I played a ton of Horse tournaments on Sunday and I noticed that I made most of my big additions to my chip stack during the Razz phase of the game. I noticed a tendency of many players to play far too many hands, and in doing so, become far too committed to big pots that they could not take down.
What I mean by this is, when you are drawing in a Razz hand and suddenly it looks bad, and you have no chance, get out of the hand. Just because you have an Ace up, does not mean you can take this hand down. If you draw K-K on 4th and 5th street and your opponent has 2-5-6 showing, you are in trouble. Many players just cannot seem to shut a hand down when playing Razz and it is extremely important to be able to do so.
The catch-22 with Razz is that many players also shut down their hands way too early, which is equally as bad. As soon as a K hits or they pair up, they fold. This is not the optimal way to play either, because the next card (or 2) may pair your opponent up. A little patience is key.
How then, to avoid this conundrum? It all comes down to hand selection. If you play Razz tightly, and play the correct hands in the first place, then drawing all the way to the river will be a good thing and 1 or even 2 bad cards will not torpedo your hand.
Sure, you want to raise with an Ace up if everyone has folded and the 2 guys to your left are showing K’s, but stay away from marginal hands that will make you chase draws that you may/may not win.
I like to start with 3 card 8 or lower, most times even 7 or lower. Otherwise, I will not play the hand unless I have a compelling reason to do so. (like stealing the pot because everyone else folded, etc) If you make hands like this your starting requirements, you only have to draw 2 out of the next 4 cards to complete, what will likely be a winning hand with 7-x-x-x-x
When I have a starting hand like this I will generally play it to the river UNLESS-I am drawing terrible (starting hand of A-2-3 and draw K-Q-Q) or I can see that I am obviously beaten by an opponent. (I am looking at 2-4-5-6 showing in his hand) In those instances it should be ok to shut the hand down on 6th street or even 5th street if things go bad quickly. Otherwise, I want to play my hand strong, betting every street, all the way until the river. If I have picked the right hand to play and paid attention to my opponent(s) hands, then there should be no reason to slow down.
Incidentally, I usually find that I see 4th street about 15%-20% of the time in the early stages of a tournament of Razz, this percentage going up as the tournament goes on and the pots get bigger and more worth stealing.
Starting hand selection and knowing when to shut it down will keep you playing when you are the favorite and keep you from building a big pot for someone else. Those are the keys to being successful in Razz.
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