Playing HORSE Cash Games

© 2006 Randy Saylor

HORSE is a multi-game poker format that is probably the best way to judge a poker player’s all-around skill. Multiple games are often played in high stakes cash games to reduce the advantage single-game specialists might have. The popularity of this multi-discipline style has increased since the introduction of the $50,000 buy-in HORSE tournament, won by Chip Reese. Ironically, Reese is often referred to as the best all-around poker player due to his ability to play so many games well.

HORSE is an acronym for Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and stud Eight or better. A brief mention of each of the games is below. Cash HORSE games (as opposed to tournaments) are played at eight-seat tables (because stud games have a maximum of eight players). HORSE is always offered as a fixed-limit game. Another common multi-game format is HOSE, which eliminates Razz from the mix.

This guide will give players unfamiliar with basic strategy for the stud games something basic to let them hold their own. Omaha and Hold’em knowledge is assumed.

For the flop games (Hold’em and Omaha), the standard dealer button passes around the table, and blinds are posted as usual. It should be noted that the Omaha portion of HORSE is played Hi-Lo rather than high only.

Each of the five games is dealt for one orbit around the table.

HORSE cash games have recently been added to the choices at Poker Stars. Sit-and-go tournaments and multi-table tournaments are available at both Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars. The fast popularity of these games on both sites means they will probably be added to other poker sites soon as well.

Stud Games

For the stud games (Razz, Seven Card Stud, and Stud Hi-Lo), there are no blinds. The order of action and bet sizes are as follows:

Before the hand, each player puts in an ante, which is required to play the hand. The ante is typically one eighth of the small bet, or 25 cents at a $2/4 table. Then three cards are dealt to each player. Two cards are facedown (hole cards). The third is face up and can be seen by all players.

After the deal, the player with the lowest face up card (“door card”) is required to make the bring-in bet. In the case of a tied door card, the lowest suit makes the bring in bet. Suits are (highest to lowest) spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs. The suit ranking is used for this reason only and has no effect on hand rankings. This bet is usually one half the small bet ($1 in a $2/4 game).

Players acting later can call the bring-in, complete it to a full small bet, or raise in increments of the small bet, with a typical maximum of three raises per round. The bring-in player can also complete the bet directly when acting first.

In the graphic above, the player on the upper right had the lowest door card, the 3 and made the bring-in bet of $1. There was $1.75 in the pot (7 times 25 cents), and the bring in bet made it $2.75. The players to the bring-in’s left all folded to the player with the T upcard. This player could then fold, call $1, complete to $2, or raise to $4.

The dealer button in stud games is only used to determine the order of cards dealt and has no effect on the betting.

After this round of betting, a fourth card is dealt face up to each remaining player. This card is usually called fourth street. Another round of betting follows at the small bet level. On fourth street and later, no betting is required; hands can be checked down if the players choose.

Fifth and Sixth street cards are face up, and the final card is face down. Bets on fifth, sixth, and seventh streets are made at the big bet level ($4 in a $2/4 game). After seventh street betting is concluded, the hand goes to showdown.

Seven Card Stud

This is the variation of stud games played for high only. Each player’s final hand (if there is a showdown) consists of the five cards that make the best poker hand, based on traditional hand rankings, like those used in hold’em.

Since four of each player’s seven cards is exposed during the deal, it is possible for savvy players to make decisions based on the possible holdings of opponents. The first two steps in advancing as a stud player are reading opponents’ hands and keeping track of dead cards (cards exposed in the play but since folded). Because stud is a fixed limit game, it’s difficult to outplay others by betting, but good card- and board- readers will have more success.

Some up card decisions are basic. If you are holding (JJ)T982 with four hearts, you have a flush draw, a straight draw, and a pair of jacks on sixth street. (The (JJ) in parentheses signifies your hole cards). If you are facing a player showing (xx)K72K with four suits, you can reasonably call a bet on sixth street. Your flush draw and straight draw should pay off, since the opponent’s likely best holding is three kings or two pair. (Four kings or a made full house is possible, but unlikely depending on the betting.)

If you catch a blank card like the 3 on seventh street, you cannot consider calling a bet. Your best hand is a pair of jacks, and you can see that your opponent has (at least) a pair of kings! So, you cannot call a bet. You might raise on a bluff, which may or may not be successful, depending on your opponent and the size of the pot.

Continuation of this article: Playing Horse Cash Games Part 2

Full Tilt Poker Logo
Carbon Poker
100% up to $600
Doyles Room Logo
Aced Poker
150% up to $750
BetUS Logo
PDC Poker
100% up to $600