Poker players are constantly looking for new things. As popular as Texas hold'em has become, players have made it quite clear that they are looking for some variety when it comes to their US online poker games. Ultimately what has happened is that the mixed game format has become quite popular. In a mixed game format players are able to test their skills in a variety of different games all at one sitting.
Rather than waiting around all night at the hold'em table for a playable hand, players are able to dabble in several different games to keep things new and fresh. One of the more popular mixed game formats is called HORSE poker. This is actually an acronym and it stands for each of the games included in the format. The games played are as follows:
Horse Poker games
- H is for Hold'em
- O is for Omaha hi lo
- R is for Razz (seven card stud played for the low)
- S is for Seven card stud
- E is for Eight or better (seven card stud hi lo)
When playing Horse in a mixed game format, the rotation of the games will vary depending on if it is a tournament or a right game. In a ring game each game is usually played for one complete rotation of the button. For example, the button starts on player one and the game is Texas hold'em. When the button makes a complete rotation and returns to player one, the game switches to Omaha for the next rotation. The game then continues like this switching every time the button makes a complete rotation. If you find yourself in a HORSE tournament the games will rotate each time the blinds increase.
In some real casinos and online poker sites alike you might find various other ways that mixed games are structured. In general though, most games will operate as described here.
HORSE games are usually played in a limit format these days. What this means is that if you enter a $5/$10 game of HORSE, each game will be played around the $5/$10 betting structure. The games rarely switch between limit and no limit or pot limit formats, so you know what your getting into when you sit down at a table.
Specific Horse Rules
In terms of specific rules for HORSE there really aren't any. The most important thing is to make sure you are familiar with the rules for each individual game. One of the biggest determinants of your profitability in HORSE will be your ability to shift with each game and exploit the weaknesses of your opponents and cover up any weaknesses of your own. The best thing to do when you first start playing HORSE is to try out the micro or low limit first. You don't want to be playing razz for the first time at a $10/$20 limit, do yourself a favor and try it out at a micro limit first!
Another tip when playing HORSE poker is that you have to remember that although you might peg a players style in one game, that player very easily could change gears once the game changes. The idea then is to identify how each player acts and plays during each game before making any general conclusions as to their skill and how they play.
The bottom line when taking on a mixed game like HORSE is that you need to be a well rounded player and be able to adapt to the nuances and differences of each game. If you don't like the games in the HORSE format, then find a different mixed game that has games more to your liking. Don't play HORSE just to play, do it because you have an advantage at each game and you can exploit the weaknesses of poor players.