Razz is a form of stud poker that is normally played for ace-to-five low (lowball poker). The object of Razz is to make the lowest five-card possible hand from the seven cards you are dealt. In Razz, straights and flushes do not count against you for low, and the ace always plays low. The best possible Razz hand is 5-4-3-2-A, or 5 high, also known as "the wheel" or "the bicycle". Deuce-to-seven Razz is also sometimes played.
Razz is the "R" game featured in H.O.R.S.E.
Play in Razz is similar to regular seven-card stud. Razz is usually played as a limit poker game, meaning that there is a fixed amount that can be bet per player per round. Each player antes and is dealt two cards face down (the hole cards), and one card face up. This card is known as the "door card". The highest door card showing has to "bring it in" - put in the mandatory first bet, which is usually one third to half of the regular bet. In a case where two people have a door card of the same rank, the bring in is determined by suit. Spades is the highest possible suit, followed by ♥, ♦, and ♣. The K♠ would be the worst possible door card in Razz, and a guaranteed bring-in. Play continues clockwise from the bring in, as in normal Stud poker. After the first round of betting, each player still in the hand receives another card face up. Betting begins with the lowest hand showing. Play continues like this until the fifth card, at which point the betting increments double. The seventh card is dealt face down, and action would begin with the same player who opened on the 6th card. After each hand the deal rotates to the left, as with most forms of poker.
Here's a sample Razz deal (suits are omitted here because they are never of consequence except for the bring in). Alice deals each player two downcards and then one upcard: Bob's upcard is a J, Carol is dealt a 3, David an A, and Alice a 4. Bob's J is the high card (David's A is low), so he pays a $1 bring-in. Carol, David, and Alice all call. Now Bob is dealt a 9, Carol another 3, David a 4, and Alice a 2. The best low hand showing is now David's 4-A, just beating Alice's 4-2. David bets $1, Alice calls. Bob folds his J-9, and Carol calls (her pair of 3s is the highest (and therefore worst) hand showing, but there are still many cards to come). Alice now deals Carol an A, David a K, and herself an 8. The low hand showing is now Alice's 8-4-2, so she bets $2. Carol raises $2, and David folds. Alice calls, ending the round. Carol is now dealt a 6, and Alice another 8. Now the lowest hand showing is Carol's 3-3-6-A, a pair of 3s being lower than Alice's pair of 8s. She bets $2 and Alice calls. A final downcard is dealt, Carol again bets $2, and Alice calls. Alice reveals that her downcards are 7-J-A, making her lowest five-card hand an 8-7-4-2-A. Carol reveals her downcards to be a 4-6-7, making her lowest five-card hand a 7-6-4-3-A, which wins the pot.
World Series of Poker
Razz has been an event at the World Series of Poker since 1973, when Sam Angel won the first event for a grand prize of $32,000. The Razz event does not draw the larger numbers of players that more popular games like Texas hold 'em do. The Razz tournament was televised by ESPN in 2004.
London lowball is a game played almost exclusively in Europe. It is almost identical to Razz in play with the following exceptions: straights and flushes count against you for low, it is played ace-to-six low, and it is usually played pot limit or no limit.
London Lowball isn't "usually played pot-limit or no-limit." It is played pot-limit. One could certainly play a game with the same standards as what constitutes a winning hand either limit or no-limit but that isn't what is called by this name. Stewart Reuben and Bob Ciaffone, in their book on no-limit and pot-limit poker, give the details.
Normally the best starting hand in Razz is A-2-3. A general strategy in a full-ring game is to only play three card 8s or lower, meaning any three cards 8 or lower that are not paired. Players want to avoid making pairs and should evaluate other door cards in relation to the strength of their hand. For instance, Jane holds 3-4-5 and sees four "dead" door cards of 3-4-4-5 behind her. This is a strong hand, as the likelihood of pairing her hole cards is now greatly diminished.
Another key strategy in Razz is stealing the antes and bring-in bets. If a player is to the right of the bring-in bettor, and everyone else folds, a raise with a lower exposed card is normally the correct play. For example, if Mary has a 9 showing, and John, the bring-in bettor, has a K showing, Mary should normally raise if everyone else folds.