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How to Play H.O.R.S.E. Poker

How to Play H.O.R.S.E. Poker
by K. Swope of

HORSE Poker offers a unique change of pace to the more traditional types of games available. H.O.R.S.E. is a combination of different poker games all played at a limit stakes level with each game lasting a designated amount of time.

In cash game play it is common to see each version of poker go once around the table of players with the next game starting when the dealer button reaches its original position.

For tournament play each version of games will last for the extent at which the blind-clock is set with the next new game beginning when the next blind level is reached.

The games in question as designated by a letter in the acronym H.O.R.S.E are Hold’em, Omaha high/low, Razz, Stud, and Stud high/low also known as Stud Eights or better.


The games of Hold’em and Omaha are played with small and big blinds as usual. While the Razz, Stud, and Stud Eights or better portions of the game are played using the antes and bring-in bets. There are no rule changes or variations for each poker game played. However, variations of HORSE itself are becoming more popular such as H.O.S.E, H.O.E, and H.O.R.S.E.L. The first two listed are just abbreviated versions of HORSE while the last adds 2-7 Lowball into the mix of games.

HORSE is a very slow paced game since each version of poker played is done so at limit stakes. This makes for a very lax and more conversational experience for the players. However, to encourage a wider spectrum of players and entice larger crowds to the table the game of HORSE is normally played at a buy-in level much higher than conventionally seen in more common and popular poker games. For example, in years past at the annual World Series of Poker held in Las Vegas, the HORSE championship event yields the highest buy-in amount of any other tournament played at $50,000 per entrée.

It is wise to play each of the poker games in HORSE separately before attempting to join a game of HORSE. Becoming accustom to and more familiar with playing limit styles of Hold'em and Omaha high/low as well as playing Razz or Stud, if you do not frequent these already, will help make you more comfortable at the tables. It is quite easy to become confused throughout portions of a HORSE tournament or cash game when transitions are made between each poker change. So making yourself more familiar with each base game will allow for a more fluid grasp of game play exchanges.

Related: The Specialist.


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