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Razz, the Thinking Man's Junk Kick

I've been dabbling in the higher stakes lately, but I've made my greatest jump in Razz of all games. Before jumping up, I would play 2/4. I moved to 3/6 for a few days, and within a week, I am now playing 8/16 semi-regularly. Bankroll-wise, I'm not too sure if it is appropriate stakes or not. But for anyone with any sort of knowledge, I'll just say that my active bankroll is barely in the 4-digits.

That said, I feel extremely comfortable playing 8/16 Razz, moreso than if I were playing 5/10 HE. The reason, Razz is somewhat basic. It's really a game of opportunistic aggression. There is a lot of information on that board, and if you have good logic and number arrangement skills, you can begin to see the opportunities like a freakin' roadmap.

The beauty of Razz is that, unlike other Stud games, flushes and straights don't matter. This greatly reduces the amount of pertinent information that must be memorized. When the first three cards are dealt, I'm not looking to see what suits are dead or who has my straight cards. Rather, I'm making a hi/lo analysis, i.e., how many low cards are out (8 and under) and who has them.

I prefer Razz in shorthanded tables, from 3-6 players optimally. Basically, its because I like to play lots of hands. You can't be doing this naturally in Razz. Generally stick with the starting requirement of 3 cards 8 and under and you are in great shape. When you have that sort of hand, go ahead and pop it up for a raise. You want to be the aggressor as much as possible. The only exception is when you see a bunch of low cards in position after you AND you don't have a strong hand (three cards 6 and under). In those cases, its important to check not just to save yourself from a re-raise, but also because you want to see what your opponent will do. For the most part, if they are raising, you have to slow it least until you hit a duece on fourth street and they hit a Jack.

In this regards, you can peg your opponents' starting hand ranges pretty quick. Once they reach showdown, check to see what they start with. You'd be surprised what you see. Some play T9/3 and Q4/2, and those will be your best cash cows. And I suggest that you ALWAYS check the Last Hand option at FullTilt. It'll show you mucked hands that went to showdown, and it'll often (seemingly at random) display your opponent's cards in order. Otherwise, contrary to some player's beliefs, FT rearranges your and your opponents' cards into a random order at showdown. So it may have looked like he started with AK/J and hit 234 and 5 in a row, but he may have actually started with A23 and hit 45 before bricking the rest of the way. If the Last Hand shows your opponents' cards with slashes through the first two and the last, FT is showing you the actual order. If there are no slashes, you are SOL, and you are looking at the rearranged board.

Suddenly, if you are down to 4 players, everyone loosens up even more, and so can you. Play 9 and under, or even 10 and under if the situation dictates. It's play in the later streets that get tricky.

But enough of this. Let's get to a hand and see how it plays out. In Razz, you always want to know where you are, where you were and where you will be. Add that with your knowledge of your opponent's range and his board and that's a lot of information in a very straight forward raise or fold game.

I'm at a 8/16 Razz table with $1.50 antes, sitting with $630.50. I'm really only up 30.50, but some people sit with the bare minimum, and frankly, I want to intimidate them. It's silly, I know, but if you are stepping into a game with me with the minimum AND its at or near heads up, I'll constantly attack. It's just what I do.

Me: 74/5
Soe: XX/J

Now, right away, I'm way ahead. With antes and the $2 bring in, I can win about $5 just from pushing out the Q and J preflop. Why mess around, since neither look like they'll play for much, AND I'm ahead now. Who knows what will happen later if one of them has A2 in the hole.

JNo brings it in for $2. Soe calls. I like this alot. More for me to get preflop. I raise to $8. JNo folds, but Soe calls. So, I naturally assume that he has two very low cards underneath. We take another card.

Me: 74/59
Soe: XX/JA

Now, this is the shit I was worried about. If I brick in the next card, he might actually take the lead. I know where I am, drawing to a 9-low. That isn't bad, but if I miss, I'm in trouble. He's drawing to a J-low, which is pretty bad, but if he called preflop, he might call here with 23 behind, and in two cards time, he might take a lot of money off of me. He may also have an Ace underneath, and I'll win it now happily if I can. The bottom line is, I'm definitely ahead now, so let's raise. $8 into the pot, and Soe calls. Beautiful.

Me: 74/595

And it happens. I'm officially behind. Time to tuck tail? Hell no. He bets out $16, and rather than fold, I raise to $32. $32! That's more than the tournament I spent 45 minutes playing before I bubbled. Here's the thing. No matter what, I'm in great shape on the next card. He has a made Jack, or so we will assume. He also has a draw to the Ten (at best). That's not such a great draw. He probably thinks I'm drawing to the 9, and he's right. All I really need is an 8, 6, 3, 2, or A. That's 19 cards out 41 (I already know about my 5 cards, his 3 card board including an Ace and the folder's Q). Even better, he doesn't know what I have behind, so if I pair my 4 or 7, so be it. He'll still have a made 10 at best and be looking at what appears to be a made 9. So that's another 6 semi-outs, for about 25 out of 41. Frankly, I can get a Ten, and if he gets a King, Queen or pairs a card, I'm ahead again anyway.

