Razz is a game of patience. It is important to play tight, yet attempt well timed ante steals when the chance presents itself. We’ve covered the topic of bankroll management for Razz on this site already, but this article should give you some basic tips and strategy to do well with this game.
Razz Starting Hands
The top Razz starting hands are easy to remember. If you have three cards between Ace and five, you have a great starting hand. A23 is the best starting hand, but any three cards between Ace and five (no pairs of course!) is a hand to bet and raise with on third street. Three card starting hands between Ace and six are good starting hands and should be played aggressively as well, but with a little more caution if several other players with lower door cards are ramping up the action. Three cards of seven or lower is a good starting hand that you’ll want to see 4th street with, even if you have to call a bet or two to do so. A three card eight is becoming marginal. If you can limp in or steal the antes with it, do so. Playing three card eights routinely will cost you chips in the long run.
The other players’ up cards
This is a very important aspect to razz strategy. Observant Razz players will view the upcards and tend to have a much better idea of their relative hand strength. Sometimes the up cards will tell you exactly what to do. If you have three cards to a nine low and there are no other up cards lower than a nine, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have the best hand on third street and can bet and raise, even though a “nine low” isn’t typically a hand that you would play. You should continue to keep an eye on the other players’ porches as the hand progresses. Even if you catch low cards that pair your hole cards, if the other players are catching bad high cards, you can still usually win the pot by betting aggressively.
Live and Dead Cards
This is an important aspect of 7 card stud. While in that game, you are wanting your cards to be “live”, in Razz you prefer them to be “dead.” For example, if you hold Ace, 3, 6 to start and you see two other threes, a six and an ace, you can feel even better about your hand because it means there is less of a chance that you will make pairs! Catching pairs can kill a great starting Razz hand, so the more dead cards you see the better.
Jamming vs. Slow Playing
Razz is not really a slow playing game. There are exceptions of course, but generally speaking if you have a good hand, you want to jam it. One reason is that by jamming it, you generally create a big enough pot on third street that it allows you to call on fourth street even if you catch a bad card, based on the size of the overall pot. You can get right back on track with another good low card on fifth street. By all means, do your best to use overly loose and aggressive players weaknesses against them, but you won’t go wrong by just betting and raising when you have the best of it.
Best Draw vs. Made 9 Low after five cards
A interesting feature of Razz is the little known fact that after five cards are dealt, the best drawing hand is a favorite over any made nine low. In most forms of poker the made hand usually leads the betting to make the draw hands pay, but in Razz, the opposite is true on fifth street. Things are back to normal on 6th street however. With one card to come, the made nine low is now a favorite over the best draw and should definitely lead the betting.
Knowing when to fold ‘em
If you make a habit of starting with sub par hands or drawing with weak hands vs. powerful boards and stronger draws, then you will just be leaking chips and blowing your bankroll. As with other poker variations, if it looks like you are beat, you probably are. Save your money for when you have the best hand and then play aggressively. Especially in low limit games, players tend to have the hands they represent, so don’t pay off three or four more bets to “keep them honest”! When good hands turn bad, release them. Patience!
Stealing the Antes
Ante stealing is important, especially the higher up you go in limits. Several situations are great for ante stealing attempts. First, if the bring in player is immediately to your left and it is folded up to you, you should always complete the bet to steal the bring and antes. You do not have to be successful every time for this to be a profitable play. Another good stealing shot to take is when you are the lowest up card. You’d prefer to have reasonable cards in the hole, but this steal attempt is not unlike completing with an Ace door card in 7 card stud, representing aces. You can also attempt to steal with second highest up card if it is folded up to you in late position. Don’t get carried away here. Stealing becomes less effective and less profitable the lower the limits you are playing. Always be willing to let go of a steal attempt if another player plays back at you!