Thursday, May 29, 2008

Razz Poker article in Las Vegas Sun by Jeff Haney

Jeff Haney discovers razz isn’t a ‘miserable’ poker game, and finds an expert who says it can be the best way for many players to consistently make money

By Jeff Haney

Many recent converts to poker fandom had a dubious introduction to the game of razz, thanks to the televised final table of the 2004 World Series of Poker razz tournament at Binion’s.

Tournament veteran T.J. Cloutier emerged as the winner from a final table loaded with top-level pros, but only after a succession of lead changes and busted draws that prompted third-place finisher Howard Lederer to famously call razz a “miserable” poker game.

Mitchell Cogert, the author of a new book on razz, disagrees with that characterization even if he can empathize with Lederer’s frustration.

“You have to go deeper into a hand of razz than you do in other games because you’re always on the draw, and I think that’s what drives people crazy,” said Cogert, author of “Play Razz Poker to Win.”

In Texas hold ’em, for example, if your first two cards are a high pair you essentially have a made hand.

In Omaha, seeing the flop, or first three community cards, gives you a good idea of where you stand.

In 7-card stud, your first three cards could give you a made hand.

Not so in razz, or 7-card stud for low, where the object is to make the “worst” possible poker hand. (The best hand is 5-4-3-2-A, the second-best hand is 6-4-3-2-A, and so on.)

“People start with three good low cards and they think it’s the nuts,” Cogert said. “It’s not the nuts. It’s the nut draw. There’s a big difference. They have such a good draw they think they’re going to win, and that’s not always the case.”

Lederer found that out the hard way in a key hand at the infamous 2004 final table, drawing to a 6-4 but catching a series of “bricks” (useless cards) and losing to Cloutier’s 6-5.

Such painful hands notwithstanding, Cogert maintains that playing razz cash games, particularly online, is the best way for many players to consistently make money. One big reason is that good information on razz is scarce compared with more popular games such as no-limit hold ’em.

“In hold ’em everyone seems to know all the percentages, what hands are a coin flip, which are 60-40 ... we’ve all studied that and seen them so many times,” Cogert said. “Nobody knows anything about razz. If you start with a 5 (showing) and I start with a 4 and we know three exposed cards, who’s the favorite and why?

“You need a bankroll to play poker, but it’s very hard because there’s so much good information out there. It’s like a rising tide. Everyone’s getting better at hold ’em. But no one has said, what about razz? For a knowledgeable player, the easiest way to build a bankroll online could be razz.”

In researching “Play Razz Poker to Win,” Cogert found some solid advice in previously published material — usually just a chapter in books on various forms of poker — but also some erroneous information. For example, some poker writers thought a draw on fifth street is always favored against a made 9, Cogert said, meaning proper strategy would be to reraise with the draw to get more money into the pot.

“I would do that and I would lose,” said Cogert, a business consultant from Northern California. “It turns out it isn’t true. It depends on what you have and what other cards are out. So I started to get into it more and realized a lot of the information out there needed to be updated. There are new tools out there, so why not use them?”

For example, a player with a made 9-8 is a small underdog against a 7, 6, or 5 low draw — but a big favorite against an opponent with an 8 low draw, Cogert points out in the book. Similarly, a made 9-7 is a small underdog to a 5 low draw but a big favorite against an 8 low draw.

Cogert also examines “card duplication,” or the effect of which cards have been dealt on the odds of winning the hand, as well as the concept of “stealing” in razz.

Regularly scheduled razz tournaments are difficult to find, although Cogert thinks that could change if one of the major online poker sites launched a weekly razz tournament with a guaranteed prize pool.

Meanwhile, Cogert plans to travel to Las Vegas for this year’s World Series of Poker razz tournament, a three-day, $1,500-entry event scheduled to begin June 13 at the Rio. Razz, the “R” in HORSE, will also make an appearance in several mixed-game tournaments at the World Series.

1 comment:

jusdealem said...

Very nice article!

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