Mixed game strategy: Razz

If you’re struggling to make money from no-limit hold’em it’s time to pull off the blinkers and widen your horizons – the mixed game revolution starts here, with a crash course in razz!

People are constantly saying that poker is getting harder. And it’s true that no-limit hold’em games have got tougher over the years. Thanks to strategy from this website, training sites online and years of playing NLHE, the average person has improved and makes less mistakes.

But there’s one area where it’s still possible to find easy, weak games – you just need to broaden your horizons a bit. Poker players are generally weaker at mixed games. They’re weaker at pretty much all levels, but especially at lower or micro stakes, where it’s quite possible for people to not even really know the rules of the games they’re playing, let alone any advanced strategies.

Think that’s overstating the case? It’s really not. On a recent Twitch broadcast, while he was playing Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom at $400/$800 Mixed, Daniel Negreanu told the story of how Blom was going to play the $50k buy-in at the WSOP but didn’t know how to play all the games. Negreanu gave him a 15-minute tutorial and he came in 14th for a $105k cash. It’s not a leap of faith to suggest there are a lot of people messing about in mixed games at the lowest levels that simply don’t know what they’re doing.

Push the envelope

There are a few reasons why you should devote yourself to learning how to play mixed games.

1. It’s fun

Playing NLHE all the time can get a bit tedious. Limit hold’em comes with different strategies and pot-limit Omaha provides plenty of action. All variants of poker have something going for them – even razz!

2. It could be profitable

Poker is fun but it’s really all about the money. If you can book wins easier in mixed games then that’s where you should be. Plus, it’s definitely true that poker is more fun when you’re winning. If you don’t enjoy mixed games as much as NLHE this should even things out.

3. It will help your all-round game

If you want to be a great poker player, knowledge of as many variants as possible will help you. Skills that you learn from other variants will definitely help your NLHE game.

How to play razz

Razz is seven-card stud played low. Straights and flushes don’t count so the best hand is A-2-3-4-5. There is no qualifier for the low, so a pair of Jacks would beat a pair of Kings. Hands are ranked by high cards so A-2-4-5-7 beats A-2-3-6-7.

At the start of each hand everyone has to post an ante before two cards are dealt face down and one face up to each player. The player showing the highest card has to post a bring-in bet. If there are two identical values then spades plays high followed by hearts, diamonds and clubs. Betting proceeds clockwise with players able to call or raise to the small bet level. Keep an eye on position as this is down to who posts the bring-in.

The exposed card is called third street, and is followed by three more up cards – all with their own rounds of betting – called fourth, fifth and sixth. The final card – seventh street – is dealt face down. After the initial round of betting it’s the lowest hand that acts first. Bets are made at the lower level until fifth street.

The very best starting hand is [A]-[2]-3 with your lowest cards hidden. Ideally you want to be playing hands with a Seven as your highest card. An Eight low on the river is an average hand, with 9-J lows very marginal.

The really important concept in razz is that you get a lot of information – not just from the players you’re up against in the pot, but also from other players that have folded previously. It’s crucial to know what’s been folded, as well as how many of your outs/cards that you want to avoid are dead.

And remember that in razz you can always see what your opponent’s best possible hand is.

Tips from Barry Greenstein

PP: Razz seems a pretty straightforward game – does it have hidden depths?

Barry Greenstein: Razz is the game with the most straightforward basic strategy in that you want to start with three low cards and you can always try to steal the bring-in if you’re in late position with a low card up. But there are still a lot of subtleties that arise, which enable good players to win against the bad.

What combinations of your hole cards and up cards do you look to play?

Three to an Eight is the benchmark, but a lot depends on the other up cards and position. For example, against a late position raiser who could be stealing you could certainly call with a Nine or Ten and hope to be ahead or catch up, whereas in early position Three to an Eight on a bad board can be folded.

What advice do you have on: a) defending the bring-in?

You can defend with any Two to a Seven low, though this is best done against late position players.

b) folding or sticking around on the later streets?

The pot will often be so big at this stage that you’ll need to call down unless you have strong evidence that even hitting could still not help you.

c) looking for opportunities to check-raise instead of playing straightforwardly?

You should play straightforwardly most of the time, but there are spots you can check-raise in. For example, if you raise in late position with a strong hand and someone plays back at you suspecting a steal with a weaker hand, you might wait until fifth street to check-raise when the bets are bigger.

d) playing seventh street?

You should rarely fold if there are many bets in the pot and there’s any chance that you can be winning.

