Poker Technique with Greg Raymer: Introduction to Motion Razz

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For two dozen years, I've been part of a poker player company known as ARGers. The origin of this group is that some internet friends from the old newsgroup rec.gambling.poker come together in Vegas to play poker. They later decided to make it an annual meeting and named it BARGE (Big August Rec.Gambling excursion). All these years later we are still gathering for BARGEand have other gatherings across the country. You should look into this group if your goal is to do your best, but having fun is even more important.

In the BARGE Last summer Kevin Un and several other BARGErs developed a new form of razz. If you know razz, it is one of the least popular forms of poker. One thing players don't like is that this forced bet is essentially dead money when you're the bring-in (the player who is forced to make the first bet on third street because they have the highest card had received). This means that almost always someone places the bet and you almost always fold correctly.

When you get into other forms of stud, particularly Stud Hi-Lo, the chances are that you have a very playable hand and possibly even an extremely strong starting hand. This is almost never the case in Razz. Kevin made it his goal to figure out how to change this aspect of razz and managed to play spades!

In this new variant, Action Razz, the game is played almost exactly like traditional Razz. The highest card on third street is the bring-in. Other players can call the bring-in or complete it for a full bet. The game has the typical limit betting structure of all stud games.

The only difference is how you rate your hand at the showdown.

In traditional razz, you choose five of the seven cards that give you the lowest poker hand. For example, if your seven cards are A.Club suit ASpade suit AHeart suit 2Diamond suit 3Spade suit 4thHeart suit 7thSpade suitYour lowest hand is to knock out two of the aces and play the 7-4-3-2-A for low. If no one has a lower ranked hand, you win.

It's mostly the same in action razz, with one caveat. Before we select your five cards to make the lowest possible hand, we check which of the players has a "qualifying" hand at the showdown. To make a qualifying hand, at least one of your seven cards must be a suit. That is, one of them must be a king, queen, or jack.

If no one qualifies at the showdown, i.e. none of them have a suit card, we use the traditional razz showdown rules to determine who wins. If everyone qualifies at the showdown, everyone has a suit card, we'll use the traditional razz showdown rules to determine who wins. If some players qualify and other players do not qualify, all players who did not qualify will be excluded from the showdown and will not be able to win. We then look at the hands of the players who qualified and whoever makes the lowest ranked hand with five of their seven cards is the winner. they do NOT You must use a suit card as part of your winning hand.

Which of these hands wins in Action Razz?

1) A.Club suit 2Diamond suit 3Spade suit 4thHeart suit 5Heart suit 6thSpade suit 7thSpade suit
2) 3Club suit 5Spade suit 7thHeart suit 8thClub suit 9Heart suit 9Spade suit K.Diamond suit
3) A.Diamond suit 2Spade suit 4thDiamond suit 6thHeart suit 6thClub suit 10Diamond suit J.Club suit
4) Q.Club suit Q.Heart suit Q.Spade suit Q.Diamond suit J.Diamond suit J.Spade suit J.Heart suit

If it's just hands, no. one and no. four in showdown, hand number four wins! While this is a terribly low hand (jacks full of queens) it is a qualifying hand. Since the first hand is not qualified, it will lose to any qualifying hand on showdown. Though hand no. One has the nut low of A-2-3-4-5, he loses at the showdown to one of the other three hands as they all qualify, and he doesn't.

If it's just hands, no. two and no. three in showdown, hand number two wins. Both hands qualify. Hand number two has 3-5-7-8-9 for showdown and hand number three has A-2-4-6-10. Nine high is lower than ten high, so hand number two wins. The fact that hand number two qualified with a king and hand number three qualified with a jack does not matter. Once a hand qualifies, it can select its top five cards for showdown purposes.

Now suddenly being the bring-in can be a good thing. Especially when you're bring-in with a Jack upcard. If someone else is done with a low card, unless they also have a suit under it, you might be the favorite to win. About a third of the time, they can't completely catch a suit, and you win all of those times. If they catch a suit, you can still win if you manage to make the lowest hand of five cards. And if you have two very low cards below that, you probably have the best starting hand.

Overall, this variant creates a fun new dynamic for the Razz game. It also adds some new strategic considerations. When you get to the heads up of the river and have a qualifying hand, no matter how bad your hand is, no matter how bad your hand is, you can rightly call your opponent off if they don't show a suit. How much fun is it to call someone king high for your low, or even a couple for low, and hit their wheel for not qualifying?

If you have a home game or somewhere to try this game, I highly recommend it. We hope this game will catch on and become a staple among mixed game lovers everywhere. Maybe one day this could even become a bracelet event? How great would it be to win the first action razz bracelet in a few years? Sweet!
Have fun and play smart! ♠

Greg Raymer is the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, winner of numerous major titles, and more than $ 7 million in earnings. He recently wrote FossilMans Winning Tournament Strategies, which are available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. It is sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg, please tweet @FossilMan or visit his website.