Guide for H.O.R.S.E Poker Tournaments and Cash Games

In the inaugural $50,000 buy-in HORSE poker tournament event at the 2006 World Series of Poker, Chip Reese beat out fellow high-stakes cash game players like Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey to take the title. The event made headlines for bringing back professional purity to a tournament now known for being a lottery of online amateurs and many have taken an interest in this classic but obscure form of poker. HORSE is an acronym for mixed games. The letters stand for: Limit Hold’em (H), Omaha H/L (O), Razz (R), 7 Card Stud (S), and Stud 8/b (E).

While the wealthiest professional often play mixed limit games in the biggest cash games in the world, HORSE can be difficult for the rest of us.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. HORSE is a limit game. For tournament play (or even cash game play in my case) most of us are used to no-limit. This means that you can’t defend as much against draws or extract as many chips as you might have been able to in no-limit.

2. Many of us are unfamiliar with games like Razz or Stud Eights or Better, which are both incorporated as the R and E of HORSE. If you’re weak or completely clueless at certain games, you’ll have a major disadvantage.

3. You’re forced to switch off between games every round. If you aren’t paying attention (especially with the Stud games) you could be playing a different game than the rest of the table.

4. All HORSE games are filled with draws. This can both work for and against you.

That being said, HORSE is an extremely fun and addicting form of poker. While I’m coming from the same area as most of my readers (playing strictly no-limit Hold’em), I’ve enjoyed learning how to play HORSE and I’ve played several small-stakes tournaments played in the mixed-game format. As far as I know, HORSE is played in both tournament and cash game varieties at PokerStars. HORSE tournaments are also played at Full Tilt Poker.

While I haven’t become an expert at mixed games as of yet, I feel like I’m picking up the flow of the game and have been improving in my tournament results.
-7 Card Stud Eights or Better (E): This is another name for Seven Card Stud H/L. This is the third HORSE game where you’ll need to pay attention to the low. As in Omaha H/L and Razz, the low hand must contain 5 unique cards 8 or lower to qualify. The low hand splits the pot with the high hand and it is possible for one player to scoop the entire pot. Good starting hands in 7 Stud 8/b include A,2,3 or A,A,2. The best possible hand is a straight flush: A,2,3,4,5. A more realistic, and usually unbeatable hand, is just a wheel straight.

In HORSE tournaments, you’ll need to pay attention to the changes in games and adjust accordingly. Most HORSE events are Turbo, so the stakes will rise every few hands or minutes in order to speed up the game. If you’re weak in any particular game, make an effort to learn the rules and watch to see hands that consistently win. While they may initially be a challenge, HORSE is a great way to expand your ability to play mixed games, take a break from Hold’em, and perhaps find another type of game that you’re strong enough to play in cash games.