How to play H.O.R.S.E. poker

Posted on: October 18, 2022 03:17 PDT

If you’re a poker player who likes to shake things up and dabble in different styles, you may want to consider playing some H.O.R.S.E. poker. Ever since H.O.R.S.E. was added as an event at the 2002 World Series of Poker, it’s been gaining popularity at poker tournaments and friendly games around the globe.

What is HORSE poker?

H.O.R.S.E. is an acronym referring to five different types of poker games played in rotation. Because H.O.R.S.E. poker games include a collection of mixed games, it’s important to fully understand each of the games involved.

Poker games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha are incredibly popular these days, but it’s possible that you may get bored from the lack of variety. In that case, it’s easy to switch things up a bit by joining a H.O.R.S.E. tournament or incorporating a H.O.R.S.E. game to your weekly card night with friends.

Experienced poker players who love a challenge should check out joining a H.O.R.S.E. table on their next visit to a poker room. Part of the fun of playing H.O.R.S.E. is the need to completely shift strategies from game to game.

Newer poker players may feel intimidated by the idea of keeping track of five different poker variants in the same sitting, but we’ll lay out all the important information for you to get started.

What are the 5 poker games in H.O.R.S.E.?

The acronym H.O.R.S.E. includes the following popular poker games:

Texas Hold’em

Texas hold’em is one of the most common poker games. It’s a flop game in which players use any of their two hole cards and the five community cards to create the best hand.


Omaha is also a flop game, except each player gets four hole cards. Players have to build their hands with two of their hole cards and three of the five community cards.


Razz is a stud game similar to seven-card stud, except each player competes for the lowest hand ranking.

Seven-card stud

In seven-card stud, each player is dealt seven cards. Three cards are face down and four cards are face up. Players compete for a five card high hand.

Eight or better (Stud Hi-Lo)

Also called seven-card stud Hi-Lo (eight or better) or Stud8, this stud poker game has a split pot between players with the low hand and the high hand.

H.O.R.S.E. poker rules

While each poker variant has its own rules, hand rankings, and strategies, there are a few overarching rules to pay attention to if you’re joining a H.O.R.S.E. poker table.

Whether you’re playing at the WSOP, in a H.O.R.S.E. championship, or in a low-stakes game with friends, you need to focus not just on each individual game but the game series as a whole.

Game order and duration

The five poker variants in a game of H.O.R.S.E. are always played in the same order according to the acronym. No matter what, you’ll always play in this order if it’s a true H.O.R.S.E. poker game:

  1. Hold’em
  2. Omaha
  3. Razz
  4. Seven-card stud
  5. Stud Hi-Lo 8 or better

It’s typically easy to tell when you’re switching to the next style of game, but just in case, the dealer should always keep you informed. They can do this verbally and by placing a sign on the table denoting the game.

If you’re playing online poker, most poker sites will show you on the screen which variation you’re currently playing.

Each game is played through a full orbit, so every player has a chance to play the dealer button before moving to the next variation.

How does H.O.R.S.E. poker work?

In almost every case, each variant in the H.O.R.S.E. poker rotation is played with fixed limits betting structures.

There are two distinct styles of poker variations in a H.O.R.S.E. poker game: flop games, like Hold’em and Omaha with community cards, and board games, like the stud variants.

There are also two types of pots in H.O.R.S.E. In most games, the winner takes all, but eight or better is always a split pot. Also, Omaha is sometimes played as a split pot depending on the poker room’s house rules.

In split pot games, the high hand takes half the pot and the low hand takes the other half. If you’re playing eight or better and one player has both the high hand and the low hand, they get the whole pot. When you win both halves of a split pot, that’s called “scooping.”

H.O.R.S.E. poker strategy

Think of playing H.O.R.S.E. poker as participating in a multi-sport event like a triathlon. You may be an excellent Hold’em player, but if you’re weak with stud poker variations, you could struggle in a H.O.R.S.E. tournament.

Master each game independently first

A H.O.R.S.E. table isn’t a great setting for playing your very first game of Razz or trying Omaha for the first time.

With five games in rotation, you have five chances to win — and five opportunities to lose. Make sure you’re experienced in each game individually. That means you should recognize your odds for each variant, remember the hand rankings for each game, and become familiar with the overall game mechanics.

Track the betting rounds

Remember that stud poker games have one more betting round than flop games. If you normally play Omaha or Hold’em, pay attention to the betting rounds and your opponents' visible cards to avoid costly mistakes.

Chances to scoop

Scooping is a great way to make the most profit off of your poker hand. If you are playing Omaha Hi-Lo split, or eight or better, focus on crafting a hand that works well for winning both sides of the pot.

Watch your opponents carefully

Every poker player has a strongest game and a weakest game. Though many experienced players have learned to control their tells and responses, some newer players will change their body language when they feel overwhelmed or less confident.

Always keep careful track of which variant you’re playing

As mentioned, HORSE poker games are like triathlons, and not just because you’re playing a variety of games. You’re also playing a full orbit of each game. Try to stay engaged even when you fold so you can track which game is happening and when the game is switched.

Tracking variants is also especially important because the hand rankings change depending on which game you’re playing.

Where to play H.O.R.S.E. poker online

If you prefer online poker or you don’t have a poker room or casino near your home, then your first opportunity to play H.O.R.S.E. may be on a poker site or app.

H.O.R.S.E. isn’t that common online because many poker sites are coded for one specific poker variation or another. Setting up an online poker game to shift through multiple variants tends to be more complex, which is why it’s not as widespread on the web.

Currently, PokerStars is your best bet for playing H.O.R.S.E. online thanks to their advanced coding capabilities and large pool of poker players.

Featured image source:  Flickr by Poker Photos used under  CC license