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Top 10 HORSE Tips

Top 10 HORSE Tips

HORSE is growing in popularity among online poker players. It's been the favorite of mixed-games players for some time and has been around for a while in California and Nevada cardrooms.

HORSE is played on the net with a 'round of each' of every one of its components: Hold'em, Omaha, Razz, 7-card Stud and Stud Hi-Lo/Eight or Better.

The game really launched itself into the public consciousness when the late Chip Reese took down the inaugural $50,000 Poker Player's Championship at the 2006 World Series of Poker.

The event has since been rebranded as a $50k HORSE championship (with the Poker Player's Championship now including games like 2-7 Lowball), but there's no question that it represents one of the toughest all-round challenges to poker players.

While you might not be digging k out of your back pocket to play a mixed game tournament any time soon, the good news is that HORSE is now available widely online in low-stakes cash game and tournament forms. And with a few key skills under your belt, you can take on the games comfortably and have a head-start over your fishy opponents.

1 - Wean Yourself Off No Limit Betting

If you've come to HORSE via No Limit Texas Hold'em (as many casual players will do) you need to start getting used to the new betting systems.

HORSE is generally played Limit in all disciplines (although some online sites run the rounds Fixed Limit). That means pots are generally smaller, bluffs are often unnecessary, and there will be a lot of draws as players are inclined to call small bets and improve their hands.

In a round of Limit Hold'em, for example, with the blinds at $100/200, the maximum raise is $100 pre-flop and post-flop, with a maximum raise of $200 allowed on the turn and river.

2 - Pay Attention to the Game Changes

HORSE is a 'round-of-each' game where the discipline changes when the Dealer button makes an orbit of the table. In a casino, the dealer will have cards on the table denoting what variation you're on in that round, and the online tables too will have the current variant clearly displayed.

However, with a lot of Internet poker HORSE games played Turbo, you can soon lose sight of what round you're on.

There's nothing worse than preparing yourself for a round of 7-card Razz, only to realize you're onto the 7-card Stud round and that low hand you just spent forming is completely worthless.

3 - Test Your Skills On the Freeplay Games

Test Your Skills On the Freeplay Games

Mastering Hold'em takes long enough, but mastering five separate disciplines can take years. Get some practise in and save yourself money, by trying out the play-money HORSE tables first.

Most good online sites will have free-to-play HORSE games, and while you'll inevitably get a load of aggros betting every single hand, these games can be good to get a general grasp of the rules.

When you're ready to try HORSE out for real-cash, try out a low-stakes Omaha or Razz table first and improve your game that way.

4 - Understand Starting Hands

Print off cheat sheets - or check our strategy pages at - and start off by sticking to the premium starting hands for each discipline. With only a few hands of a variation before you change disciplines, there's no point getting clever with some marginal holdings and losing money before the game changes and you start again.

5 - Hold'em: Limit Bets Change the Play

In Limit Hold'em, you'll find that pots are a lot smaller, bluffs become less useful, and it's worth calling single bets on draws to try to improve your hands.

And don't slow-play your monsters as you would do in No Limit; with more players in every hand you're just giving free cards to your opponents if you check. Make sure you're always betting your big pairs and made hands.

6 - Omaha Hi-Lo: Win Both Pots

Omaha Hi-Lo: Win Both Pots

After Texas Hold'em, most players will have tried Omaha to some extent, even if it's just for a few cents.

With Hi-Lo, the aim is to win BOTH the low hand and the high hand (scooping). It's important to try to win both whenever you play a hand. So, aim for starting hands that give you a good opportunity for a low and high hand (e.g. A-A-3-2, A-K-5-2, etc). Double-suited starting hands are also an advantage.

When you play online, you're going to come up against a lot of fishy players who don't know what they're doing, so make sure you're in a strong position when drawing to both high and low hands.

7 - Razz: Pay Attention to Folded Cards

Razz is a form of 7-card Stud where the lowest hand wins. Two cards are dealt face-down to each player, and one face-up. A further three cards are dealt face-up to each player following rounds of betting, with a final card dealt face-down.

The aim is to get the best five cards lower than 8, with the best hand being A-2-3-4-5 (the wheel). Remember to switch from the 'high hand' mentality of Omaha when you reach this round as a lot of absent-minded players will forget they're into the low-hand-wins round.

A good tip is to toss away any starting hand that doesn't contain three cards lower than 8 (and that are unpaired). Waiting for a good starting hand and betting it strongly can often be enough.

Also, look at the cards being folded. Remember, Razz features a majority of cards that are face-up for all players to see. If some of your drawing cards have been folded by other players, it can help you to work out if you're in good or bad shape.

8 - 7-Card Stud: Average Winning Hands

The next round is another 7-card Stud format, this time where the high hand wins. Remember to switch your mentality from 'low hand wins' and look again at your opponents' folded cards

The best starting hand in 7-Stud is (A-A) A. Being dealt trips to start with is great as it disguises your down-cards and means you can continue to improve on the board with straights and flushes.

Keep in mind the average winning hand in Stud. Two pairs is usually the average winning hand in a game of 7-card Stud, so make sure you're improving on this with every draw. Also pay attention to your opponents and their betting patterns to glean information about what their down-cards could be.

9 - Stud 8-or-Better: Don't Overplay Big Pairs

Stud 8-or-Better: Don't Overplay Big Pairs

The 'E' in HORSE is another 7-card Stud variant, this time Stud Eight-or-Better, or Stud Hi-Lo.

Like Omaha Hi-Lo, the pot is split between the highest hand and the lowest, qualifying 5-card poker hand.

Starting hands are important in Stud 8, and you'll find that inexperienced players will over-bet their big starting pairs. Rather than get excited about (K-K) A, focus on starting hands like (A-3) 4 suited that has straight and flush possibilities as well as a chance of taking the low pot.

If it looks like your high hand is going to be beaten and your low isn't quite 'low' enough, take the easy option and fold.

10 - Beware the Fish

If you're unsure of the rules and strategy when playing HORSE online, don't worry; you're not alone.

Especially at the low stakes, you're going to come across an awful lot of players who've come from the Hold'em tables (and No Limit ones at that). They will play every round like it's NLHE and this is the kind of play you want to look out for an exploit.

p{There's definitely money to be won at online HORSE, so if you want a little more information, take a look at our in-depth strategy pages on the site. }
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