You may have seen HORSE listed on the board of a poker room or noticed that there was a HORSE event in the World Series of Poker and thought to yourself, what is HORSE and do I want to play it? HORSE is poker, and you may very well want to play it, but you must be well-prepared because it is what's known as a mixed game and requires a wide variety of skills for you to be successful.
Instead of playing one game at a table, at a mixed game table the game changes on a fixed schedule, usually every eight hands, since the game is played eight-handed to accommodate the stud rounds. There will usually be a pile of plaques with the names of all the games being played on it, with the currently active game plaque face up on top. Most of the time mixed games are limit and use a combination of blinds and antes and bringins depending on what game is active. In HORSE, the games are predefined as follows:
The Games of HORSE
-- H is for Holdem
Limit holdem and played with blinds.
-- O is for Omaha
In HORSE, the Omaha is hi-lo, the split-pot variant of the increasingly popular game with an eight qualifier on the low and is played limit with blinds.
-- R is for Razz
Played limit with antes, Razz is Seven Stud played for low only, where the wheel is the best low. There is a forced bring in on the highest up card and first action is on the highest hand showing thereafter.
-- S is for Stud
Seven card stud played for high only. Limit with antes and a forced bring in on the lowest card up. First action is on the highest hand showing thereafter.
-- E is for Eight or Better
Eight or Better Stud in this case. It is a split-pot stud game with an eight qualifier on the low, and is played limit with antes and a forced bring in on the lowest card up. First action is on the highest hand showing thereafter.
As you can see by the list above, you need a big toolbox to hold the number of tools you need to beat all these games. That's the bad news. The good news is that very few people have all these tools. And though mixed games in general tend to attract a more skilled group of players, there are still a lot of holes you can find in people's games. I usually just try to play tight and stay out of trouble during the Holdem round, where few people get too far out of line. Then I make my money in the two hi-lo games, and often have an advantage in the other Stud games, as well. You will usually find that people can be quite weak in classes of games, whether its hi-lo, the stud rounds, or the flop games, and look to take advantage of certain players during specific rounds. Player profiling can be difficult because of the myriad ways your opponents play the individual games. But it can also be quite profitable, as a fish in the Stud games may be making enough from others in the flop rounds to keep paying you off.
Other Mixed Games
HORSE isn't the only mixed game spread in casinos, you'll also see HOE, or HOSE, or even games that include rounds of Triple Draw, Badugi, and even crazier games. Start with HORSE and then expand your horizons until you're a mixed game master