At the heart of Razz strategy are the two points central to almost all community card poker games – know when to fold, and track your opponents’ cards carefully.
When to Fold
In Razz, the best possible starting hand is A-2-3. This gives you a shot at the best winning hand, known as the wheel (A-5-4-3-2).
Any starting hand that consists of three cards ranked from ace to five is very strong. With a hand like this, the best Razz strategy is to bet and raise aggressively. Rather than playing slow, it generally makes sense to “jam” the pot, ensuring that there’s enough in the pot by fourth street for you to call even if you’re dealt a bad card. You can then hope for a strong card and a recovery at fifth street.
A starting hand with three cards between ace and 6 is also a good starting hand but requires more caution, especially if other players at third street appear to be betting and raising aggressively (suggesting that they’re also holding low door cards).
Generally, if your opening hand includes cards ranked 8 or higher, it’s a good idea to consider folding at third street.
Tracking Dead Cards
Even if you’re holding what appears to be a very strong low hand, you could be dealt a card that will give you a pair – in which case, you’ll lose. So it’s important to track the face-up cards dealt to other players, including players who fold.
For example, if you’re holding 3-4-5 as door cards and you see that other players have been dealt a 3, two 4s and a 5, you can feel slightly safer about proceeding with your hand and betting heavily. This is because it’s less likely that you’ll be dealt a pair.
Sometimes, other players’ face-up cards will be enough to tell you that you’ve got the strongest hand. For example, if you’re holding a 7 and two lower-ranked cards, and you notice that all other players’ face-up cards are higher than 7, it’s safe to assume that you’ve got the best hand. You can then bet and raise aggressively. The only remaining danger is that you might be dealt a pair.
Stealing the Antes
In Razz strategy, stealing the antes is important, especially if the betting limits are high.
Generally, you should always complete a bet to steal the bring-in and antes if the bring-in player is seated immediately to your left.
Also, if you’re dealt the lowest face-up card, it’s a good time to try for a steal. In Razz strategy, this is worth a shot even if your hole cards are relatively weak. However, if another player plays back at you, it’s time to let go!