I could potentially just call and string him along, but if he gets that scare card, I want the money now. So I raise to $32, knowing that he will definitely call. He does.

Me: 74/5953

And it happens. I bet, he folds, and I win $101.50 for my trouble.

In this hand, I'm very glad that I didn't clam up when I hit the pair. Sometimes you have to push through. If I missed, so be it, but I was able to control the hand, get more money in when I was a favorite, and squeeze extra value out of a situation that didn't look particularly great.

I really love that Razz. As it turned out, I started last night playing tournaments. Namely, I played a token race for a $26 Token and won (that makes 1 $26 token and 1 $75 token). I then lost in a turbo single table $22+2 and a HORSE single table $20+2. I played a handful of 3/6 LO8, and lost about 60 there. All in all, I was down near a hundred after less than an hour of play. Then I switched to 8/16 Razz and won it all back, shutting down when I was up $1.50 or so. That works for me as I've artificially extended my online winnnig streak to 7 days or so, probably my longest streak since my 11-in-a-row (I believe) from much earlier this year.

I skipped the Mookie to watch Lost with wifey Kim. The show is still fantastic, but its lost some of the new car scent. However, I really like the intelligent writing, and I'm glad that Mr. Eko's death seemed to have some reprecussion. I just couldn't understand why Locke was supposed to save Eko's life one week, just to have him die a random death in the next week, but chalk it up to divine intervention or some other form of coincidence. Now we wait until February to find out just what the hell will happen. In the meantime, I'm sure you'll all be watching Heroes, a show that was able to build off of the mood and concepts behind Lost to reach something near perfection...for the first season. Look for it to get stale, too, in season 3, at which point they'll be some other Johnny Come Lately sci-fi tinged, character-driven, mystery drama. Does that sound bitter? I hope not. The truth is, I'm super glad for both shows.

I can't believe its Nov. 9th. I'm supposed to go to Foxwoods on Nov. 18th weekend, but I have not yet booked anything in the way of a room. I'm highly tempted not to book a room and just go for the day or something, but I'll look at prices in the area anyway soon. Woffle will likely be there too, but otherwise, no one else. That's fine by me, because I'd like to meet the Woffle and as long as there is poker to be had, I don't really need any company at all. That said, if you feel like some poker, why not join us. I'd even share a room...maybe.

That's all for now. Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:05 PM,


At 11:00 AM, Blogger Pokerwolf said...

I've thought about bumping up in limits for Razz, but I'm going to wait until my bankroll is bigger. If I'm losing at Razz, I tend to lose big.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger SoxLover said...

You were probably way ahead on 4th street as most likely he paired an ace--as you say his most likely holding with a J on board is two babies, and you didn't have ace at all so it is quite likely that is what he had.

Even if he caught perfect on 4th e.g. with 23 in the hole), you are still ahead 59-41 (

On 5th, even if he is not paired and you are, you've actually improved slightly to 60/40 ( is crushed if he is paired 80-20.

Your raise to 32 on 5th is pretty much automatic.

Moral of the story is I will lay you 18:3 that he is an idiot. Open calling on 3rd with paint up with babies to follow is generally suicidal in this game. Tag the fish and go back for more.

At 3:05 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Actually, Sox, this was an anomoly in his play. He was playing much better before this, and he and I had one craptastic player between us, so we just took turns taking his money. I guess he must've saw my aggression against the other guy and took it as a signal that I was playing crap. Either that, or he noticed that I was playing fairly conservatively against him, and took me for making a preflop bluff attempt. But yeah, this hand is total donkitude on his part.

At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I might be down for some NLHE at Foxwoods now that you can buy into the 1-2 game for $300.

At 3:33 PM, Blogger slb159 said...

I still have never seen this happen personally...unless it's just the three down cards since, all four up cards have always stayed in place for myself and my opponent(s).

I've had a person at a table narrow it down and say that they rearrange them in the order to show the top hand (best hand) you are holding. I haven't seen that either. Maybe I'm missing something, or have an "auto-rearrange" button disabled, but I'll look into it some more.

Best of luck.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger SIF said...

You have to err on the 500 Big Bet side of the 300-500 Big Bet rule of thumb for Stud games, because the variance is higher than HE and Omaha variants. I would therefore say you need an $8,000 bankroll to play 8/16 Razz.

As you point out in your post, although not explicitly, most Razz +EV comes from well-timed ante-steals and your opponent's failure to understand the basic math of the game. Ultimately, there aren't tons of "read" parts to the game online, because the key reading skill is understanding when a good one paired your opponent, and for that, you basically gotta watch the guy in the face when his up card lands. Classic stud poker reading skills. To the extent I like Razz at all, that's the only part I like about it.

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's only if you plan on staying at those stakes as a grinder.

I have no problem with taking shots at something above my BR for one session if the game looks soft.

People put too much stock into bankroll management. Unless poker is your job, you can take shots semi-frequently if you aren't sitting in a game where you're outmatched by everyone. I wouldn't even sit in a bigger game where it's even. I always look for 2 or more fish at a table in order to take a shot, and if they go busto, I leave.

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