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Lowball and Razz Poker Rules

By Gary Steele

These are two popular poker variations often played even by professionals. Razz is a very frustrating game, as anyone who watched the 2004 World Series of Poker on ESPN already knows. Every guy who left the table looked like he had just had his wisdom teeth pulled out.

In both Lowball and Razz the object is to get the lowest hand. This really twists the hand ranking chart around, but luckily players do not usually have to worry about learning how to tell the best hand. I have only seen a pair win the pot a handful of times in either of these games. Straights and Flushes do not count in these games. This basically means the hand ranking chart looks like this from best to worst:

Hand Explanation
Lowest High Card Of the five cards used to make the hand, the player with the lowest high card wins. (A, 2, 3, 4, 5) is the lowest hand and is called “The Wheel.”
Second Lowest High Card If more than one player has the same high card, the next highest cards are compared, down to the last card. This means (A, 2, 3, 4, 6) beats (A, 2, 3, 5, 6).
One Pair You will rarely see a pair in win Razz or Lowball win, but you never know. It happens in Lowball more often than Razz.

I am sure somewhere in the world two pair has won one of these games, but I have not seen it. Then would come three-of-a-kind, full house, etc. You are probably as likely to see three-of-a-kind win one of these two games in a showdown as you are of seeing a Royal Flush win Five-Card Stud.

Razz is played just like Seven-Card Stud. Players are dealt two cards face-down, followed by a round of betting. Then the next four cards are dealt up one at a time to each player, followed by a round of betting. Then the last card is dealt down, followed by a round of betting and the showdown.

In Razz, the highest card face-up starts the betting with a forced blind, just like the low card has a forced blind in Seven-Card Stud.

Lowball is played just like Five-Card Draw. Each player is dealt five cards and a round of betting takes place. Players then select a number of cards from their hand and replace them from the deck. After the draw, another round of betting takes place and the showdown occurs. The hands that win in Lowball are usually a little higher than those in Razz since players only receive 5 cards and are stuck with whatever they are dealt on the draw. Lowball usually requires all players to ante before the cards are dealt.

These two games are a lot of fun to play. You will be amazed at how the games change with the turn of every card. There is always a lot of action in both games. Both Seven-Card Stud and Five-Card Draw can be played High/Low, meaning the low hand splits the pot with the high hand. Be sure to give those variations a try as well.

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