Razz Poker

razz strategy tips for tournaments

Razz Strategy


Razz Tips for Tournaments


The Razz strategy tips outlined below will help improve your Razz game in multi-table tournaments.


We suggest before reading these Razz tournament tips that you first read the Razz tips page for the fundamentals of Razz poker, these tips offer the basic concepts of Razz poker. You may also be interested in learning some HORSE Sit and Go Tournament strategy tips.




Playing Razz Requires Discipline and Patience


In Razz poker you need a tremendous amount of discipline on top of having a lot of patience. With patience it's just a matter of waiting for good starting hands. With discipline it's about knowing when to fold in marginal situations, avoid playing on tilt and keeping your ego in check. Making great laydowns in Razz, or for that matter any poker game, is essential to your tournament success. When you get to the middle or deep in a tournament it takes just a couple of "bad beats" to end your run and send you to the rails. So playing sharp all the way through is vital; you can make 200 great plays but it only takes a few bad ones to send you packing.



Playing at Your Best


Playing Razz poker also requires that you play at your best. Don't play a Razz tournament if you are emotionally or physically down. Playing when you are not at your best can end your tournament very early in the game. You also don't want any distractions if you are playing online, e.g. watching T.V., on the phone, etc. Razz requires that you focus on each given hand, even when you are not in a hand! Paying attention and making notes on the other players gives you that extra edge.



Razz Starting Hands


So what kind of starting hands are you looking for when playing in a Razz multi-table tournament? In the early rounds you want to play pretty tight, open a pot with no less than an 8 high and fold to any raise if your 8 high is rough, e.g. 2-7-8. Ideally you want to start with cards that are 7 or less. Patience really is one of the key ingredients to wining Razz tournaments. To be dealt seven high or better you'd be playing roughly 1 in 10 hands, and to be dealt eight or better you'd be playing roughly 1 in 6 hands dealt to you. See Razz Hand Probabilities for some Razz odds. So while the other players are playing hands like rough eights, 9 and 10+ high and you enter a pot with them with your smooth 8 or 7 high or better, then you are already ahead of them in the hand and are in good position to take their chips!


Waiting for good starting hands in Razz does pay off. Even if you portray a tight table image many players in Razz will still play with you with their marginal hands and wishful runner, runners.


In the middle and late stages you might want to lower your starting hand requirements to 9 or maybe even 10 high (played very cautiously), of course you'll want these higher cards in the hole to disguise your hand strength. Deciding to play these hands should be based on what your opponent's up-cards are. The reason why you may start off some hands with 9 or even 10 high is that these pots are already quite large due to higher bring-ins and antes, making these pots worth winning without contention. There are also fewer players involved in these hands because the bets are so large and for the short and medium stacks every hand at these stages could be their last! So play your 9 and 10 high if you have a decent amount of chips, otherwise stick with 8 high or even 7 high and better.


It's also important to note that if your up card is lower than everyone else's and you have one or two parts of decent hole cards then you'll want raise and try to win the pot right there. In this case you already know that you are ahead of everyone else's hands. If you get called then you can see what happens on fourth street to determine your next action. It is important to note that throughout the tournament the value of your hand is principally based on what the other player's up cards are showing.


I have won Razz tournaments by both lowering my hand requirements to include 9 and sometimes 10 high in the later stages of a tournament and I have also won tournaments where I never started a hand worse than 8 high (excluding stealing antes and other special circumstances) until it got shorthanded. For your first few Razz tournaments I would suggest playing tight and include staring hands that are 7 or better. By doing this you will gain much experience and a better understanding for tournament play.



Noting the Up Cards


Razz is a game of information. Your opponent's up cards can give you a lot of information about their hand strength. The up cards can also dictate if you should be in the hand or not, regardless of what you've been dealt.


As soon as the up cards have been dealt make note of them starting with the player's up card from the bring-in, then quickly view the other players cards clockwise from the bring-in. This will give you a chance to see the cards before some players fold them.


With Razz you don't have to remember every card that is shown, what you want to do is look at all the up cards and look for and remember the cards that you would need to help improve your hand. For example, If you were dealt 5 6 8 and you noticed that there are a lot of up cards that could have improved your hand, like A, 2, 3, 4, and 7's then you may want to think twice about getting involved in that particular hand. Or at the very least play your hand cautiously.


The more cards that you have to count the worse off your hand is. The less cards that you have to count the better chance your hand can improve.



Isolating the Field


When you are dealt a good starting hand then you want to raise the pot. If it was raised to you then you want to re-raise if you think it might get some other players left in the hand to fold. What you are trying to do with your raise and re-raise is to thin out the players and isolate the pot to one or two players. With Razz it's hard enough to keep improving your hand when you are heads-up let alone a multi-handed pot, regardless of how good your starting hand was. Once you get down to just one or two opponents then you can simply call if you are still drawing to a decent hand when your opponents still look good.



When to Just Call


Even if you feel you have the best of it in a particular hand and a player is betting into you and re-raising you're raises, it's best to just call if there are more than one opponent left in the hand. Your re-re-raise probably won't do much for getting anyone to fold and you can quite easily hit a brick on the next turn. Simply call and see what card comes up next to determine your next course of action.



Know When to Fold


Knowing when to fold your hand is vital to your tournament success. Basically anytime you think you are beat you probably should fold, but keep this in mind... The best drawing hand is a favorite over a made 9 high hand on 5th street and on 6th street the 9 low is now favorite. A made 8 high on 5th street is a favorite over a four card drawing hand.


Chasing for low cards in Razz is not profitable. Even if you started off with a dream hand of A 2 3 and you end up catching two bad cards in a row and your opponent caught good, you must fold your hand. Do not chase in Razz! Yes it hurts to see a beautiful starting hand like that go to the muck, but if it goes sour then you have no choice as the odds are against you now.


Razz is a drawing game and getting three good dealt cards is just the beginning of making a good hand. There will be many times that your perfect starting hand turns ugly, then there are times that it keeps improving! Be discipline and patient and the good hands will scoop you the big pots!



Stealing the Antes


Stealing the antes in Razz is more important in the middle to later stages of the tournament and can help build your chip stack a few chips at a time.


You can steal the antes by betting or raising the players who have higher up cards than what you are showing. There is a chance that their next card can be a brick and you are dealt good, a bet here will usually win the pot. You should only try to steal the pot when no one else entered the pot (excluding the bring-in).


Another steal option is when everyone folds and you are in late position with only the bring-in to your left. In this case you almost always want to raise the bring-in regardless of what you have in the hole. More often than not the bring-in will fold. If the bring-in defends and simply calls then you can see what happens on fourth street to determine your next action. If you improve and they don't, bet.


If the bring-in re-raises you then you should fold if you hold two bad cards in the hole. Call if you hold one good card in the hole and then see what happens on fourth street. If they improve, fold. If you improve, bet.




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