Mixed games have drawn the interest of high stakes poker
players in past years who sought to expand upon their poker skills and strategy. Changing games at regular intervals also helped to level the playing field amongst players who possessed superior skills in a single form of poker, but had little experience with the other forms available at the casino's poker room.
Since the inclusion of the $50,000 HORSE event in the 2006 World Series of Poker, the spike in HORSE Poker popularity has brought this challenging mix of both popular and otherwise obscure poker variants into the realm of home poker tournaments
and a number of online poker sites
. Many professionals consider HORSE Poker a true measure of a poker player's knowledge and talent in the field.
The most important aspect of playing HORSE Poker is developing a good, working knowledge of the five poker variants that are cycled throughout the game. A lack of understanding about the poker rules
of any one game can result in needless bankroll losses. Therefore, it is recommended that players interested in learning HORSE Poker Rules familiarize themselves with the rules of each variant in the HORSE Poker system.
Each letter in "HORSE" represents a poker variant that is presented in the mixed game. The first form in HORSE Poker - H - is Limit Texas Hold'em Poker; a community card game in which the highest ranking, five-card poker hand
wins the pot. Participants should be well versed in Texas Hold'em Poker Rules
before entering a HORSE Poker tournament or cash game.
For the second round of HORSE Poker - O - players switch to Limit Omaha Hi/Lo Split Eight or Better. This poker form is similar to Texas Hold'em, except that players receive four hole cards instead of two. Though it would seem this would make the game easier than Texas Hold'em, Omaha Poker Rules
are far more challenging. Players are only permitted to utilize two of their four hole cards to form their best five card poker hand. The "Hi/Lo Split" indicates that the pot be divided between the highest and lowest ranking hands, and "Eight or Better" requires that low hands not include any card rank over 8.
Round three of HORSE Poker - R - is Razz Poker, a low version of 7 Card Stud Poker. Always played as a fixed limit game, Razz Poker
awards the pot to the lowest hand. In Razz Poker Rules, Aces are low, straights and flushes are ignored, and pairs and sets maintain their normal value. Players receive five cards (three face-down, four face-up) with which to form the best possible five-card low hand.
HORSE Poker's fourth round - S - is 7 Card Stud Poker. A well-known poker form, 7 Card Stud Poker
is also played almost exclusively with a fixed limit betting structure. 7 Card Stud Poker Rules
require players to use up to five of their seven cards to form the highest ranking poker hand at the table in order to win the pot.
Finally, the last HORSE Poker form - E - is 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Split Eight or Better. Something of a cross between 7 Card Stud and Razz, 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Split Eight or Better Rules halve the pot between the highest and lowest hands. The "Eight or Better" means that a five-card poker hand cannot contain any card higher than an 8 to even qualify as a low hand.
In essence, HORSE Poker Rules leave it up to the discretion of the tournament director or poker room management to decide how to sequester each round. However, there are two primary methods for calling an end to each round.
One - often applied to cash games - is to rotate HORSE Poker games after a specified number of hands have been played. For instance, some online poker rooms
switch the game after eight hands, while others might make the transition to the next form after the button has made two passes around the table.
Another popular means is to switch games after a predetermined time limit - often used in both live and online HORSE Poker tournaments. This style causes the HORSE Poker form to change with each increase of the blinds. Initiating the rotation at regular time intervals results in far more hands of the faster paced Texas Hold'em than of the other, slower variants. This is something players are reminded take into account when contemplating their tournament HORSE Poker Strategy.
Once the last HORSE Poker round is played, the cycle starts over with Texas Hold'em Poker
in a continuous pattern. In Horse Poker tournaments, the game ends, naturally, when one player has accumulated all of the chips from their opponents. Horse Poker cash games allow players to come and go as they please, and, therefore, have no "official" end.
A fixed limit betting structure is predominately imposed by HORSE Poker rules, with rare exceptions of No Limit Hold'em being played at the final table (as was the case in the 2006 WSOP $50,000 HORSE event). The stakes also hold constant throughout each form. Therefore, in a $10/$20 HORSE Poker cash game, all five games will be played at $10/$20 Fixed Limit during each respective poker variant.
Given the fact that the community card forms present in HORSE Poker require blinds, whereas all of the Stud variants necessitate antes, the blinds are frozen after the last hand of Omaha Hi/Lo Split is played. The next three games - Razz, 7 Card Stud, and 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Split Eight or Better - are played as usual, with every player contributing a small ante to the pot before each Stud hand is dealt. Then, when the game shifts back to Limit Texas Hold'em Poker, the blinds are resumed seamlessly, without the blinds missing - or doubling back on - any players.