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How to Play HORSE

Get an edge with these quick tips and basic strategies


A rotation of five mixed games, HORSE is the staple diet of all-round poker players.

HORSE is made up of 5 fixed limit games - Hold'em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, 7 Card Stud, and 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo completing the acronym. The game is switched every orbit, with the small and big bets (e.g. $5/$10) kept constant.

HORSE has traditionally been a prestigious test of poker skill, the game format used for the $50,000 Poker Players' Championship at the World Series of Poker. In live cash, stakes play as high as $4,000/$8,000 in Bobby's Room.

Horse
Game ComplexityAdvanced
TypeMixed Games
Players2-8

Gameplay of HORSE

  • Setting Up

    Setting Up

    • You'll need: a button, chips and a full deck of 52 cards. 
    • Players should sit with at least 18 big bets such that they have chips to 4-bet every street if necessary. 12BB is the minimum for Hold'em and Omaha Hi/Lo; Stud requires more.
    • More bets are required if there is a 5-bet cap in place for heads up pots. 
    • All games are played with a fixed limit structure.
  • Action

    The Action

  • Who's the Winner?

    Determining a Winner

    • Players win and lose chips in every hand according to the rules of the current game.
    • In a tournament format, the rotation continues until all but one player is eliminated.
    • In cash games live or online, players can stand up and leave on any hand.

Basic Strategies of HORSE

  • Hold'em

    HORSE is becoming increasingly popular with No Limit players looking to try new games. Take advantage of their unfamiliarity with e.g. value betting Ace high in Limit and showing down a wide range.

    Limit Hold'em is a high fluctuation game relative to the rest of the rotation, with more showdowns and less chopped pots. Be cautious with a 5 - 10 big bet short stack in tournament play.

  • Omaha Hi/Lo

    Aim to make the nuts. The best starting hands are A-A-2-x or A-2-x-x with another wheel card, and in both cases ideally a suited Ace. Any hand containing a 9 is an easy fold pre-flop.

    Play to scoop; aggressively jam with two way draws to the nuts or the nuts one way with good chances in the other. Avoid situations where you may be counterfeited or three-quartered.

  • Razz

    The strongest starting hand is three to a wheel e.g. A-2-3. Three to a 6 is good, three to a 7 decent, and three to an 8 okay unless facing a raise. Watch the up cards and jam when your outs are live.

    This is typically the worst played game of the rotation, with players finding it boring and tilting, often even sitting out the orbit. Stay disciplined - Razz is a more complex game than it appears.

  • 7 Card Stud

    Many players slip up, not noticing that the game has switched from Razz to Stud Hi - some even play a HEROS format to avoid a huge mistake. Pay attention, and punish players who aren't.

    The average winning hand in Stud is 2 pairs, and equities run closely together. Starting with A-A is much less of a sure fire winner come the river (7th street) compared to Limit Hold'em, if you don't improve.

  • 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo

    Aces are key to strong starting hands - beginners should never play hands without an Ace, with the exception of rolled up trips, e.g. 5-5-5. Big pairs lose value as they have no low potential.

    Jam with hands that can scoop and/or lock up one half of the pot and freeroll the other, e.g. low straight and flush combo draws like A-2-3 suited. Don't over-value 'razz hands' like 2-5-8 offsuit with little high potential.

  • Overall

    In split pot games, it will often be correct to encourage multiway pots by limping, slowplaying, or implicit collusion, e.g. not forcing other players out when you suspect one opponent holds the same low hand.

    In HORSE tournaments stealing is essential to survival as stacks get as short as 5 - 10 BB. However, the cost to steal and relative value of the blinds & antes varies from game to game, e.g. it's cheaper to play the Stud games.

Do's and Don'ts for Better HORSE Play

  • Work on your Stud Game

    60% of HORSE is made up of Stud games. Players are also often least familiar with these games, being used to the more popular Hold'em and Omaha. Having strong fundamentals in Stud will give you an edge.

  • Be Aggressive

    As in any form of poker, betting affords you two ways to win the pot - having the best hand, or having your opponent fold. Stay on the offensive when you have the initiative.

  • Don't Switch Off

    Watching how your opponents play in hands you're not involved in is crucial. Players rarely adjust to gameflow in HORSE, autopiloting according to a set strategy. Use reads you pick up to exploit players in the future.

HORSE Poker Videos

  • 2007 WSOP $50k HORSE Event

    Barry Greenstein vs Amnon Filippi in a big 7 Card Stud hand.

    This Video Contains:

    1. Split queens vs split tens heads.
    2. Staying aggressive when your opponent bricks.
    3. Folding 2 pairs when your opponent pairs their door card.
  • What is HORSE? 

    PokerStars Pros give their take on the Poker Players' Championship.

    This Video Contains:  

    1. Player interviews from WSOP 2009.
    2. Background to HORSE and the game rotation.
    3. Online 6-max tables.

Where Can I Play HORSE Online?