Playing HORSE Cash Games

© 2006 Randy Saylor

This is a continuation of the HORSE game primer, and completes that article with coverage of Razz and Stud Hi-Lo.


Razz plays just like seven card stud, except the lowest hand wins the pot. Flushes and straights do not count against an otherwise low hand, so any 5432A is considered the lowest possible hand. If you have paired one of your cards, it can only be counted once, so (87)442A(K) = an 8742A low hand.

Players of Omaha Hi-Lo (eight or better) and Stud Hi-Lo (mentioned below) should note that a made low hand does not have the qualifier that all cards be below eight. For example, (T9)654K(J) = a T9654 for low, which is a valid hand (although not a very good one).

When comparing Razz hands, the player’s five distinct lowest cards are listed in descending order. (79)352J(A) = 7532A for low. The player with the lowest first card wins the pot. If the first cards are the same, the remaining cards are compared in descending order, so 8765A beats 87652. Likewise, 76543 is a better low hand than 8432A, despite the latter hand holding mostly lower cards (the first one is the only one that counts here).

Watching the exposed cards held by opponents and considering their possible low hands is the best way to win at Razz. If you can keep track of the dead cards as well, you will be much better off. Knowing which cards are live helps advanced players determine the likelihood of successfully drawing (or the chances that their opponent will miss).

Successful starting hands almost always have three distinct cards below eight (this requirement can be relaxed depending on the other cards showing). Since the bring-in bet in Razz is made by the highest up card (versus the lowest in other stud games), you can often steal the blinds in this situation:

Player one: (xx)Q makes the bring-in bet
Players two through five: fold
Player six (you): holds (KQ)3
Player seven shows (xx)J
Player eight shows (xx)T

What’s your move? Raise! With a K high (the worst Razz card), player one would be hard pressed to call your raise without A2 (or something similar) in the hole. The two players behind you are in a similar situation. Your 3 door card makes it difficult for the others to consider calling, even though you probably have the worst Razz hand! It’s really not always about what cards you have. Sometimes it’s about what your opponent thinks you have. This is true in stud games more so than flop games, since there are no community cards.

Stud Hi-Lo (Eight or Better)

The E in HORSE comes from the Eight or better qualifier placed on hands competing for the low side of the pot. Stud Hi-Lo splits the pot equally between the best high hand and the best low hand. The difference is that the low hand must have five distinct ranks of eight or lower to qualify; otherwise the best high hand scoops the whole pot.

It is possible to have both the best high and the best low. Having a made low hand that sneaks into the best high as well is the way to win big in this game. The other big wins come when your opponents draw for low hands and miss, and your high pair takes down a big pot.

It’s always best to play for the scoop. This happens when you win both high and low or win a high pot not shared with a low player. This means playing hands with low potential that also have high potential. Three suited, connected low cards like 643 are great starting hands (of course A23) would be the best. Hands that can make very good high hands should also be played aggressively. Three cards to a high straight or flush, or a high pair and high kicker can be played strongly at first.

In future articles, I will address strategies for HORSE tournament play. In the meantime, this should help you feel a little more comfortable at a HORSE table! Many Hold’em players are reckless at the HORSE tables, making “Hold’em Player” mistakes at the Omaha portion (like overvaluing top pair hands and sets). These same players then can’t read hands at Stud, and are helpless in Razz. If you can find these players, they are ready to be fished!

Book Recommendations

Some books that can help are

Winning Seven Card Stud by Ashley Adams

Seven Card Stud – 42 Lessons by Roy West

Super/System by Brunson et al. This has an amazingly good chapter by aforementioned Chip Reese on Stud play.

Super/System 2 by Brunson et al. Doyle’s son Todd provides excellent insight on Stud Hi-Lo.

The Omaha Hi-Lo books by Ken Warren and Mike Cappelletti are excellent for beginners through intermediate players.

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