What is HORSE Poker?
H.O.R.S.E is in itself not a game. It instead is a “marathon” of different Poker games, intended as the ultimate challenge for a Poker player, able to demonstrate their abilities in five of the most popular and discrete variations of Poker.
The name HORSE is an acronym, deriving from the five games used within:
You will need to be familiar with each and every one of the games listed above. You can follow the instructions on our dedicated pages for these games.
How to Play HORSE Poker?
As HORSE is itself not a game, but rather a compilation of different Poker games, HORSE itself does not have any game mechanics, although it does have some general rules for the purposes of linking the five games together.
Each game of HORSE Poker is played according to its normal ruleset, using the required number of decks. Generally speaking, unless there is a very large number often players, each game of HORSE can be played using a single standard Anglo-American 52-card deck.
The point of playing HORSE is to make it through to the end. As the purpose of the game is to play a full rotation, whether winning or losing, it is a near-universal rule that all of the games in HORSE will be played using their Pot Limit variations.
Pot Limit Poker simply restricts the wagers that can be made based on the total amount in the pot during a given hand. A wager cannot exceed the Pot, hence the wager is limited to the Pot, or Pot Limited.
- There is $10 in the pot at the time of Player 1’s wager.
- This means that Player 1’s wager cannot exceed $10.
- If Player 1 wagers $10, and then all other Players call, Player 1 will then be given the additional opportunity to raise again, based on the new Pot Limit created.
- So, if this second time around the pot is $100, then Player 1 would then be free to wager up to $100 dollars.
Furthermore, the individual games that make up HORSE are always given a “full rotation” when they are being played. Those who are familiar with Poker are also familiar with the fact that the Dealer button rotates around the table.
A full rotation, therefore, is a full rotation of the Dealer button around the table. If the table is currently playing the H in HORSE, Hold’em, every Player will be given the chance to be the Dealer before the game changes to Omaha.
All of the flop games in HORSE utilize blinds, rather than Antes. As such, as the Dealer button moves around the table, the blind positions will move around the table too. This ensures that every player is paying the appropriate blinds per game.
During Razz and the subsequent board games, the Blind buttons will simply remain where they are, in front of the players to whom they were last presented.
The blinds will not be paid for during Razz, but the buttons will remain in their proper positions. This ensures that the blinds are in the correct spot when the flop games begin again.
How to identify the current game
The current game that is being played at the table will be displayed by a sign, usually placed directly on the table or attached to the table off to the side.
This allows other potential players to see the current game, while current players who forget can get a quick reminder with just a slight glance.
In online games of HORSE, there will usually be a line of text near the top of the screen, or a digital sign on the table, also stating the current game in rotation.
Each individual game of HORSE follows its own poker rules, though there are some common rules. You can find the most important ones below:
- It is considered bad form to get up in the middle of a HORSE Poker game unless you have run out of money. Players are expected to play a full rotation of games before leaving. If you joined the table during Omaha Hi-Lo, you aren’t supposed to leave until the next game of Omaha Hi-Lo begins.
- Each game is played in its Pot Limit variation, and each game only plays a single rotation before the next game begins.
- Blinds and Antes must be paid normally, per the rules of the individual game being played at a given time.
HORSE, like all gambling games, is scored using the amount of money won or lost.
- If you walk up to a HORSE Poker table with $1,000 and walk away with $800, you lost!
- If you walk away with $1200, you won!
In a tournament setting, Players continue the rotation until one last Player remains, and all other Players have run out of money.
HORSE can also be scored on a game-to-game basis, accounting for which players won which game. However, a Player that wins 4 of the games, but loses all of their money on the 5th game, is still a loser.
It is mostly a matter of perspective, whether one wants to score based on a full rotation of all five games, or score it based on each individual game of HORSE.
Imagine that you are on the last round of a Hold’em Rotation.
- The community cards are Q♠ 5♦ 6♣ A♣
- And your personal cards are 4♦ Q♦.
As each individual game of Hold’em matters more, as you only get a full rotation, it’s a good idea to try and go in on this hand.
Although you only have one pair of Queens, this is the last round of Hold’em that will be played for some time. There won’t be another opportunity to go in on this game. Other Players may be less willing to lose much money, as this is the last round of Hold’em, and a new game is about, to begin with a freshly shuffled deck.
The constantly changing rules can be confusing for some players, leaving the occasional person overeager to begin the next round so that they can adjust to the new ruleset. Even though it is only a Pair of Queens, this is probably not a very risky wager.
There are very few opportunities for Players to get a handle on your tells in a particular game, as the games change so quickly. A high-stakes bluff here, at the end of the game, backed up by a decent pair, could fool the other players into folding as they are not able to be sure if you are bluffing or not.
Strategy and Tips
Bet high in your strong games
Bet high in games you are good at, and low in games you aren’t. Although a good HORSE Player should be good at all of the games in HORSE Poker, everybody has their favorites.
If you are predominantly a flop-poker player, bet highly in the Flop rounds. Odds are that your intuition about that Player bluffing, or that Player having a sneaky pair of Aces, is probably right.
It’s the game you’re most familiar with, and your gut feeling is more right than it is wrong if you’re a competent player.
Worry less about tells
As there is only a single rotation of each game played, other players at the table are going to have a hard time getting a read on your tells. Each game is different, and a person’s tells for each game are probably going to be slightly different.
You can bluff a little more aggressively in HORSE, or bait someone into a false-bluff even more easily.
Exert caution when your opponent bets big
However, on the flip side of the same coin, you have to be very careful calling bluffs or raising very highly into another player’s raise.
Just as other players cannot get a good bead on you, you will likely have a hard time getting a bead on other Players.
If someone bets a lot of money, they could be bluffing, but you won’t have had enough time playing that particular game with them to know if they are or not consistently.
What does HORSE stand for in Poker?
What is the hardest game in HORSE Poker?
This is all a matter of perspective, as the difficulty is subjective. Some people may find a game of Hold’em difficult, while those familiar with Hold’em might struggle with the rules of Hi-Lo or Razz, as it can be confusing to swap from best-hand Poker to worst-hand Poker on the fly, or in the case of Omaha playing for both in the same game.
What are the Flop Games?
In HORSE, the flop games are Hold’em and Omaha.
In Poker, flop games are, as the name suggests, games with flops, rivers, and turns. Players are dealt personal cards, while the Dealer deals out further community cards as the game progresses. Players are not dealt any additional personal cards, and do not allow other players to see them.
What are the Board Games?
The board games in HORSE are Razz, Seven-Card Stud, and Eight-or-Better.
Board games in Poker are differentiated from the more popular flop games by their dealing procedure.
Players are dealt 2-4 “Hole” cards that are personal to them and unknown to other players. As the game progresses, Players are then dealt “Street” cards on an individual basis. The Street cards are public, and make up each Player’s hand for the showdown, with Players using their own cards instead of shared community cards.
Is it possible to play HORSE Poker online?
Yes. It is possible to play HORSE Poker online, though one should be careful where they are playing. There are many websites that offer financial prizes or claim to allow real cash winnings, but often are scam sites that do not return real money for their digital currency.
Furthermore, make sure online gambling is legal in your country, or your locality. PokerStars, for example, is largely both legal and legitimate.