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“Any game where there’s more decisions to make is a more skillful game. If someone can master seven-card stud, then they can master any poker game.” –Chip Reese
In my lifetime I have played every limit of Razz game from play money to free rolls to 30/60 cash game to $2500 buy-in events. Razz is a seemingly simple game. It ends up involving a lot of representation and nerves of steel.
I have written about the Razz tournament that took place at the Four Queens, among others. I don’t have too much to add to it, except that in Razz, it is the hands that are very close in value that really kill you. Often it comes down to the second, third or even fourth card. Is it always worth it to see fifth street knowing you are neck and neck if you don’t catch something on fourth that will give you a much better draw to your low? Not always.
Since readers say I don’t discuss theory very much, I’ll give an example:
I have A6/4 (the four is my doorcard). This is a great Razz starting hand.
My opponent has xx/5, which means he “could” have a great Razz starting hand, one even better than mine. He could have three cards to a five.
Now say that I decide to see fourth street, which is almost a given (because if I had to act before him, I assuredly came in with a completion. If he raised, the pot was certainly big enough to see fourth). I notice the cards which are out are: six, four and five (besides my board and his). This is pretty good for my hand, but might also be pretty good for his, especially if he’s got a six and/or four underneath.
Say on fourth we both brick up. Now, rats, I’ve got to see fifth.
On fifth, I catch a seven, he catches a deuce. Now I have a draw to a seven low, but he might have a draw to a wheel. Then again, the deuce might have paired him. It’s so hard to give it up at this point, in the light of heavy betting that most likely went on at third.
I catch a trey on sixth, he catches a seven. Now I have my seven low (A64x73), but he could have me beat badly, if he has what he is representing: A35x27. That six makes all the difference in the world. I have to catch perfect on seventh in order to jam him, and even then, what if he catches his wheel?
This is what I mean by playing hands so close in value all the way to the river. Yeah, a lot of times when you call them down, they say, “You got me, I double paired” (or “bricked up,” “didn’t make it,” etc). But a lot of times you also hear that they had exactly what they were representing, and nothing in their body language gave it away. So you are crippled, or worse yet, eliminated from the tourney.
That is Razz.
So what is the solution? Well, not getting too deeply involved in hands that are this close in value, but where it is conceivable that he could have a better low draw than you in the first place? I think so. Not in a cash game, but in a tourney, yeah.
When we both bricked on fourth, and he still bets out, just get out. There are better fish to fry than this horse race!
Now getting back to the tourney itself…I had an early lead, then experienced a couple of these type hands, which pretty much put me out of the running for the money. Sure, I could have gotten a few miracles, doubled up a few times, and gotten back into the running, but I surely wasn’t expecting that to happen, I live in the real world :)
(Please keep in mind that this was written in 2004, when the NLHE craze was in a huge upswing and not many recreational players were playing Razz. Today the game is much looser and it becomes correct to play good starting hands like this all the way to showdown, unless you know your opponent very well and you are convinced he has you beat.)