Board Reading and Hand Selection in RAZZ; 101
For those of us who started playing poker with games like 7 card stud, Razz isn't to hard to pick up. But for those playing texas
holdem exclusively there is a whole other skill set to develop. We all have a learning curve to get any of ua to the grasps the idea that "rags" are gold. Understanding the value of the 3 card initial flop and chosing correctly to fold or play is another challenge. But it is board reading and card counting (card memory) that set the novice from the excellent Razz player apart. But first hand selection.
Rule number one. On the flop (your 1st three cards) any paint is an insta fold. Almost no exception. Folding a hand like K A 2 is very hard to do, but I do it almost always. The exception is for position. The cut off or the button. Same rule as above for a paired deal. A hand like A A 2 is an insta fold for me also, except for position where I can represent an excellent made hand on future cards, while actually still drawing. The key point in a 7 card game is you have 2 throw away cards. I do not like playing after the initial flop with one of those cards already gone. I will use position to continue and am willing to fold at any time on future streets. Hands with an A or 2 and all three cards under 8 are insta raises at the flop for some. Not me. I like to wait til 4th or even 5th street to raise. They won't always come in, but that's the price you have to pay to get paid. Exception being short stacked ofcourse. Three cards under 8 is easy, anybody plays that. We only have one board card apiece to read, and this hand has potential. A 2 3 is generally a raise/reraiser, no brainer. But what of A 3 5. Both hands are very simillar in value at this point as they both have three to the nut 5 low. In Razz I find position helps more with chip management than playing the other players because of the fixed bets. Last to act gets to raise to push folks out on future streets and gets to see a card cheap at a passive table when they choose. The biggest mistake made in hand selection is playing a hand with 2 out of three workable cards. This is just a simple overview of hand selection to complement the main focus of the blog, board reading,
Let's talk board reading. It starts with the deal. You must pay attention as all cards are dealt. This can be critical down the road(streets). Cards shown that are subsequently folded can help you make better late hand decision. An example. You hold A 2 5 6 7 K and your opponent holds (X X) 4 7 10 10; the X's represet unknown hole cards. Because of the pair on board there best made hand is 10 high., We have a made hand of 7 high. We know from watching all board cards folded that 2-2 and 1-3 were folded. Not known if any A's 4's 5's or 6's have been folded. Whats the significant's of this information? We could use a 3 or 4 to better our hand to a 6 high ( the nuts) as any of the 3-3 or 4-4 give us a 6 low. That would be the nuts because the best hand the bad guy can hope for is 7 high. The down side is thier bset hand with a 7th street draw is 7 low and may beat our present low by counterfieting a second or third ranking card. He potentially draws lower on any none hole card if he holds no six in the hole. He has to have five cards headed by 7 5 to beat our 7 6 holding. Knowing we still have 7 cards to the absolute nuts and we have a made winning hand for the moment we can correctly bet and reraise any bet from the bad guy. Knowing 3 of the cards he may need are gone helps us a little also.This is a pretty basic example. With our present holding and betting out on at least 2 of the previous streets we should presume that thier 2 hole cards play low and help a draw to the 7 high.
Let's now focus on a board reading problem exclusively. You have A 4 6 7 and an opponent has X X 3 5, What's the best made hand? Neither! There aren't five cards dealt yet. But we sure don't like our opponents board cards. They have a potential wheel low(A 2 3 4 5), the nuts. We can only draw to 7 high on our next card. If they bet out, especially if they reraised on the flop you can presume your holding isn't good enough with out runner/runner help and perhaps 3 straight runners to split if they hit the wheel. Our hand look great, but we know from there betting and a good board read to fold. You may think I'm nuts. But I got the info cheap enough and the price starts going up with the next card. Fixed limit games favour chasers. But chase to win with a nut draw, not chasing with second best if you hit your draw. note Because we have only seen 4 cards I'm OK with calling to see a 5th card once in awhile, but only on a good read that they don't have 2 quality hole cards. Example would be a player who plays post flop with one painted card as the norm. Early board reading on 4th and 5th street is very important to winning in tournaments. You want to build pots before you hit. You have to be able to read the best potential made hand of your opponent to do that. We'll continue this example by saying we called there raise. We have A 4 6 7 8 and they have (X X) 3 5 3. We aren't dealing with position. It's heads up and we now have an 8 low. He does not have a made hand with the board pairing. Bet out or check. I'm checking and calling any bet. I tend to advocate caution at this point. Chip management if you will. He's not folding after his 3rd and 4th street bets. We call a raise, he hits a 9, we hit a 4. (A 4 are in the hole). Our board shows X X 6 7 8 4. If we bet out he gives us credit for an 8 low. hand. we have a little fold equity if he doesn't have the quality draw we think he has. In fact he may have a draw to 9 low hand only. We bet here or reraise if available. What ever he bets after 7th street we are flat calling. Wether we improve to a 7 low or not( our best resut) his 3 hole cards can beat that if he hit. We would never fold, but never raise against this board. This is chip management combined with board reading. He has X X 3 5 3 9 X. We call because he needs 3 quality cards in the hole to beat us. We do not raise because our holding has 8 7 6 or if we were fortunate to improve, 7 6.
1) X X 8 5 9 A 2) x x 4 2 6 K 3) x x 6 3 2 7 4) x x J K 2 3
What is the best potential made hand? And what is the the best ptotential hand? Which hands are they in both cases.
Answer: The best potential made hand is A 2 3 4 6. Both hands 2 and 3 could have that holding. After 7th street the potential best hand would be A 2 3 4 5. And the hand(s) that could achieve that are; All four. Yup! with 2 cards 5 and under combined with 3 hole cards can make the nuts. Even hand 4. But why hand 4 is playing agasinst these 3 would be a mystery.
