H.O.R.S.E. Poker Overview
H.O.R.S.E. Poker has been around for quite a while but it recently experienced a major increase in popularity at the 2006 World Series of Poker. For the first time ever, HORSE was included as an official event at the WSOP. The mixed game format featured a $50,000 buyin, which was the biggest buyin in WSOP history.
As a mixed game format, people often use HORSE poker games to try to identify the best all-around poker players in the world. In the 2006 WSOP, almost everyone who entered the game was a well-known professional and the first place finisher that year (and in each year since) was a professional poker player.
Because of its difficulty, HORSE poker is often played as a high stakes game. Newer poker players don’t typically jump right into HORSE poker because it’s composed of five different types of poker.
It’s difficult enough to learn one form of poker, let alone five. If a poker player has stuck with poker long enough to learn five different types of poker, there’s a better chance that that player has built a sizable bankroll. As a result, many HORSE poker games are played at high stakes tables.
But there’s no need to worry if you’re a prospective small stakes HORSE player. The advent of online poker has made it easier than ever to find small stakes games – even small stakes HORSE games. If you sign up at one of the big poker sites, you’ll find plenty of small stakes HORSE action.
How to Play
HORSE Poker is a mixture of five different poker games that are played in a set rotation at a single table. Each letter in the name stands for a different poker game and the order in which those games are played:
H – Holdem (Texas Holdem)
O – Omaha (Omaha Hi/Lo)
R – Razz (Razz)
S – Stud (Seven Card Stud)
E – Eight or Better (Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo)
In a typical H.O.R.S.E. cash game or tournament, the table begins with Texas Holdem and then switches to the next game on the list at set intervals. In tournaments, the game can be switched every time blind levels increase or after every certain number of hands. In cash games, the game can change after every certain number of minutes or after X number of hands.
The vast majority of H.O.R.S.E. games are played with a fixed limit betting structure but occasionally you’ll find a pot limit HORSE game. No limit HORSE games are virtually unheard of because no limit doesn’t work well with any of the games except Texas Holdem.
So as you can see, HORSE isn’t its own game; it’s just a combination of existing poker games. Understanding how HORSE is played is the easy part. The hard part is learning the rules to each of the five games that make up H.O.R.S.E.
If it helps any, each of the five games that create HORSE are based on one of two main games: Texas Holdem and Seven Card Stud. Texas Holdem and Omaha Hi/Lo have a similar structure while the other three games are dealt in the same format as Seven Card Stud. If you can get the hang of two of the games, it won’t take a whole lot longer to get the rest of them down pat.
Basic HORSE Poker Strategy
There is no, simple solution to learning how to become a competent HORSE player. It requires hard work and discipline to sit down and not only learn how to play five different games, but to learn how to play five different games well.
Learn How to Play Every Game Well
A lot of new HORSE players go in thinking that if they know the rules of every game and the strategy for a couple games, they can be profitable players. Unless you’re playing against other equally unskilled players, this won’t work for you. You need to learn the proper strategy for all five games before you play HORSE poker.
If you only know how to win at a few games, you’re going to be at a major disadvantage against players who know how to play all five games well. Even if you sit back and play tight during the games that are unfamiliar to you, you’ll lose money against the opponents who know all the games.
Become a Winner at Each Game Before Playing H.O.R.S.E.
Don’t try to learn each game by jumping straight into HORSE. That’s only going to make it take ten times longer because the games will be constantly changing. You’ll get less practice and be more likely to mix things up.
Take it one step at a time. After you learn how to play Texas Holdem, go find some Omaha Hi/Lo tables and play at those until you can establish yourself as a solid winner. After that, move on to the next game on the list and learn how to beat that game. Only after you can win at each game individually should you play a game of HORSE for real money.
Be Able to Switch Gears at the Drop of a Dime
In any game of poker, being able to switch gears is an important skill. With ever-changing game conditions and multiple opponents with different playing styles, being able to switch gears on a moment’s notice is a critical skill. This is even truer for H.O.R.S.E. poker.
In addition to there being multiple opponents all changing gears, you’re going to be playing five different games against those people. As you can imagine, you’ll face a wide variety of playing styles at each game you play. You need to be able to adjust to each individual opponent at each individual game.
If you have an opponent playing a tight game of Texas Holdem, you can attack that opponent more and take advantage of his tightness. If the game switches to Omaha and that same opponent loosens up, you’ll need to tighten up against that opponent. Now take all that and multiply it by the number of opponents you have at the table. That’s why it’s critical that you be able to switch gears at the drop of a dime.
Finding a Great HORSE Poker Site
There are two things you should always look for in a poker site:
Safety and Security
This is the most important factor in finding a great poker site. The easiest way to find a safe and secure poker site is to stick with one of the big ones listed here. The biggest poker sites in the world make a lot of money and won’t be going out of business any time soon. These sites have been around for a long time and they have built solid reputations for themselves over the years.
When you play a specialty game like H.O.R.S.E., it’s not always easy finding games. Not as many people play HORSE so you need to play at a large poker site to give yourself the best chances of finding people to play against.
Now that you know what to look for in a poker site, you may want to look at our best H.O.R.S.E Poker Sites section to help you choose a site.