Advanced strategy from Daniel Negreanu

Daniel Negreanu is one of the best all-round poker players in the world and he’s been streaming $400/$800 mixed games from PokerStars on Twitch, and explaining the strategies behind his play. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKidPoker to find out when he’s streaming live and you can catch all of his past broadcasts at Twitch.tv/dnegspoker.

Hand 1: Case Ace

Razz1

 

In this hand ChaoRen160 posts the bring-in of $100 with his Ten. Isildur1 raises with his Seven. Negreanu is showing the best with a Two but also has a Nine.

Daniel Negreanu: ‘If he raises we’re not going to fold because Isildur is pretty aggressive and even though we have a Nine in the hole, which is not good, we’re going to see one card because he doesn’t know we have a Nine in the hole.’

ChaoRen160 calls as well. Everyone picks up low cards – ChaoRen160 gets an Ace, Isildur gets a Four and Negreanu gets a Three.

‘Now we’re going to bet. We don’t want to check here as Isildur1 might have nothing’

ChaoRen160 folds his Ace and Isildur1 calls.

‘Notice that ace folded? So Michael [Chaoren160] had an ace, so there are two aces gone – you’ve got to think about stuff like that in razz.’

Negreanu picks up an Eight giving him a made Nine-high. Isildur1 gets a King. Negreanu bets saying, ‘Now if Isildur picks up an Ace he’s less likely to have paired it.’ Negreanu picks up a Six and Isildur – right on cure – picks up an Ace.

‘So now we have an 8-6 low which has got to be good. If not we have a draw to a Six. He could have a 7-low here. Negreanu bets and Isildur calls.’

Negreanu gets another Eight on the river, leaving him with an 8-low. Because two Aces were most likely folded earlier, it makes it much more likely that Isildur hasn’t paired his Ace. For this reason Negreanu checks with the intention of calling a bet and Isildur checks behind with a Ten high.

‘He did pair his ace, wow, that’s amazing. I’m pretty sure that was the last ace, do you understand what that means? Michael [Chaoren160] is a smart guy, he called with the Ten, which is not a very good card up. That means he has two very good cards in the hole. Now, he catches an ace, I bet into him and he folds the ace.

Sure I caught a good one and the other player caught a good one, but he’s probably going to take one off if he had 2-3 and has a-2-3-T. So now I can assume that two of those aces are gone. When Isildur catches one I think, oh boy, that didn’t pair him. But it turns out it did pair him and he still called. I’m not so sure that was a good call buddy.’

Hand 2: Information is king

Razz2

 

Negreanu has a good starting hand and the other Three means it’s less likely he’ll pair it. cts687 completes and 0409479 raises. Negreanu calls and cts687 calls.

Daniel Negreanu: ‘We have a good low hand here. We could re-raise, but… It’s razz, even if we’re in front we’re not that far in front.’

Negreanu and 0409479 pick up Jacks and cts687 gets a King.

‘Everyone’s caught garbage. I’m going to go ahead and bet this. Oh my god, I’m supposed to just check there.’

cts687 calls and 0409479 raises.

‘So this guy is raising, that means he has A-2 or A-3 in the hole, he’s got a three-card Five – that’s information, because now we know what cards won’t pair him. He catches a Six, Seven or Eight, that’s not going to pair him.’

Negreanu picks up an Eight along with cts687. 0409479 gets a Two.

‘Okay, he might have paired that deuce as he played so aggressive by raising. He’s claiming that he didn’t pair. We’re not going to fold an Eight.’

Negreanu calls and cts687 calls. Negreanu gets a Nine, cts687 gets a Ten and 0409479 gets a Jack.

‘We’ve got the best hand. We have the Nine, he has a Ten and this guy has a Jack. However… I hope he folds because he paired the deuce. He doesn’t.’

Negreanu pairs his Nine on seventh giving him a marginal 9-low.

‘We’re not betting, we’re just going to check and pray that everyone checks.’

cts687 bets and 0409479 raises.

‘What are you thinking, you’re betting an Eight?’ [cts687’s best possible hand]. This guy’s drawing to a wheel… That was a stupid bet by cts.’

Negreanu folds, cts687 calls and loses to a better 8-low.

‘That was not well played by cts. He was hoping to get a call from me with a Nine. But he lost another $600 to the guy who was clearly drawing better.

You can see the thought process that goes through Negreanu’s head in this hand. As it turns out, 0409479 had a Six in the hole, so his cards weren’t as strong as Negreanu thought and a Six would have paired him. That’s solid info you can add to your notes.


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