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Stack Management in Seven-Card Razz Tournaments

by Ben Yu |  Published: Jan 07, 2015


Given that seven-card razz is structured the same as seven-card stud, many of the ideas in my stud articles apply just as well to the lowball game. Paying attention to the ante size is still important, as more dead money allows you to play weaker hands. When short-stacked, it’s just as vital to manage stack-size and save the last ante when possible for a favorable all-in.

However, rather than rehash, this article will focus on specific razz tournament adjustments. Many of these differences revolve around how hand values are different between the two games. Unlike stud, where hands can be fairly divergent on third street, razz hands run fairly close together.

Third Street

Many players are obsessed with pumping in as many bets as possible with A-2-3-type hands, believing they are the pocket aces of razz. However, they actually only hold a small equity edge against other playable hands. For instance, A-2-3 is barely a 53 percent favorite against three nonduplicated cards 7 or smaller.

The problem with only reraising these hands is that it turns your range face-up as being all wheel cards, or, at worst, a good six. A three percent edge is not worth giving your opponents this information, because they will have a much better handle on when you are pairing and improving.

This is very critical in a game with lots of open information in the form of dead cards and three streets of big bets. Pushing that small edge on a small bet just doesn’t pay off. Outside of steal situations, it is a better overall strategy to flat everything for the sake of reducing variance and giving away as little about your hand as possible.


In extreme situations, such as on the bubble, or when they are several tiny stacks at the final table, it can become favorable to open-limp a playable hand, despite my normal disdain for it.

Razz is one of the best games to open limp hands, because the person benefiting from receiving a free look in the bring-in usually has very poor equity. In no-limit hold’em or pot-limit Omaha, they can just smash a flop, but in Razz they have to catch good, you poorly, and even then, you are still on even footing.

I would be more concerned with astute players with a low card in late position, who could overlimp two low cards with a hidden brick. Their plan would be to capitalize on the large pot-odds and then try to take the pot away from you on favorable boards, but that is a price you must pay for trying to cash the tournament or moving up pay jumps.

Fourth Street and Onward

The advice of minimizing bets also applies on later streets where you and your opponents have similar boards. On runouts where both players have caught a low card, even if one of the players has paired, it is still unnecessary to bet because neither player should fold, given they can catch well and represent a strong holding later.

That said, hand equities do start to diverge enough where it is worth considering pushing edges. In our above example, A-2-3 was only a small 53 percent favorite against a reasonable range of hands, but A-2-3-4 is over 61 percent against four cards to a seven or better, making it more acceptable to jam there.

However, there are additional challenges. On fourth streets in which both players have caught well, one of the main sub-games is guessing how often the other player has paired. By raising, a player is making that task very easy for the opponent, and also giving away a lot of information on what their hole cards are.

Examples From My Last Two World Series of Poker

Over the last couple of years I have spent a good amount of time playing with Huck Seed deep in WSOP events that contain razz. Specifically, we battled with three tables left in the $1,500 razz this summer, and the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. and $50,000 Poker Players’ Championships for the last few years.

One of the most interesting plays I’ve seen him make is open limping from early position with strong hands with good success. I believe his reasoning for these plays has nothing to do with tournament dynamics, as I’ve often seen him do this as early as the first level.

While this strategy is not game-theory optimal, I repeatedly see people play spaghetti monster-foresakenly awful against it. There is absolutely no way he would enter a pot with a brick when there are several low cards behind, but opponents often play as if he does.

If you couple this open-limping strategy with a check on fourth street when your opponent and you both catch the same, a good majority of less-competent opponents will be convinced that you started with a brick or, at least, an eight or nine.

It’s worth noting that I have not always seen him open limp from early position, there are certainly times when he has open-completed. I’d guess that he looks at who else has low cards and the bring-in and guess how likely they are going to be hoodwinked into playing poorly on later streets when deciding whether to limp or complete. Against a competent set of players, it’s better just to raise to avoid giving anyone any free looks.

This strategy can be very synergistic with the late stages of the tournaments, where players are incentivized to put in few bets on third and fourth street. If opponents play poorly against these strategies, and it allows you to reduce variance, it makes it a superior play on both fronts. ♠

Ben Yu attended Stanford University but knew even before finishing that he wanted to embark on a journey to become a one of the finest professional mixed-game players. He made his debut onto the tournament scene in 2010 with a second-place finish in the World Series of Poker $1,500 limit hold’em shootout and followed it up in 2011 by leading the WSOP with seven cashes across six different games.  In 2012, he moved to Rosarito, Mexico in order to continue playing online and was enthralled to perform well at the World Championship of Online Poker, including a final table appearance at the $10,300 poker 8-Game High Roller, and a cash in the main event.