one out of
three means is one time you’ll get what you need and two times
you won’t.

Though in our example you should consider raising because
your hand is so strong, let’s assume that you’re drawing and
need to figure out if you should call a bet or fold.

If the bet you need to call is less than one third the amount
in the pot it’s profitable to call.

Here’s an example.

If the pot has $40 in it and you have to call a $10 bet you
need to call. Even if you don’t count the money you’ll win on
the rest of the hand when you hit your draw, you’ll win money in
the long run.

Three times you put $10 in the pot and two of those times you
lose your $10 assuming you don’t win the hand later. The third
time you get back your $10 plus the $40 in the pot. This is
clearly a profitable long term play.

Every decision at the razz table can be looked at using the
same type of computation.

You won’t always have as much information as in this example,
but what you do is determine a range of possibilities and factor
them into your calculations.

It’s far from easy, but as your game improves and you get
more experience you start doing most of these calculations
naturally. You don’t need to know exactly how often you’ll win,
just the most profitable long term action.

Know and Read Your Opponents

Razz is a poker game of limited information. You have to make
decisions based on situations where you don’t have as much
information as you’d like to have. This is one of the things
that make poker games fun and challenging.

Because of the limited amount of information available, you
have to learn how to extract and use every piece of information
possible, even if it’s small or can’t be used until later.

Every time you see an up card of your opponents you get
another small piece of information. Every time an opponent
checks or bets or raises you get another small piece of

If you’ve played against an opponent before you should have
some information about how they play certain hands.

The key is to always be gathering information and filing it
away so you can use it to make more money in the long run.

One of the most important things you can do to gather
information is watch your opponents in every situation. Instead
of zoning out when you fold a hand pay close attention to how
your opponents play for the rest of the hand.

Things you can learn, and use to save money or make money
include the following.

  • Watch for players who bluff too much on the final
    betting round
  • Find players who always call a single bet on the final
  • Remember players who play too many hands
  • Watch for players who play aggressively before they have
    a made hand
  • Remember players who only bet and raise once they have a
    pat hand

Each of these types of players can be manipulated to help you
make more money.

When you recognize a player who bluffs too often you know
when you’re in a hand against them that you don’t want to fold
on the final betting round unless you have no chance to win.
Even a hand with a small pair can beat many bluffs and you only
have to win a few times to cover the cost of a single bet.

Some players always call a single bet on the final betting
round, even if they miss their draw. They figure the pot has so
much in it in comparison to the cost of a single bet that they
need to make sure you aren’t bluffing. Against these players you
know to always bet on the final round when you have a good hand
because your opponent will pay you off, but you also know not to
bluff because your opponent will always call.

Not only is this type of opponent good to make you extra
profit, he also helps you avoid losing bets when you consider

When you recognize players who play too many hands you’ll
know that on average your hand will be better than theirs.
Sometimes they’ll have great hands, but they’ll often have poor
hands and sink money into the pot that they have very little
chance of getting back. The problem is that at most low level
and medium limit games almost all the players play too many

Though most razz players wait until they have a made hand to
start betting and raising wildly, occasionally you’ll run across
one who gets wild before completing her hand. While bets and
raises are usually a sign of strength, against these players you
know it doesn’t mean they have a made hand.

On the other end are players who only bet and raise when they
hit a good hand. These players are valuable also because as long
as they check and call you know they’re still drawing. But you
also know that when they start acting aggressively that you’d
better have a decent hand if you want to have a chance to beat

Moving to Advanced Play

If you’re able to master the razz strategies covered above
you’ll be able to win in all but the highest level games in the
world. Low and medium level games will be easy for you.

Many players won’t be willing to do the work required to move
beyond this level. To be honest, unless you’re a poker pro who
wants to play high level razz instead of Texas hold’em it might
not be the best use of your time to learn more.

Moving beyond this level is going to be one of the hardest
things you’ll ever do.

It requires thousands of hours of work and practice, a large
bankroll, the ability to play without giving any information
away, and access to the top level games.

High Level Games

The skills needed to compete at the highest level games in
razz go well beyond those listed above. At the top levels
everyone at the table knows everything covered above so you
can’t find an advantage by playing fewer hands or figuring your
outs and odds.

You still need to do these things, but you have to do them
just to have a chance to keep up with the rest of the table.

Almost all hands played at these levels are raised on the
first betting round and most show downs are two or three handed
at most. Many hands are contested heads up throughout the hand
and players play each other as much as they play their hands.

What we mean by players playing each other is the
psychological aspect of the game. If you and we are playing and
we sense weakness from you we’ll probably bet and raise and put
as much pressure on you as possible no matter what we hold. If
you’re weak you’re more likely to fold if we represent a strong

Top Tip

Your opponents playing tendencies are important at
this level, but most top level players are able to alter their
tendencies so you can’t count on them. You need to be aware of
your own tendencies and work to alter them at this level or
you’ll lose to better players.

High level razz games require almost perfect play in order to
win in the long run. Many players, even the best ones in the
world, will win more at the medium levels than at the top levels
because the competition is so much worse.

Plan Every Situation

Once you’re able to play almost perfectly in every situation
at the razz table you’ll be firmly entrenched in the top 1% of
poker players in the world. At this point we can only offer one
final piece of advice that may be able to help you.

And if you’re that good you’re probably already doing it.

But the good news is if you’re still trying to be the best
razz player you can be you can start using this strategy now to
improve your game.

If you want to be the best razz poker player you can possibly
be start planning every single hand from beginning to end before
you even start playing.

Consider every possible outcome for every step of the hand.

What will you do with every possible three card starting

What will you do if the player to your left raises or the
player to your right checks?

What will you do when one of your cards pairs or when you hit
a wheel?

When you start trying to think of every possibility it’s easy
to get overwhelmed, but if you stick with it you’ll eventually
have everything considered before it happens. As you gain more
information you alter your plans, but they keep getting better
and better as the hand continues.


Razz is fun, but at times it can be very frustrating. This is
because your hand can become ruined so often. You may have a
great hand after four cards are dealt to you and then all of a
sudden it’s destroyed by the last three cards, sometimes even
after you have significantly invested in the pot.

Nonetheless it’s a great game and if you understand seven
card stud and how to play it, then this could be an excellent
game for you to start on if you’d like to try your hand at one
of the low ball poker variants.