Razz Poker has developed an immense following over the past few years, and the number of Razz fans just keeps growing. If you would like to join the steadily growing community of winning Razz poker players, the application of a solid strategy is the first key to success.
There are many aspects to a winning Razz Poker Strategy, some more in-depth and experience related than others. For this reason, we have put this together in a 3-part strategy guide.
Razz Beginner Strategy
We will be discussing the foundation of a Razz Poker Strategy; the most important concepts a novice player needs to understand and integrate into his or her poker game. These include the importance of strict starting hand selection, the value of the Door Card, and how patience and discipline can keep your chip stack from disappearing before your eyes.
We recommend you read our article “Razz Rules & Starting Hands” for those who are not sure of the basic rules. This article details all of the Razz Starting Hands that a novice player should move on with. If your starting hand does not include these combinations, it is best to fold and wait for a better opportunity. The only exception to this is the Door Card.
The Door Card
A player’s Door Card can make or break their entire hand. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what your hole Cards are. The Door Card alone can be enough to scare other players away from the pot, or convince them you are a weak player. For instance, if your Door Card is an Ace, this is a very powerful card. If all other players are showing 9s and above, try posting a decent size bet and more often than not, everyone else will fold out and give you the Antes. If you happen to be playing at a loose table, this might not work, so be sure your Hole Cards are good enough to back up the bet.
In the same token, having a high Door Card can work to your advantage, IF you have two excellent Hole Cards, such as A-2, A-3, or even 2-3. An opponent may underestimate your strength, adding value to the pot as you move forward.
Patience & Discipline
Every good poker player understands the importance of patience and discipline at the table (with the exception of Phil Hellmuth, perhaps). A player must have the patience to wait for a good starting hand, while maintaining the discipline to stay calm and unbiased during these times. When a player becomes bored or disconcerted, they tend to make costly mistakes. Through practice and experience a player can learn to stay cool and composed, even through an hour of repeatedly folded hands. As dull as this may sound, if you want to be a serious, winning Razz Poker player, patience and discipline is a must.
Razz Intermediate Strategy
In this section, we’ll be covering the essentials of an Intermediate Razz Strategy. An intermediate level strategy is intended for moderately experience players who have already applied the fundamental strategies at a beginner level.
In this second section we will be discussing several key tactics to upgrade your skills in Razz. These will include proper Street Betting, how to Read the Board, and knowing when the time is right to upgrade to higher stakes.
Razz Poker consists of 5 betting rounds. The first occurs after you receive your Starting Hand.
3rd Street: If you have a good Starting Hand, you’ll want to move forward with the first betting round. A premium Starting Hand warrants a Call, Bet or Raise from any position. With a good Starting Hand, you can Call or place a moderate Bet, but placing/calling a large Raise is not recommended unless you’re in position. From late position, your options remain the same as a premium Starting Hand. You also have the option to Semi-Bluff in hopes of scaring your opponents away from the pot and stealing the Antes.
4th Street: You should have a pretty good hand at this point to consider moving on; at least 2 Wheel Cards (A – 5) and one other card of 8 or below.
5th Street: At this point, you have only two more cards coming. Your hand should have 4 cards of 9 or below, including 2 Wheel Cards, preferably with an Ace involved.
6th Street: If you’re not one card away from a made hand, there’s no point in moving on. The best scenario is to have 5 cards of 8 and below, 9 at the highest. If you have only 4 low cards, they should be no higher than 6 to consider betting.
7th Street: Simply put, if you don’t have 5 cards of 9 or below, Fold. If your highest card is 9, and you don’t have an Ace, Fold.
Before taking this Street Betting section to heart, be sure to read the next segment, “Reading the Board”, very carefully. It greatly effects the general Razz Street Betting strategy above.
Reading the Board
A good Razz player must be able to read the entire board, not just his own cards. There is an incredible amount of valuable information lying face-up on the table if you simply take the time to read it. Every face up card on the board gives you insight to your opponent’s hand, as well as your own future hand developments.
When your opponents are showing all low cards, such as 6 and below, you know that your 7-high hand may be no good. If they are showing A-3-4, you also know that your chances of being dealt an Ace, 3 or 4 have decreased.
Let’s say you have 2-3-5-7-Q, and desperately need an Ace and/or 4 in order to make your hand. If there are two Aces and one 4 showing on the board, you can forget about the Ace since the likelihood of getting one is very slim. The 4 may come, but will a 7-high hand win the pot ?
When an opponent is showing confidence in their hand, you must assume their face-down cards are pretty good. If the face-up cards are lower than your own hand, take the safe road. Fold and conserve your chips for a better opportunity.
If you count your opponent’s hole Cards as being the best possible cards, and combine them with the face-up cards they are showing; then compare that potential hand with your own and find you have them beaten, you know you have the Nuts.
For instance, your best hand is A-3-4-6-8.
Your opponent is showing *-*-5-9-5-Q-*.