1) X X 9 J 2 6 2) X X 4 3 10 3 3) X X 4 3 4 K 4) X X Q 4 10 3
What is the best potentailly made hand and what is the best potential hand after 7th street, and which one/ones?
Answer. Best made hand is hand 1, pretty easy. Lowest three cards on the board unpaired by any player at this point. But what low? A 2 5 6 9 We do not use the 3 and the 4 because all 8 are visable to us. This is an important advanced use of board reading. Say you have a 3 in the hole and the other 3 threes had been folded. Eliminate that as a possible inclusion to your opponents holding. Best potential hand after 7th street is A-5 wheel. But only hand numbers 2,3 and 4 can make the nuts. Isn't board reading and Razz fun!. From the penthouse to the outhouse in one card.
1) x x A 2) X X 3 3) X X J 4) X X A 5) X X K 6) X X 2 7) X X K 8) X X 7 9) X X 6
What hands should fold? Which hands should call, which should raise, and why? Hand 7 is the button. ie "the bring"
Answer: Hands 3 and 5 are insta folds. As I mentioned earlier paint and the muck go hand in hand. Hand 7 is on the button and with so many low cards on the flop they almost gotta have A 2 to call a complete. But should still fold a reraise. Which should call and which should raise of the remaining hands? We don't know! We're not "Karnac". The point of this question is that you should be evaluating the strength of your hand and it's potential at 3rd street. Not worrying about the one visable card of your opponents regaurding thier best possible hand. You do want to recognize what hit the board for elimination purposes later ofcourse. Card counting is an important part of the board reading process. A tip to remember! Players who fold a hand with an ace showing on 3rd street, as above, are likely to be very good disciplined RAZZ players. Watch for that.
Let's look at an oportunity to use the presence of good board readers to our advantage. You get this dreadful hand of K 5 A and of course your last to act with an ace up and trash in the hole!You see a card cheap using position to justify playing. It's called all around and you get a 2 on 4th street. You still have trash, but your A 2 are showing. Perhaps 4 other players called and no ones 2 cards are particularily strong. We could bet out showing strength. The key is we must commit to continuing the betting through 6th street if the next card is another unpaired low card for us. The player who hit paint on 4th street will grow to dislike us very quickly, but oh well. We cut the callers in 1/2. We hit a 4. We bet and if given the chance reraise again. We aren't planning on the draw coming good every time. We are leveraging our quality board to induce folds and take down the pot first and foremost. We're putting pressure on the opponents to read our potential low board. Think of calling a board of A 2 4 after 5th street. Very uncomfortable. And we set it up by betting that marginal hand on 4th street. Marginal cards in the hole that is. Gold on the board. Limit allows us to employ this strategy. Be very suspicious of any bring player who sees 4th street for free. They may not have what they seem to be playing in the hole.
1) (3 4) 6 5 9 2 2) (X X) 10 3 7 2
This ones slightly different. We didn't raise the bring on 3rd street. We bet out and have 1 caller (hand #2)after 4th street. On 5th street we again bet out and are called. A 2 to our opponent on 6th street. We bet out and to our surprise he folds. What is his likely hole cards?
Answer: We can reliably put him on 2 little. Almost assuredly A 2 or 2 4. He folds because he's lost his margin to improve beyond 7 low and we have a potential 6 low made. He was playing a ten low after 5th street for the improvement potential by smooth calling. The seven being a better card than our 9 on 5th street as shown above.His 2 pairing left him with little, if any chance to win the pot. The fact we had a made hand isn't relavent for the purposes of his decision. Just the potential for you to hold the unbeatable nuts is reason to fold with him pairing.
1) X X 4 9 10 2) X X 4 5 7 3) X X A 2 5 4) X X A 6 9
We have the nuts on 5th street. ( A 2 ) 3 4 5 We love to trap in Hold em. But in Razz which hands should be checked and which should we bet out against heads up? Which hands should we raise after 5th street?
Answer: We check against hands 1 and 4. The reason is that both hands only have one of the five cards showing to make the wheel( our made hand). Hand 2 and 3 we bet out everytime. Disguising your holding against hand 3 is a possibility, but he should be betting out if he's second to act. So you could check reraise. Absolutely no free card to hand number 2. They have 2 of the 5 cards needed for a split pot showing. Make the draw pay! You are trying to protect the chips you now temporarily own in the middle. We hate split draws that catch for free. If your second to act and are raised by hand 4 call, do not reraise. 6th street can bring him a 6 low at best. Here fishy fishy! Reraise hand 2 and 3 every chance you get. If hand 1 is betting UTG against our X X 3 4 5 board showing! DTTFT ( Don't Tap The Fish Tank) LOL
1) ( A 2 ) 3 4 10 K ( Q ) 2) X X 5 7 9 J X
We bet on the flop, 4th , 5th and 6th streets, called every time. We are 1st to act after a very ugly river card. What do we do? Second question is what is the most likely minimum ( not best posible ) holding of the bad guy and why?
Answer: We check! We have ten high. thier board isn't great, but they need only 2 unpaired cards under 9 for a better hand. A bluff by betting out just isn't going to work here. The most likely holding is 9 high. We bet our draw all along. On 4th street he called with5 7 showing and our 3 4 visable. He had to have 2 cards lower than a 7 unpaired in the hole to call there. Thus the 9 made 9 low on 5th street. We bet aggressively and never caught. The busted draw is very common in RAZZ. I bet the none made hand on 6th street to make sure he wasn't just buying 1 more card after 5th street and would have folded there. Also setting up a check reraise on the river if we had hit on 7th street.