H.O.R.S.E. (aka HORSE Poker) is a game of five different poker games – Hold´em/Omaha Hi-Lo/Razz/Stud/Eights or Better (Stud Hi-Lo) – played in rotation. In order to play the mixed game of poker profitably, it is recommended to have a thorough understanding of how each game is played and – if you play H.O.R.S.E. tournaments – how the blind structure works.
Guide to HORSE Poker
H.O.R.S.E. is an acronym for Hold´em/Omaha (Hi/Lo)/Razz/Stud/Eights or Better (Stud Hi/Lo). It is a mixed game of poker that tests a player´s range of skills across multiple disciplines and can be played in cash game format – in which the game changes after each circuit of a particular game – or in tournament format – in which the game changes (and the blinds increase) after a pre-determined period of time.
Each of the component games in H.O.R.S.E. poker are played at Fixed Limit – usually six-handed or eight-handed. In cash games, the blinds are consistent throughout, but in tournament H.O.R.S.E. they usually increase at the beginning of each level. Consequently the blind structure in a H.O.R.S.E. tournament can look like this:
|5||Stud Poker Hi/Lo||80/160||16|
|10||Stud Poker Hi/Lo||400/800||80|
I have prepared a guide to each component of H.O.R.S.E. Poker to provide an explanation of each hand is played, but there are some unique factors to playing H.O.R.S.E. that players should be aware of before starting each game.
Things to Watch Out For when Playing HORSE Poker
There are two things to watch out for when playing H.O.R.S.E. Poker – the games changing and the position of the button. They may seem like basic things, but you would be surprised how often they catch new players out – or unobservant players.
As mentioned above, the nature of the game changes after each circuit of a particular game or after a pre-determined period of time. The change that seems to catch many players out is the one from Razz Poker – in which the lowest hand of poker wins the pot – to 7 Card Stud Poker, in which the object of the game is to make the highest five-card hand of poker.
I don´t know why players seem to get caught out and start betting with a low hand of cards, but it seems to happen more often than you might imagine. If you have a suitable Hi hand of cards at the start of the 7 Card Stud Poker round, it can be an excellent opportunity to increase your bankroll or your chip stack at the cost of a player who is less observant than you.
The button does not move between the end of the Omaha Hi/Lo Texas round and the next Texas Hold´em Poker round. This is because the first player to act in the rounds of Razz Poker, 7 Card Stud Poker and 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker is the one with the lowest or highest exposed card.
The reason for this is so that nobody misses out on their turn to pay the blinds in the rounds of Texas Hold´em Poker and Omaha Hi/Lo Poker, but it does seem to throw some players off their game when they believe they are the first to act in a stud-based round.
In each of my “Guides to …” series, I have concluded with a list of tips that may help you when playing each of the games. These tips are based on my own experience of playing each game and, as H.O.R.S.E. Poker is comprised of five different games, I have taken one tip from each of the individual guides depending on which is the most relevant to H.O.R.S.E. Poker.
Patience – Patience is essentially important in every discipline of poker. If you get involved in too many hands, the chances are that you will leak chips heavily and your bankroll will suffer as a result. Patience is especially important in the Razz, 7 Card Stud and 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo rounds, as you may not be getting involved in many hands at all.
Observation – I often comment on observing an opponent´s betting actions to determine what kind of player they are, but it is also important to observe the exposed cards in rounds of Razz, 7 Card Stud and 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo so that you can calculate your odds of making a winning hand and those of your opponent.
Knowledge – The more observant you are, the higher level of knowledge you will have when it is your turn to act. Knowledge often comes with experience, but rookie mistakes can be avoided if you keep an eye on what is going on when you are not involved in a hand, and how other players react when being faced with a big raise.
Enterprise – Enterprise to me means stepping away from traditional bet-sizing and being creative. Creativity prevents other players from gaining knowledge about your betting traits. I believe that it is better to get caught taking unpredictable actions – such as limping into pots with two random cards – to avoid being labelled as a tight player that nobody wants to take on.
Risk – Although HORSE Poker is played at Fixed Limit, the value of each pot can escalate quickly. Be aware of how much money you may have to risk in each pot to get to showdown and enter games at an appropriate stake level. Never invest more money in a game of H.O.R.S.E. Poker than you can comfortably afford to lose.