Of the five games of HORSE, Razz is the game that tends to frustrate and bewilder most players. The concept of the game is simple, make the worst hand. Many figure that the game is as simple as starting with three low cards and then hope their hand develops. While that is true, there are many little nuances that people miss in the game.
A concept in Razz that you should become familiar with quickly is “board locking”. When you have a player board locked, your made hand cannot be outdrawn by your opponent. For example, let's say that on sixth street you have a made “seven perfect”. (7-4-3-2-A) Your opponent is showing 8-7-5-9 as their board. Even if they have A-2 in the hole, the best they can draw to is a 7-5. You cannot lose this hand and can bet and raise liberally.
You can also use your knowledge of exposed and folded cards to help you determine whether a player is board locked. For example, let's say by sixth street you made a six perfect (6-4-3-2-A). Your opponent is showing 2-3-4-5. Normally you would tread carefully. However, in this case, you saw one player fold an ace, and then two more aces were folded by a player on fourth who caught aces. Since you hold an ace, aces are dead, and your opponent is board locked to a six-high straight.
Remember that you can also become board locked in a hand. Many people pay so much attention to what they have, they don't realize when they are drawing slim or even dead in a hand. For example, assume on sixth street you have 3-4-5-7-8-T. Your opponent is holding 2-3-4-7 and has been betting out since catching the four. This is a situation where you very well may be board locked. Your opponent at absolute worst probably has an 8-7-4 low which beats your made 8-7-5 at present. Much more likely is that he has 7-4-3-2-A with a redraw to the wheel. Of course, he might have A-5 in the hole, and you have been dead since fifth street. In this case, it is time to fold.
At first glance, trying to constantly figure out whether a person is board locked may seem confusing, but it really isn't. It is all a matter of deducing what a player can possibly have according to their board. One way to get better at determining board locked hands is to play a little game between hands. Watch other players hands develop and determine what their best hand is. If they are showing 8-6-5-2 on sixth, what is their best possible hand? Have any of their outs been folded or are any of their outs dead?
If you want to improve your Razz game, work on your ability to read board locked situations. With practice, you will be able to instantly scan a board and determine with greater accuracy where you are at in a hand. When you have your opponent board locked, this skill will make you money. When you are the person board locked, it will allow you a way to get out of the hand and reduce the amount of loss on the hand.
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