You know that his best hand is 9 high. Because the 5 paired, one of them is eliminated. The Queen is too high, therefore also eliminated. To make a 5 card hand, he must use the 9. Your 8-high hand has him beaten.
By reading the board, you can learn a lot of information to increase your profit potential in Razz. Also try to remember all face-up cards that get Folded early. This will help you determine the chance of being dealt good or bad cards as the hand goes on.
Upping the Stakes
When a poker player experiences a few wins, their first instinct is to play higher stakes for a shot at winning even more money. Be very careful about upping the stakes in poker. The higher the stakes, the more fierce the competition.
A player should start at the lowest stakes available and only move up a single stake level at a time. Upping the stakes should only be done when you are consistently winning at the current stakes. If you find yourself consistently losing at the next level, drop back down to the previous stakes and work your way back into the positive numbers. Get a little more practice and try upping the stakes again later.
Razz Advanced Strategy
The previous Razz poker sections covered a wide range of topics, including beginners strategies like starting hand selection, the value of Door cards and the importance of maintaining patience and discipline at the table. Our intermediate strategy went on to explain proper Street betting techniques, how to read the board, knowing when to up the stakes and how high you should go per level increase.
Our final Razz Advanced Strategy section will cover more intricate tactics, easily integrated by veteran poker players. These include using your position to your advantage and psychological aspect of the game; not just reading your opponents, but avoiding being read at the same time.
When playing poker, your position at the table has an impressive effect on the strength of your hand. For example, in early position, a strong hand loses worth, while late position bettors can turn marginal holdings into a valuable asset.
The reason the hand value fluctuates is the player’s ability to read his opponents before acting. For example, from early position, you have no clue as to how strong another player’s hand may be. From late position, however, you have the opportunity to watch others act, and react, before making your next move.
At a full table, the last three bettors are all considered late position. Right of the Bring-In is the best position to be in because you have no investment in the pot, aside from your Ante, and are last to act, so you can read everyone.
From late position, when previous players are Folding and limping in (calling the big blind), you can be fairly certain they have a weak to marginal hand at best. If you place a large raise before the flop, you can usually steal the blinds and take down the pot early, even with a junk hand in the Hole. An impressive Door Card, such as an Ace or 2, increases your chance of success monumentally.
It is recommended to have at least a marginally good starting hand so that, if you are called, you have something to fall back on. Also, do not attempt a bluff like this every time you’re in late position or you will get called eventually by players who assume you’re betting based on your position alone. Once you’re labelled a bluffer, it’s a hard label to shake.
Playing the Players
Playing the players is a psychological aspect of any poker game. You don’t need a medical degree, just a lot of experience reading your opponents. You should be keeping a close eye on their betting habits, determining what type of player they are. If they fold often, they are playing a tight game. If they fold often, but bet high when they do play a hand, they are tight/aggressive. This generally means they have a fairly good hand, and want others to drop out. If a tight player bets conservatively, they are either slow playing a monster hand, or waiting for a good hand to further develop before attacking the pot. Tight players are the easiest to read, so look for these kinds of tendencies and determine what kind of bettors they are.
Loose players are the hardest to read because they rarely fold, playing a wide range of hand strengths. You will have to watch their betting tendencies to see if they bet higher or lower with a great hand as opposed to a marginal hand.
In live poker games, you can of course watch for nervous behaviour patterns, like touching the face, sinking in the chair or sitting up straight, staying quiet or becoming chatty, etc. These are often signs that they are either bluffing, or have been dealt a great hand. Note the behaviour and the result of the hand to predict their strength in later hands.
These poker tells can be found in online poker as well, though they are more subtle. You need to watch how they bet on each type of hand they are dealt. Do they always bet high in late position? Call to see if they’re habitual bluffers. Will they call a medium bet with a bet hand, but fold to a large bet ? This can help you add value to the pot when you know you’ve got them beaten.
Practice reading players at the table. Start with one player, and once you think you’ve got a read on him, try predicting his next move in each hand. Once you can predict him correctly, you know you’ve got him down. As you continue to practice this technique, you’ll discover most poker player fit into categories, making the ability to read a full table of opponents possible within a few hands of Razz.
No, we don’t mean wear sunglasses and a black hood and narrow your eyes at your opponents. You can if you wish, but what we’re referring to here is avoiding being read by your opponents. Just as you are trying to read them, you can rest assured, if they have any experience at all, they are doing the same to you.
First, create a table image. Let them think they have you read perfectly. Show yourself to be a tight or loose player, an aggressive or passive bettor. Then suddenly change it up. Never let your game play follow a consistent pattern.
The table image is important, because it can strike fear in the heart of your opponents when managed properly. By changing up your pattern, you can send them mentally reeling, making them guess at your next move rather than accurately predicting your Razz poker game. This opens the door to bluffing, slow playing, check/raising, pot control and just about every other poker strategy known to the pros. When opponents can’t predict you, they can’t take advantage of any weaknesses – you have none.