As any aficionado of online poker will tell you, it is difficult to balance a solid challenge that tests your poker skills against a bit of good old-fashioned entertainment.
HORSE Poker is one game that definitely fits the bill. HORSE is an acronym consisting of the names of five different variants of poker that you can play in sequence as part of a single game.
HORSE includes Texas Hold’em poker, Omaha, Rass, Seven Card Stud and Eight or Better (Stud Hi/Lo) and requires a certain level of mastery of all these poker variants in order for a player to enjoy some success and satisfaction.
HORSE Poker variants
The problem with limiting your poker game to traditional poker tournaments or sticking to popular variants, such as Texas Hold’em, is that it can become repetitive and even a little monotonous.
This is why HORSE poker is such a refreshing change. Taking on all five variants at once challenges players’ notions of good strategy and compels them to become a little more mentally agile.
First, let’s take a look at the five variants included in HORSE poker before diving into how to play the game.
Perhaps the most popular of the variants, experienced participants at online poker tournaments and regular online poker games don’t need an introduction to how to play Texas Hold’em poker.
However, if you’re new to the fold, Hold’em players use their two hole cards and five community cards to create a winning hand.
Omaha is slightly different in the sense that players are dealt four hole cards. They then use two of their hole cards along with three of the five community cards to create a winning hand.
Unlike Hold’em and Omaha, which are flop games, Razz is a stud game in which players compete to build the lowest-ranking hand.
Seven card stud
Seven-card stud, as the name implies, requires each player to be dealt seven cards with three face down and four face up. The player with the highest five-card hand wins.
Eight or better (Stud hi/lo)
Similar to seven card stud, Eight or better (also known as stud8 or stud hi/lo), has players competing with both the highest and the lowest hands for a split pot.
How to play HORSE Poker
Before we get to strategy, let’s understand some of the basic rules.
Follow the acronym
Every HORSE poker game is played as a series in the following order: Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud and finally Eight or better (hence the acronym).
A full orbit of the table is played before moving on to the next variant.
Limits and pots
Most HORSE games impose betting limits, usually with two types of pots.
The winner generally takes all in the flop games, while Eight or Better requires a split pot so that both the highest and lowest hands win. Some poker houses also split the pot in Omaha, but that is unusual.
In rare cases, a player can have both the high and the low hand and win both pots. This is referred to as “scooping.”
HORSE Poker strategies
This is where things can get a bit challenging. As you can see, to be able to take on HORSE poker, players need a fairly high level of proficiency in all the variants, given that they all have different hand rankings, rules and, importantly, strategies.
That said, to become a successful HORSE poker player, it is also important to recognize some strategies that encompass all variants. Here are some tips on how to improve your HORSE game.
Don’t take chances
HORSE is not for beginners. Period. Think of swimming a medley race. No matter how good you are at your best stroke, if you’re not strong enough on the others, you will likely lose the race.
Before joining a HORSE tournament, be confident in your skills in both flop and stud variants. Know the rules of each variant and be certain of your strategic intent overall, as well as in each game.
Monitor the betting rounds
You may be awesome at Hold’em and Omaha and will probably know how to capitalize on loose players pre-flop. However, a common rookie mistake made by flop experts is to forget that stud games have an additional betting round which will leave you vulnerable tactically if you miscalculate.
Maintain your concentration and always be aware of the variant you are playing.
Go for the scoop
A good way to hedge your bets is to build both high and low hands in Eight or Better. This way, you can target a scoop and hit both pots.
The most common mistake HORSE players make is to lose concentration and not watch when the game variant changes. It is easier to notice between Hold’em and Omaha with the extra two hole cards, but the transitions between the stud games are less obvious.
Successful players notice when their opponents are either confused or just lack confidence in their abilities on less familiar variants and use it to their own advantage.
Try to avoid your usual bad habits as well given the additional pressure.
HORSE Poker with BetMGM
Register with BetMGM to try your hand at HORSE Poker if you feel like your online poker skills are going to waste. If you’re still a novice and need to work your way up to HORSE, you can always enjoy the thrill of other online casino games alongside your regular online poker games.