When it comes to games of skill, many consider HORSE poker to be the ultimate casino game of skill. Land-based and online poker rooms both host this version that is immensely popular among gamblers. It represents a combination of five of the most popular poker variations.
That being said, it requires a high-level of knowledge from the player. We have broken down the game into steps and stages, to make it easier for our readers to learn how to play HORSE poker.
Familiarize Yourself with the Rules and Basics
Before you take on the rules, you must understand that HORSE poker is a mixed game. It is not a single type of poker.
It is a collection of the most popular poker games that are played in a rotation. In other words, the constituent games are cycled around, forming a full HORSE poker session.
Players must master five types of poker, rotated in the following order:
- Texas Hold’em
- Omaha Hi-Lo
- Seven Card Stud
- Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo (Split Eight or Better)
HORSE is an acronym of these. As we’ve already pointed out, the order is always respected. One can’t play HORSE if they lack the proficiency in any of the mentioned types of poker. In a game of Horse poker, betting order, hand rankings and betting rounds change as you switch from game to game.
A full rotation around the table is called an orbit. So, each game represents an orbit. In live conditions, the dealer will notify you when the game changes. If you are playing online, the current game will be listed at the top of the table border.
Before taking a seat at the HORSE poker table, you have to learn the rules to Hold’em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, 7-Card Stud High and finally to Stud Hi/Lo 8-or-Better individually. Normally, 2-8 players play HORSE poker.
Texas Hold’em Orbit
The session begins with an orbit of Texas Hold’em in a fixed-limit format. Each player receives 2 cards face-down. Then they must combine these with the 5 community cards placed face-up at the center of the table.
The goal is to make the best 5-card poker hand using any 5 of the 7 cards available.
During the Omaha orbit, each player receives 4 hole cards and must combine these with the 5 community cards.
However, the requirement is that the final 5-card hand must contain 2 hole cards and 3 community cards. Also played in a fixed-limit format.
In Razz poker, the objective is not to create the highest-ranking poker hand. Rather it is to get the lowest-ranking poker hand. Each player receives 7 cards throughout the hand and must use 5 of those cards to form the final poker hand.
Ace counts as 1 and the hands are read from the highest card down. This is a Stud-base game, so there are no community cards.
7-Card Stud Orbit
Much like in Razz poker, in 7-Card Stud the players receive 7 cards throughout the orbit. There are no shared cards. The objective is to complete the highest possible 5-card hand.
7-Card Stud Hi/Lo Split 8-or-Better Orbit
The game continues with a variant of 7-Card Stud, known as Split 8-or-Better. Again, each remaining player receives 7 cards throughout a hand. The first aim is to compose the highest possible 5-card hand like in regular 7-Card Stud.
The secondary goal is to make the lowest-ranking 5-card poker hand, like in Razz. There is a condition. The hand must qualify by having no card higher than an 8. The pot is split between the high and low hand.
The final three variants of poker played in HORSE are all showdown games. Players should work on taking their hand to the showdown stage and carefully choose the cards for their final hands.
The good thing about HORSE is that it allows players to play aggressively in their strong games and go passive in their weakest variants.