H.O.R.S.E. is a classic acronym usually associated with basketball. Poker players have taken this idea and created a fast paced poker sample platter. Usually played as a tournament to discourage players from jumping on and off the table, H.O.R.S.E. incorporates five distinct poker games into one continuous game. If players could choose which games to play, it would kind of defeat the purpose of the game.
The H in H.O.R.S.E is the first game played and stands for Texas Hold’em. Texas Hold’em has become the most famous poker game played around the world, so many players are able to sit down at a H.O.R.S.E table and have at least one game they know. This game delineates two cards in the hole and five on the board, playable by each person at the table. The winner is declared when all but one player fold or by the best hand, aces being played high.
After this initial round of Texas Hold’em, the next round switches rules and becomes Omaha Hold’em. This is the O in H.O.R.S.E. In Omaha Hold’em each player is dealt four cards in their hand instead of two. This is the main difference between the two versions, as game play progresses in much the same way as its Texan counterpart. Rounds of betting occur after the cards are dealt, after the flop, after the turn and after the river. The players make their best five-card hand, as normal, but must use two and only two of their hole cards to make that hand. This means that when five hearts are on the communal board, a player must have at least two hearts in their hand to achieve a flush.
The next round of play is the R of H.O.R.S.E and stands for Razz. This is where things can get a bit tricky for the die-hard Texas Hold’em player. Razz is played in the seven-card stud layout, which will be explained more in part two. The twist of razz is that the winner is determined by the lowest hand instead of the highest. There are two systems used to determine the value of low hands typically employed in razz games.
The first is the ace-to-five system, in which aces are played low and straights and flushes are ignored. This means that the lowest hand possible is an ace, a two, a three, a four and a five of any suit. The other system is the two-to-seven system. This system does not allow straights or flushes to be played low and plays the aces as high cards. The lowest possible hand in this system is a two, a three, a four, a five, and seven. However, these cards cannot all be the same suit, as that would make the hand a flush. The lowest hand in either system is called “the wheel.”
These three poker games make up the first three-fifths of a H.O.R.S.E. tournament. The first two offer a seasoned Texas Hold’em player a transition into the more diverse world of poker. Then, Razz turns everything upside down and the worst hand becomes the best hand, forcing players to change their strategies and train of thought. Read part two of this article for a rundown of the “S” and the “E” in H.O.R.S.E. as well as tips for winning a H.O.R.S.E. tournament.