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Razz and all that Jazz

Lightning asked me about Razz. It is the game Howard Lederer calls, “A miserable poker game.” It can be among the more frustrating. The game and rules are surprisingly simple. No need to know if a flush beats a straight. You play for the lowest possible hand which is the wheel – 1 to 5. Straights and flushes are ignored.

The highest I can recall playing is 2-4. But, it isn't that far from the lowest micro limits. Like all other stud games, third street determines the bring in – high card is forced to bet/bring-in and that determines your position for the start of the hand.

Occasionally, you can bluff third street. Although, it isn't that beneficial at lower limits. The bring-in will vary from site to site. When it is higher you consider the appropriate bluff more. Appropriate is based on position and the exposed cards. It is more important when you are playing higher limits and where the bring-in is above the norm.

Having remarked on bluffing and its desirability, it seems my duty to report that at lower level – where the benefits are minor and situational – people tend to bluff too much. The mentality seems to favor playing up cards with abandon. It doesn't take long to pick up a lot of info and fill your notes with tendencies.

Like all stud games, knowing the cards played determines the strength of your hand at that point in time. For most of those I encounter, that seems like worthless effort. It isn't. Available knowledge as the streets progress seems almost exponential.

If you have a heads up situation, the game is more thoughtful. Unfortunately, family pots are more the norm. Especially at modest levels, completing does not isolate and is -EV. In these situations, how you play needs to be fairly straightforward. As the streets progress, you evaluate against the added cards exposed. The next three street reduce the unknown. It really seems a simple game. That is especially true if you are catching. But, most days that is hardly a given.

Bricks are an all to consistent horror. Basically, half the cards in the deck suck. The result is that occasionally some really weird hands take down pots. Perceptions are important along with pot odds. Here is an example of this.

If you've read that gem, you can see this isn't as simple a game as we're making it out. There is level 2 thinking at times. Ideas about what down cards a player goes with in various situations and the insuring pot odds muddies the waters. This isn't a game for those who are tight passive.

If you want to give it a go, start with good table selection. Too many loose cannons can make learning difficult. There are plenty of tables filled with loose-passive folks that will let you get your sea legs. They might not be the best choice later but they give a great starting feel for hands.

This is a game that is part of the HORSE grouping. So, for those interested, a bit of RAZZ play will add an advantage. The folks playing HORSE vary their skill levels across the group. My experience is that it is a descending ladder of skill sets:

H

O

R

S

E

Razz is right in the middle and a good spot to start picking up EV. So, the HORSE crowd should think about getting a better game in the stud family. That and an understanding of scooping at the 8b games can really benefit.

While it is frustrating at times, it is a fun game when you pick off the bluff or avoid the bricks.

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  1. January 11th, 2011 at 12:36 | #1

    “… it is a fun game when you pick off the bluff or avoid the bricks.”

    Avoiding the bricks — that is the problem. The Razz sound of brick … brick … brick … is waaaaay too familiar to anyone who has played the game.

  2. January 11th, 2011 at 13:55 | #2

    I recently played in a UB eight-card stud hi/low tournament (that started around midnight) because I’ve see what you’ve written. It was fun! I think I barely cashed and won back my entry.

  3. January 12th, 2011 at 07:20 | #3

    I often use RAZZ as the catalyst to get folks into the STUD game fundamentals. It’s easier to explain the strategies I find, when one only needs to consider the nut low as a wheel. No suits, straights etc…
    Once they get on to the idea of EV and building a pot to a solid draw, I throw Stud HI at them…. and take their chippies!

    😉

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