A Better Way To Play Razz? 2-7 Stud Lowball Explained

Card Player Magazine, available in print and online, covers poker strategy, poker news, online and casino poker, and poker legislation. Sign up today for a digital subscription to access more than 800 magazine issues and get 26 new issues per year!

The game of Razz has long been a staple of mixed games, most frequently as a part of H.O.R.S.E. rotations. That version of Razz has typically been a form of Stud Lowball where the aces are considered low and straights and flushes don’t count against you. Thus the best hand is A-2-3-4-5 and we will refer to this more traditional game as A-5 Razz.

Deuce to Seven (2-7) Razz has been around awhile in mixed games where the game choices are more exotic, but has recently become more prevalent in all games.

In 2-7 Razz aces are considered high and straights and flushes cannot be a part of your best five-card holding. Therefore, the nut holding in the game is 2-3-4-5-7 without a flush.

For example, if you get to showdown with (7Heart Suit 3Spade Suit) 4Heart Suit 6Spade Suit 10Diamond Suit JHeart Suit (5Heart Suit) your final best five card hand would 3Spade Suit 4Heart Suit 5Heart Suit 6Spade Suit 10Diamond Suit. You have a ten low, not a seven because that would make a straight.

Why play 2-7 Razz as opposed to A-5 Razz? I guess the easiest answer to that question is, why not? After all, it is truly what Seven Card Stud Lowball is supposed to be if making the worst possible high hand is the goal.

Another reason is that mixed game players are always trying to keep their opponents on their toes by continually coming up with new games. A new game is always fun, and experienced players always adapt faster than their competition thus their edges get a little bit bigger.

2-7 Razz isn’t tremendously different than A-5 Razz. But there are a few nuances that call for some adjustments in hand selection and play on the later streets that skilled players are more apt to make.

Differences Between A-5 Razz And 2-7 Razz

The biggest difference is that aces are high in 2-7 Razz. It seems comical but you will find players playing hands with aces more than one would think. In live play they may not be paying full attention to the plaques or if it’s an online game they may be distracted with numerous things.

Deuces, sevens, and eights are the key cards in the game. When you hold a maximum “stretch” type hand such as 2-3-7, 2-5-7, or 2-4-8 you cannot make a straight that will set back your final hand and cause you to make a much weaker holding.

The times you start out with a more “condensed” holding such as 4-5-7 you are in peril of picking up a straight draw when you collect a three, six, or an eight. For example, if you hold (4-5)7-6-Q-J, only a deuce will make you an eight or better low and depending on what you are chasing you may have very few outs.

In A-5 Razz since straights don’t count against you, the equities tend to run close. For example, with no knowledge of board cards an A-2-6 is only a 53% favorite over 4-5-6. Thus, in A-5 Razz it is crucial to be cognizant on whether or not the cards that are out help or hinder your holding.

This is also certainly true in 2-7 Razz but another consideration is that if your starting hand is protected from picking up straight draws, it is a lot stronger. There are no equity calculators available for 2-7 Razz that I am aware of, however, I’m quite confident 2-3-7 is much greater than a 53% equity favorite over a holding such as 5-6-7.

Flushes count against you in 2-7 Razz but this particular aspect of the game is not that important because it only takes one offsuit card or a pair to eliminate a flush possibility and allow you the full complement of outs to make your hand. In other words, you would never consider folding (2Spade Suit 3Spade Suit) 7Spade Suit because it is suited. This holding is still way ahead over (5Heart Suit 6Diamond Suit) 7Spade Suit. The presence of a flush draw should only potentially impact your decision to play when the situation is already debatable.

To look at an extreme example, suppose you make (2Spade Suit 3Spade Suit) 7Spade Suit 4Spade Suit 5Spade Suit in your first five cards. Any of the remaining 15 pair cards will make you a wheel and with two cards to go you are a slight favorite to do so. Then of course you also have the non-spade sixes and eights that would also make very strong hands.

Playable Hands

In all variants of Razz hand values are widely dependent on what cards are shown on the board. However, in a vacuum in A-5 Razz any three to an eight is generally considered a reasonable starting hand and you are dealt such a holding around 16.2% of the time. Certainly a (8-7)6 is not a powerhouse, but when you open this holding with only a few low cards left to act it’s not really considered a steal.

In 2-7 Razz you are dealt the below starting hands with the following frequencies:

Three to 7 5.50%
Three to 8 4.34%
Three to 9 6.08%
Total 15.93%

Holdings such as 2-3-4, 2-5-6, and 3-4-5 are included within the “Three to 7” although any holding with at least one card seven or lower has the ability to make a seven. As we can see playing the “Three to 9” hands is essential otherwise we would be playing too few hands. Certainly, if you took the mindset that you are only playing hands that you would play in 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (27TD), you would ante yourself off like Broomcorn’s uncle!

However, for those of you with Triple Draw experience, the premium holdings in 2-7 Razz are the starting hands you would open from the first two positions in 27TD. These would include hands such 2-3-7, 2-4-5, 2-6-7, and 2-5-8.

Whenever you are dealt such holdings you should put in a lot of action on third street especially if the cards on board are advantageous to you. By reraising on third you insure yourself against catching a brick on fourth street because you made the pot large enough to continue. And the greater equity differences on third street are definitely worth pushing even if it makes your opponent correct to chase on the later streets.

Hands such as 3-4-7, 3-5-7, 3-4-8, and 4-5-8 are highly playable as well even when you are the second player to enter the pot; any early position raiser may be a favorite to hold a deuce but they will hold one less often than they would in 27TD. With some of these holdings you may pick up straight draws, however, they are way too good to fold, even against a legitimate raise.

Condensed holdings such as 4-5-6, 5-6-7, and 5-7-8 are much less valuable as you will often lose outs due to picking up straight draws, they will make rougher hands, and lack the key lower cards, deuces, and threes. I’d consider 9-7-2 to be a better starting hand than any of those holdings even if I’m handicapped somewhat by having the nine up.

When holding (7-2)9 and the board cards are overall advantageous to the holding it is relatively standard to complete the bet even with a few low cards behind you. Getting reraised is not a great development but you are not a huge underdog to many hands should that happen. But as we see in the above chart of starting hands it is not often that our opponents are dealt premiums, and with no potential straight draws to worry about, we fare well enough against many of the more condensed holdings anyway. If you are last to act before the high card you should be reraising this holding versus someone who is likely to be stealing.

Having a nine up is slightly less perilous in 2-7 Razz than having an eight up in the A-5 version. In 2-7 Razz there are eighteen possible eight or better hands while in A-5 there are twenty-one possible seven low or better lows. On the later streets we may be forced to make looser calls in 2-7 Razz than we would in somewhat similar situations in A-5. For example we may need to make looser calls against boards showing something middling cards like 3-5-6 and 4-5-6 due to the fact that your opponents may hold straights or straight draws.

These added nuances make for a slightly better game and I would not be surprised if 2-7 Razz continues to make inroads, even possibly replacing the A-5 version wherever Razz is currently being spread in both cash games and tournaments. ♠

Kevin Haney is a former actuary of MetLife but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. He is co-owner of Elite Fitness Club in Oceanport, NJ and is a certified personal trainer. With regards to poker he got his start way back in 2003 and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. If interested in learning more, playing mixed games online, or just saying hello he can be reached at haneyk612@gmail.com.