Razz is not your typical poker game. Most of its players are advanced level elites, if not career professionals. They employ advanced strategies that you must understand to compete. Online, you may run up against beginners, too, requiring a shift in strategy gears. Knowing who you’re up against is just the first step in taking down a table.
Bring-In – To Fold or Not to Fold
The obvious answer, most of the time, is to fold. You’ve been forced to invest – not once, but twice – in what appears to be the worst hand at the table. Most of the time, you’re going to fold, plugging an inevitable leak. But certain situations are worth defending. If these four conditions are met, then you have every right to call when action returns to you.
- Your door is no higher than a Jack.
- Your hole contains two wheel cards (A thru 5).
- Very few wheel cards are showing (plenty of outs remain).
- You have good reason to believe your opponent is just betting to steal.
This won’t guarantee you the win. It won’t even give you the best odds. As I said, folding from the bring-in is almost always the right move. But if ever there were a time to defend your investment with confidence, this would be it.
If you get lucky enough to bring with 3-card 8 or better, complete the bring-in with a full bet. Odds are you’ll be the one stealing, or at least going into 4th street heads-up.
Starting Hands & How to Play the Good Ones
There’s a simple rule of thumb for beginners to follow here. If none of your first three cards are higher than 8 (with no pairs of course), proceed. With a 9 or worse, fold. Assuming you are dealt a qualifying starter, how do you handle it?
Your betting strength should depend on your visible strength. Maybe you have (4-7) 2. A hand like this exudes power. But if we move those around to (2-4) 7, it becomes weaker. The hand hasn’t changed, but your visible strength has.
The more powerful your hand, the more likely an opponent is to fold against you. With a 7 or 8 up, they are more likely to draw beyond 5th street, especially if they’re showing something smaller than you. When showing power, put the pressure on.
Stealing – What, How and Why
Stealing in Razz is a strategic move in which a player exhibits strength, convincing everyone else to fold. It’s easy enough to intimidate the table with an Ace or deuce door against sixes to Kings, especially from early position when others have little to lose, or from late position when most players already gave up.
If successful, you get a small but free handful of chips. It may not seem worth much – a risky bluff for a tiny profit – but if you follow the starting hands rule above, (fold all but 3-card 8 High), you’ve got a steady leak of antes to shore up anyway. The occasional steal does the trick.
The only problem you might face is against loose opponents who will call just about anything to 5th street before giving up. Be careful about stealing against this table. Too often, they’ll get lucky and you’ll brick, ruining this otherwise optimal Razz strategy.
Pay Attention to Outs & Kill Cards
Pay close attention to what cards are showing on the board. Obviously, this helps you determine the potential strength of your opponents, but that’s only part of the strategic equation. Following every street, you should be evaluating how many outs you have to a better hand, versus how many cards could kill your hand. Your odds are always better when the number of outs exceeds the number of kill cards.
For instance, maybe you have (2-8) 5. The board is showing J-8-K-2-5-A-5. Your odds of pairing are lowered by the absence of 4 kill cards (2-5-5-8). If, however, after 4th street, you’re holding (2-8) 5-6, and have seen no other 5s or 6s, your odds of pairing either one are too high for comfort.
To put it simply, you want to see your opponents showing cards of 9+ and pairs to your own A-8 low cards. This means more outs (low cards you don’t have) and less kill cards (high cards and pairs to your lows).