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H.O.R.S.E Poker Rules

Page summary: A review of the rules, format and strategy to playing H.O.R.S.E Poker.

H.O.R.S.E Poker Rules - How To Play H.O.R.S.E

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H.O.R.S.E Poker is a popular variation game within the poker community. The game itself is a collaboration/rotational game that includes a handful of commonly played poker games. The acronym stands for Holdem, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Seven Card Stud and Stud Eight or Better (7 Card Stud Hi/Lo). In variety games, it's important that players are familiar with all of the games in the rotation to be effective and profitable.


In Horse Poker, the game rotates every time the action makes a full rotation. When the dealer button moves all the way around the table, that is a full rotation. It is imperative that you have a working knowledge of the games played in the Horse Poker rotation. Below, you will find the general rules for each of the five games played within Horse Poker.


Texas Holdem has become the most popular poker game by far and the rules are fairly simple. It is difficult to master, however. There is a small blind and a big blind in that order, starting to the left of the dealer. Each player is dealt two cards face down and a round of betting begins starting with the player that is under the gun. Under the gun refers to the person sitting to the left of the big blind.

After the first round of betting, the flop is dealt. The dealer burns a card and flips three community cards otherwise known as the flop. Another round of betting occurs and the dealer then burns a card and flips one more community card called the turn. Another betting round takes place and the dealer burns a card and flips the fifth and final community card, referred to as the river. A final round of betting is conducted and players go to a showdown if necessary.

Players can use any 5 cards between their 2 cards and the 5 community cards to make the best hand. The player with the best hand wins. Occasionally, there are split pots.

Omaha Hi/Lo

Omaha Hi/Lo has become very popular and in some ways has taken over 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo. The blind structure and the community cards are dealt the same way as in Holdem. There is a flop of three community cards, a turn of one community card and the river, the final community card. Previous to any of that, each player is initially dealt four face down cards.

The betting rounds function the same as in Holdem. There is one round after the initial deal, one after the flop, one after the turn and a final betting round after the river.

The interesting part of Omaha Hi/Lo is that you have to use two of your hole cards and three of the community cards to formulate your hand. So, if there are five hearts on the board, you don't have a flush unless you have two hearts in the hole.

The Hi/Lo aspect of the game brings an interesting variable to the equation. The best high hand wins half the pot and the best low hand wins the other half. To qualify for the low, your five cards being used all have to be eight or lower. For example, A-2-3-6-8 loses to A-3-5-6-7. The 7 high hand is a lower hand and therefore wins the low end of the pot. A player may also win the high end with Ace high, but that is unlikely.


Razz is basically 7 Card Stud Low. The game is dealt the same and the concepts function similarly, however, there is no high hand winner like 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo has. Each player puts an ante into the pot and receives three cards. Two cards are hole cards and one is face up. The person that has the lowest face up card becomes the bring-in. The bring-in is forced to bet the minimum bet to start the betting.

Each player then receives a a fourth card face up followed by the second round of betting. The same process repeats for the fifth and sixth card. Both of them are face up with a betting round in between. After receiving the sixth card face up, there is a betting round and then each player will receive a seventh card face down. The final betting round takes place and players go to a showdown if necessary.

The lowest hand wins in Razz and this is based on using 5 of your 7 cards. Straights and flushes do not take away the low value of the hand. In Razz, an Ace through five straight is the best hand you can have.

7 Card Stud

7 Card Stud is dealt exactly the same as Razz. The betting rounds and the action function nearly identically. However, in 7 Card Stud the high hand wins. You're not shooting to have the lowest hand possible. The standard ranking of poker hands applies. Royal Flush being the best hand and so on on down to a pair. If no one hits a hand, high card wins.

7 Card Stud Hi/Lo

7 Card Stud Hi/Lo, sometimes referred to as 7 Card Stud Eight or Better, is dealt the same way as Razz and 7 Card Stud. The betting rounds and the action functions the same as well. The major difference being that the pot can be won on the high and low end. The best high hand wins half the pot if a player has a qualifying low hand. It is also possible for players to take the entire pot. Ace through five can serve as the best low hand and also a five high straight. This would be an instance where players could win the entire pot.


Be aware of position and how to use it effectively. The later you are to act, the better your position is. The game is going to be rotating so watch your opponents carefully. Very rarely are your opponents going to be superb at all of the games in Horse Poker, so find their strong games and capitalize off of their weak ones. When you're playing Holdem, position is probably the most crucial. You should become familiar with playable starting hands in each of the games played in Horse Poker and how they correlate to position. This will greatly benefit you at the tables.

Horse Poker is an interesting format. It takes a wide variety of skills and you have to be kind of like a chameleon. You have to adapt to the game switching and remember that in one game a certain hand may be phenomenal. However, in another game, the same hand might be garbage. If you're new to this format, start out at a low level and become familiar with each of the five games played. You should absolutely know the rules and basic strategies of each of these games before you even consider playing Horse Poker for any significant amount of money.