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Rules for H.O.R.S.E. games

H.O.R.S.E. is a game that truly tests the skills of a poker player. Not only does it challenge a person’s expertise at five different poker games, but also demands that they can switch their attention from one variation to another while keeping both their focus and their chips. H.O.R.S.E. isn’t a game to attempt at substantial stakes unless you feel comfortable playing all five games that it rotates through. While this may sound simple enough, you may be surprised at how many players sit down at a H.O.R.S.E. table with very little expertise on one or even several of the games. The plan of playing tight during certain games will be crushed if you are seated with tough mixed game players who will spot your weaknesses and exploit them. Therefore, the best way to go into a H.O.R.S.E. cash game or tournament is to makes sure to learn the basics of each game ahead of time.

A full H.O.R.S.E. game consists of eight players (as Stud games are almost always played eight handed). The games that make up H.O.R.S.E. are:

  • Hold’em – Each player is dealt two cards face down and may use any, all or none of these “hole cards” in combination with the shared community cards (dealt face up in the center of the table) to create the highest ranking five card poker hand.
  • Omaha – Like Hold’em, Omaha players attempt to make the highest ranking poker hand by using their hole cards combined with the community cards. However, Omaha players are dealt four cards face down and must use exactly two of their hole cards and three of the community cards to create their hands. In H.O.R.S.E., Omaha is played as a high/low game, meaning that players attempt to make both a high hand (a traditional high ranking poker hand) as well as a low hand. Make sure to read the full article on Omaha High/Low Rules in order to fully understand this game’s dynamics.
  • Razz – Also called Seven Card Stud Low, Razz is played just like regular Stud with the important exception that all players are attempting to create the lowest poker hand rather than the highest. For full details on how Razz is played, visit the Razz Rules page on this site.
  • Stud – This is the traditional game that most people will think of when you simply say “stud.” Players are dealt several cards face up (upcards) and several face down, which they use to create the highest poker hand possible.
  • Stud Eight or Better – Like traditional Seven Card Stud, Stud Eight or Better (or Stud High/Low) has the goal to make the highest poker hand but also the lowest, making it a split game similar to Omaha High/Low. Learning how to play split games can be a fun challenge, so be sure to read the Stud High/Low Rules article for more information.

The order that the games are played in H.O.R.S.E. will never change; they are always played as they are presented in the acronym (first Hold’em, then Omaha, Razz, Stud and finally Stud Eight or Better). However, you may encounter differences in how the length of the game rotations is determined, which is up to the casino or online card room you are playing in. Most commonly, the game is changed after every eight hands, which creates fairness because different tables move at different speeds. There is always a placard on the table in live games which displays what game is being played so that players do not get confused, and this is displayed digitally in online games.

Once the first two games in H.O.R.S.E. are completed, the button is frozen while the Stud games (which use antes, as opposed to blinds) are played. Once the Stud portion of the rotation is complete, the button will begin moving for the flop games again, beginning in the same position where it left off. This ensures fairness as no player will have to pay more blinds than the next.

Every game in H.O.R.S.E. is played with betting limits, commonly referred to as “limit” games. This simply means that there are limits to how much a player can wager during every betting round. The increments are predetermined and increase during the progression of each hand (and also increase during each round of a tournament).
Now that you understand the basics of each game that makes up H.O.R.S.E., as well as the way they are structured, be sure to read our strategy pages on each game so that you can be adequately prepared when you sit down at a mixed game table.