Rules of Horse Poker – How to Play H.O.R.S.E.

Poker is an intense sport that garners worldwide enjoyment.  However, there is one variant of Poker that is the ultimate test of Poker skill.  It’s called Horse Poker, and each year at the World Series of Poker, the winner of the bracelet for the Horse Poker championship is widely regarded as the best Poker player in the world.  Why is this?  Because Horse Poker isn’t just one Poker game, but five different games rolled into one.  When you play Horse Poker, you change the game each hand, playing Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Seven-Card Stud, and Eight or Better.

Each game requires different skills and strategies, so the most well-rounded poker player usually wins.  In this article, we’ll cover how to play Horse, and then look at different strategies you may use. Each of the different styles within a game of Horse Poker requires different skills, so we’ll get into that.  Then we’ll cover the basic strategy of playing Horse Poker as a game in itself, and give you some recommended readings so you can continue your knowledge of the game.

How to Play Horse Poker?

When playing Horse Poker, play alternates among the five different games in a set order.  Here’s how it shakes out and ends up spelling the name of the game:

H – Texas Hold’em



SSeven Card Stud Hi

EEight or Better (Seven Card Stud Eight or Better)

When playing Horse Poker, it is common to change the format after the dealer chip circles the table.  In some formats, the game changes after a set amount of time has elapsed, or every time the blind amount is raised in a tournament situation.  Generally, one round of the deal changes the game.  Play continues to alternate among the games until one player remaining has all of the chips.

You will almost always find Fixed Limits for betting in games of Horse Poker.  That means that bets and raises are a predetermined amount.  For example, a $2/$4 fixed limit table would require bets and raises to be $2 and $4, respectively.  The maximum amount of raises in any round of betting is four.

Since Horse Poker isn’t a single game but really five different Poker variants in one game, let’s take a look at each of the games a player needs to master to become proficient at the game of Horse:


Horse Holdem

Texas Hold’em is the game that most Poker players are familiar with worldwide.  That’s why every player thinks this is the most competitive part of any Horse Poker game.  Most players are used to playing No Limit stakes. Some players may take a while acclimatizing to Fixed Limit betting.  Hold’em uses two hole cards dealt face down and five community cards dealt face up to create the best poker hand possible.

Four rounds of betting and a possible showdown at the end create plenty of opportunities for big pots, even with the Fixed Limit format.  If you can do well in the Hold’em portion of a Horse Poker game, consider yourself ahead of the competition.  This may help, too: Texas Hold’em Starting Hands


Horse Omaha

Most Poker players are pretty familiar with Omaha Poker as well.  This Poker variant is extremely popular on Poker websites and in brick and mortar casinos as well.  While most Omaha games are usually in Pot Limit or No Limit formats, when you’re playing Horse Poker it’s Fixed Limit only.  Omaha is a game that’s very similar to Texas Hold’em regarding blinds and betting, but the formation of each player’s hand is very different.

The dealer gives each player four hole cards and then five community cards, in the same manner as Hold’em.  Each player must use two of their hole cards and three of the community cards to make up the highest poker hand they possibly can.  If more than one player remains at the end of all of the betting rounds, a showdown determines the winner of the pot, and the highest ranked hand wins.


Horse Razz

Razz is a variation of Poker that’s not as well-known as the two previous games.  Another name for Razz is Seven Card Stud Lo, since the aim of the game is to create the lowest possible Poker hand to win.  Each player receives seven cards if they stay in the hand for every round of betting, and from the seven cards they must form the lowest Poker hand possible.

Players still bet with fixed limits, which keeps Seven Card games under control.  Understanding the best starting hands is important while playing Razz, and experienced players quickly know when to stay in or get out of a hand.  The best possible Razz hand is A-2-3-4-5, and aces are always low.  Bad hands involve either pairs or potential flushes.  When it comes to the showdown, you know a player must use at least two of their window cards.  Therefore if you see someone holding three cards that are higher than your best hand, you should probably play!

Seven-Card Stud

Horse Stud

This Poker game is pretty popular for many players in this form, which is Seven Card Stud Hi.  Just like in Razz, each player receives seven cards if they stick around for every round of betting, and they can then use their five best cards to form the best or highest Poker hand possible.  As always with seven card stud of any kind, you get three face-down cards and four face-up ‘window’ cards.

There are no community cards in this game; your cards are your cards only.  Seven Card games can be expensive, even with Fixed Limit betting. Stay alert, and have a solid starting hand strategy when playing this aspect of the Horse Poker game.  Watch your bankroll and play conservative.

Eight or Better

Horse Eight

This is the third Seven Card Poker variant in the Horse Poker game.  As you can see, playing three Seven Card games in a row can quickly drain down players’ bankrolls, which is important to note when playing Horse Poker.  Just like Seven Card Stud Hi, each player receives three hole cards face down and four cards face up if they remain in the hand for all of the betting.  The difference in Eight or Better is that players must form two hands from their seven cards.  One hand is the highest hand possible, and the other is the lowest hand possible with no cards higher than an 8.

The player with the highest Poker hand wins half of the pot, and the player with the lowest Poker hand wins the other half of the pot.  If nobody has a hand that qualifies for the low hand (all cards less than an 8), the winner of the high hand also receives the low hand half of the pot.  Being able to simultaneously think about high and low hands formed from the same group of cards takes some practice.  The round of Eight or Better is often critical if you want to have success at playing Horse Poker.

Basic Horse Poker Poker Strategy

While each game involved in a round of Horse Poker involves different strategies, some general tips apply to it all:

Be aware of position – In the Omaha and Hold’em rounds, it can help greatly if you are aware of your position.  Play appropriately when out of position, and definitely play for more pots when position is on your side.  This may seem basic, but always keep your position in mind: Position and Realizing Equity

Razz, Stud, and Eight or Better should be played all the way – These are games that usually end up with a showdown since players like to see all of their cards to examine the possibilities.  That’s why it’s important to use good discipline with your starting cards. If you stick around for a hand, be prepared to take it to the showdown.  Stick to your starting hand rules and get out early or be prepared to go all the way.

Bet when you have the cards – This is great advice for every Poker player.  If you’ve got the cards, push the action without scaring the other players off.  Raise to grow the pot if you think you can win it.  It’s not aggressive, just common sense.  This article may help: Betting: When, Why, and How

Read the other players – Identify your competition’s tendencies and recognize which games are their strong ones.  Reading your competition can go a long way to help you preserve your bankroll, so don’t take them on when they’re in their element, just bide your time and push the action when you have the cards.  Identifying tendencies can help you quickly decide when to fold or to raise.  Be aware of the table: Reading Poker Tells and Body Language

Horse Poker Poker Rules Conclusion

Horse Poker

Horse Poker is a great variation of Poker that all skill levels can enjoy.  It combines five different Poker games into one, which keeps the action lively and interesting.  Winning a game of Horse Poker requires a well-rounded Poker skill set, which most Poker players recognize.  To be successful at Horse Poker, players should develop skills in all five of the Poker variants, and practice playing them in a Fixed Limit format.

In general: bet when you have the cards, read your opponents, pay attention to position, and take Seven Card hands all the way.  Playing Horse Poker is a great way to develop your overall Poker skills and to enjoy the game of Poker.  So practice up and who knows, you might be the next bracelet winner at the World Series of Poker!  We hope you enjoyed reading our Horse Poker guide, let us know what you thought in the comments below!


I'm a tech geek who enjoys extreme sports, computing and, of course, an avid poker enthusiast.

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