The object of Seven-Card Stud Low, or Razz, is to make the worst hand possible! Razz is dealt just like basic Seven-Card Stud, but the object, oddly enough, is to make the lowest hand. In Razz, flushes and straights don’t count against you (that is, they have no value). But pairs and trips are bad (because it is harder to make a five-card low hand with them). Aces are considered low. In Razz, the best possible low hand is 5-4-3-2-A, which is called a wheel. The second-best possible low hand is a six perfect, or 6-4-3-2-A. The chart below shows a list of the best possible low hands in order.
You will eventually figure out that it isn’t that hard to discern which low hand is best in close cases. A seven-five low (7-5-x-x-x) is lower than a seven-six low (7-6-x-x-x). A seven-six-five-three low (7-6-5-3-x) is lower than a seven-six-five-four low (7-6-5-4-x). Figuring out the best low hand is just a matter of reading the low hand from the highest card to the lowest card and seeing which hand goes lower first. I once lost a $15,000 pot to the legendary Seymour Liebowitz in a low-ball event at the World Series of Poker when his 9-7-5-4-2 beat my 9-7-5-4-3 low. It came down to the fifth and final card in this case! We both had a 9-7-5-4 in our hands, but his deuce “pipped” my three (edged it out by one point in value).
Right now Razz is something of a fringe game in the poker world. If fact, most poker rooms don’t even spread a Razz game these days. Although we have a Razz World Championship each year, it is among the lowest-attended events at the WSOP. Still, Razz is an important game that is played for high stakes on a daily basis in Los Angeles at the Commerce Casino. Razz is also often included in high-stakes games at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, sometimes dealt as a part of a rotation of games like HORSE (Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Stud and Stud Eight or Better). By the way, sometimes while playing HORSE, the players will not notice that the game has changed – for instance, when the game goes from one variation of Stud to the next – and they lose a large pot because of this! It happens to everyone, including me, more than once.
Even though many top professional players feel that Razz involves more luck and requires less skill than most other poker games, I feel that Razz demands a lot of skill. In Razz, reading your opponents well is crucial to begin a great player. If you’re reading your opponents well, you can make some calls or folds that other players cannot make. The reading part comes when your opponent hits what appears to be a perfect low card for him. If you read that it was, indeed, perfect for him, then you’ll need to fold your hand (depending on what you caught). If you read that the card in fact paired him, then you’ll be able to continue playing your hand. For example he might hit a three, for a board of (x-x) 2-3, but there is a decent chance that the card paired him, because, presumably, he is starting with all low in his hand.
Phil Hellmuth Jr. is an 11-time World Series of Poker Champion leading all poker players in the world. He has two New York Times best-seller books, “Play Poker Like the Pros” and “Bad Beats and Lucky Draws.” Both books can be found at Amazon.com. Phil’s books, blog, tips and more can also be found at PhilHellmuth.com. Learn about his new cell phone game at HellmuthHoldem.com.