McHaffie: MCU lesson 126 / Razz

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2008.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 126: Razz

I first witnessed Razz being played when Mike participated in the $50,000 buy-in HORSE event at the 2006 World Series of Poker. Razz is the “R” part of HORSE, which is a rotating five-game poker challenge that separates the skilled from the unskilled. It’s definitely a game that you want to observe, even if you don’t choose to participate.

HORSE will return in 2008 for its third year at the WSOP. Participating in the main HORSE event requires knowledge of Hold ‘em, Omaha, Razz, Seven-card Stud high, and Seven-card Stud high-low, eight or better, as well as a huge bankroll.

Razz will also be played as its own event, with a $1,500 buy-in on June 13. You can gain some practice prior to the WSOP, at several online poker sites.


Mike thinks that it’s a good idea to learn Razz. There are currently three HORSE events scheduled this year at the WSOP, one being the main HORSE event with a hefty $50,000 buy-in. There are two smaller HORSE events, one with a $3,000 buy-in and one with a $1,500 buy-in. The $50,000 HORSE tournament divides the pros from the newbie’s and is considered to be one of the choice events where the major pros choose to show off their skills. It’s definitely a must-see event!

Lowest hand

Razz is played much like seven-card stud. It is a limit game. There are up to eight players. You are dealt seven cards and your goal is to make the lowest feasible hand with five cards. The ace is always played low and straights or flushes don’t count against you. The absolutely best Razz hand is: 5-4-3-2-A.

In Razz, each player is required to ante, then dealt two cards face down and one card face up. The player with the highest exposed card is required to bet, also termed “bring it in.” If you have the King of spades, which is considered the worst possible card to hold, as your exposed card, you’re bringing it in! Players will receive another exposed card after the first round of betting. This time betting begins with the lowest exposed card. Then you receive another exposed card. This is the fifth card you receive, also known as 5th street. Here, the betting increments will double. The 6th card will be an exposed card, too. The 7th and last card will be dealt face down. The player that opened on the 6th round will begin the action on 7th.

Wisest move

You obviously want low-ranking cards without pairs. You need to be aware of your opponents’ exposed cards.

Razz is a game that requires patience and conservativeness. If you see that any of your opponents have a 2, 3, or ace as an exposed card, choosing to play your 8-7-6 would not be your wisest move.


Another important factor in Razz is your position. The same players don’t always act first after each betting round, but it’s to your advantage to have players who often call acting before you. Why? Because if you choose to raise, their money has already been donated to the pot.

One key ingredient to being a successful Razz player is observing and remembering your opponents exposed cards after they are folded. By observing your opponents cards and their reactions to receiving those cards, it’s possible to gain an idea of what they’re actions might be. Then you may be able to play your cards more aggressively.

Always remember, if your hand doesn’t look very good, then it probably isn’t worth risking money. If you don’t begin with three unpaired cards below a nine, you should rarely play. But on rare occasions, you’ll play anyway, because opponents’ exposed cards are high. And if you have two more high cards than an opponent at any stage of the wagering, you should almost always fold. Razz is a game of patience. If you feel you’re getting awful cards, Razz may be your game. Worst hand wins! — DM

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