HORSE is the ultimate test of one’s poker skills. It requires a working knowledge of five different poker variations and the skills to overcome the competition in every single game. HORSE is not for the feint of heart, but it presents excellent opportunities for the well-versed player. If you’re confident in your skills, the best HORSE poker sites are full of fishy players and easy money.
Before we get to the nitty gritty of HORSE, I’d like to explain why I recommend these sites in particular. HORSE is fairly popular among high stakes circles in the real world, but it can be tough to find online. Any poker sites with HORSE games must have a large and active player base for the games to run with any frequency.
Player traffic is the first thing to look for in any HORSE poker site. Smaller sites simply don’t have the player base to support niche HORSE and other non-Holdem games. Without the traffic numbers, HORSE games don’t run often enough to make it worth signing up for an account. Traffic is the main thing all the above sites have in common.
If you haven’t heard of these sites, you must be new to online poker. There’s nothing wrong with that – we were all there at one point. Let me assure you now that I am not in the business of sending players to small, unsafe or unproven poker sites. I only point my readers to sites that are reputable and trustworthy.
How to Play HORSE Online
HORSE is not a game with its own rule set; it is a type of “mixed game” poker in which the table rotates through multiple game variations. Each letter in the HORSE acronym describes one of the games in the rotation:
- H: Texas Holdem
- O: Omaha Hi-Lo
- R: Razz
- S: 7 Card Stud
- E: 7 Card Stud Eight or Better
In a way, HORSE is simple. It’s just a collection of other games. However, learning how to play all five games is quite a task. It would take a lifetime to master any one of these games, let alone all five. The secret to success in HORSE is more than just knowing how to play each game. HORSE rewards those who understand poker at its most intimate level – understanding card distributions, recognizing betting patterns and adapting to different types of opponents. Flexibility and a deep understanding of poker theory are what differentiate the best players from all the rest.
That leads to the next point. This is not the game to play if you’re only competent in a couple of the variations. If all you know are Texas Holdem and Omaha, that’s not enough. You may hold your own in your specialty games, but you’ll lose money in all the others. The best HORSE players prey upon those who only specialize in a couple games. They will avoid you in your specialty games and attack where you’re weak.
None of this is meant to discourage you from giving the game a try. HORSE is a lot of fun because it keeps things fresh and lively. And if you’re a well-rounded player, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to take money from the fish. I can’t even begin to explain how many people join HORSE tables only knowing how to play a couple of the games.
The smartest way to improve your HORSE game is to start by learning each game individually. Since most of you are already familiar with Texas Holdem, the next game to learn would be Omaha. The rules of Omaha are similar to those of Texas Holdem, so you won’t find it difficult to expand your skillset in that direction. Once you have Omaha down, you can then make the switch to Omaha Hi/Lo to get a foundation in the first two games in HORSE.
Next up is 7 Card Stud. The remaining three games in HORSE are all 7CS variants. Learn traditional Stud first, then add Razz. Razz is just Stud except played for the best “low” hand. Once you get that one down, it won’t be too difficult to move on to Eight or Better (each pot is split between the best low hand and best high hand).
Only after you can hold your own in each individual game should you make the transition to real money HORSE. Start with the low stakes games and then move up from there very slowly. It’s a time consuming process, but it’s worth taking your time. If you only move up in stakes after you’re able to earn a profit at your current level, you should do well in HORSE.
HORSE Poker Tournaments
HORSE poker tournaments can be found on the internet and at major land-based events. In the physical realm, the best known HORSE events are played at the annual World Series of Poker. The $10,000 HORSE Championship is the largest event of the type and always attracts a mix of the world’s best all-around players.
The structure in HORSE tournaments is usually set up so that each game is played for a predetermined length of time, with the blind levels increasing every few levels. All games are played in the fixed-limit format with betting limits going up every other level depending on the specific tournament.
HORSE is a challenging tournament format because not only do you have to remain flexible as the tournament rotates through each game type, but you must be ready to adjust your style in each game as the blinds increase and pressure builds on the players to make moves. If you find yourself getting low in chips, you have to take into account how much time remains in the current level and decide whether it’s best to make your move in this game or wait a bit longer until the next game.