How to Play H.O.R.S.E. Poker
We've established that H.O.R.S.E. is a mixed poker game in which some of its most popular variations are played in rotation. The construction of the name H.O.R.S.E. is, like many of the names of mixed games in poker, an acronym. Each letter represents one of the five variants that are played. If you want to know how to play H.O.R.S.E., you first need to know how to play those variants, which are:
H.O.R.S.E. is popular in some online poker rooms because it provides the ultimate test for a poker player. It isn't enough to be good at just one game. Instead, you need to prove that you can play at a high level even when switching from variant to variant. Because of this, players must be familiar with the rules of all of the five poker variants that are employed in this mixed poker game. So, if you are not yet in this position, you should get some practice time in for each poker game variant individually before attempting to play H.O.R.S.E.
How the Variants are Played
When you do give H.O.R.S.E. a try, you will find that each variant will be played for a set amount of time before moving on to the next. The length of time can differ, but you can normally expect the variant to change after one full rotation of the dealer button. If you play H.O.R.S.E. poker online, the current variant being played will be given at the top of the table.
H.O.R.S.E. is usually played with a fixed-limit format, so bets and raises cannot exceed the permitted maximum. The game also tends to run eight-handed. There is a maximum of four raises per betting round, while blinds increase with each new game turnover.
After playing all of the individual games through once, play switches back to the beginning. That means Texas Hold'em, which is the first game played and the one that puts the H at the front of H.O.R.S.E.
H is for Texas Hold’em
The game begins with Texas Hold'em, which just happens to be the most popular type of poker in the world. Hold'em is most often played no-limit, but in this setting, the game has a fixed limit format.
In Hold'em, players are each dealt two hole cards (or pocket cards) face down. Players need to construct the best possible five-card hand from a total of seven cards. Those are the two hole cards plus the five community cards that are laid out on the table for all of the players to use.
Players can use one, both, or neither of their hole cards, as they see fit. Not all of the community cards are revealed at the same time. After an initial round of betting, the first three cards are shown in what is known as the flop. Another round of betting takes place, and then a fourth 'turn' card is dealt.
Then there’s another round of betting followed by dealing of the fifth or 'river' card. At this point, all players know exactly what they are holding. A final round of betting takes place and the player with the strongest hand wins.
O is for Omaha Poker
Omaha has very similar rules to Hold'em, but players are dealt four hole cards instead of two. Each player must use exactly two of their hole cards, plus exactly three community cards, to make the best five-card poker hand possible.
Razz is a strikingly different type of poker that takes the H.O.R.S.E. game in another direction. The aim in Razz is to get the lowest-ranking poker hand possible, which is quite the opposite as the aim in Hold'em or Omaha.
Throughout a hand of Razz, players are dealt seven cards in what are known as streets. They must use five of these cards to form the lowest-ranking poker hand by the time they reach Seventh street. Aces are low, and the best hand you can make in Razz is A-2-3-4-5.
Seven Card Stud
Seven Card Stud plays a lot like Razz, but with the exact opposite aim. Here you are again hoping to put together the strongest five-card poker hand. Being a stud poker game, there is an absence of community cards, so players can only work with what they have personally been dealt.
7 Card Stud Eight or Better
The final game of the rotation is Seven Card Stud Eight or Better. Players are required to form two different five-card hands from seven dealt to them. One hand should be as high as possible and the other should be as low as possible. The highest-ranking hand will scoop half of the pot. The other half of the pot goes to the player who has made the lowest ranking five-card hand, providing they have qualified by having no card higher than an eight. If they have not qualified, then the high-hand winner is awarded the entire pot.
Where Can I Play H.O.R.S.E. Online?
While H.O.R.S.E. games at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) are famous, they are not so easily found online. But it is out there, and an increasing number of poker rooms are offering it. Our advice is to visit our online poker sites page to look at those that are legally operating in your state. You can find information about what is legal on our betting sites in US states pages. In the meantime, here are some of the poker rooms that we recommend most highly: