Representing the “R” in mixed games like H.O.R.S.E. is Seven Card Stud Low, which is more commonly called Razz. While Razz can be an exciting game that is packed with action and unpredictability, it is also known for its high “tilt factor,” meaning that even good players can lose their heads while playing the game, due to the elements of luck that are involved. Despite Razz’s reputation for being a bit frustrating, it has passed the test of time among pros and amateurs alike, and has been featured at the World Series of Poker since 1971 (except for the following year, 1972, when there were only two WSOP events in total).
Razz is a Stud game, meaning that players are each dealt several cards face up (“upcards”) and several cards face down (“hole cards”) during the course of the hand. They will use a combination of their upcards and hole cards (seven in total if the hand is played to completion) to create the lowest poker hand. When creating a Razz low hand, it is important to remember that aces are low and that flushes and straights are ignored. Therefore, the best possible Razz hand is A-2-3-4-5, which is commonly referred to as a “wheel.” While ace-to-five Razz is certainly the most popular, it is not unheard of to play the game as deuce-to-seven, in which aces are high and straights and flushes count against you. In this variation, the nuts (or best hand) is 2-3-4-5-7.
It is believed that Razz poker has been around as long as traditional Seven Card Stud. While Razz has never been quite as popular as regular Stud, it gained a great deal of attention in the 1950s and ‘60s before debuting at the World Series of Poker in the early ‘70s. Since then, Razz has been a favorite among poker’s top pros such as Doyle Brunson, Ted Forrest, and Barry Greenstein, many of whom have expressed their “love-hate” relationship with the game. In 2004, ESPN helped to familiarize viewers with Razz when they aired the WSOP event which was won by poker legend T.J. Cloutier.
After Cloutier’s televised victory at the 2004 WSOP, Razz grew in popularity in an unprecedented way. Most major online poker rooms added the game to their sites which made Razz accessible to players around the world. It has become the most popular lowball poker game in existence, and is commonly spread in live casinos, home games, and internet poker rooms.
Not to be confused with traditional Razz, there is a similar poker variation called London Lowball, which is almost always found in Europe. In London Lowball, straights and flushes are counted against you, but unlike deuce-to-seven, aces remain high. Therefore, the best possible London Lowball hand is A-2-3-4-6. Unlike traditional Razz, which is typically played with betting limits, London Lowball is usually played as a pot limit game.
To learn the full rules of Razz poker, as well as some basic strategy for the game, check out the appropriate articles on this site. Then, when you feel comfortable, you might want to test your skills at a site like PokerStars.com which offers low stakes Razz games, which are both affordable and educational, and always a lot of fun.
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