HORSE Poker Tournament Strategy

Written by on August 5, 2017

HORSE Poker Tournament Strategy

HORSE Poker is a ‘mixed game’ format involving 5 different poker variations in rotation. These are Holdem, Omaha/8, Razz, 7-Card Stud and 7-Stud Hi-Lo. The HORSE format is growing in popularity online, and even has its own ‘premier’ event at the World Series Of Poker, with a huge $50,000 buy-in! This article will discuss the basics of HORSE tournaments and outline the adjustments to your poker strategy required to win.

We will start by looking at the rotation of the games and the basic details of each game played. Next some tournament strategy concepts which are applicable to all fixed limit betting formats are covered. We then look at how players who are skilled in one game but less familiar with others can adapt their play.

The usual change-over in game types in HORSE tournaments comes with the rise in blind levels. In a typical online HORSE tournament you will be playing 10 to 15 minutes of each game. This means that by the time all the games have been completed the blinds will have gone up to the point where you are in the ‘middle game’ stage – that is to say the blinds are reasonable proportion of the average stack size.

When looking at the selection of poker variations involved in HORSE, there are 2 major distinctions. The Holdem and Omaha/8 games involve community cards and blinds, the Razz, 7-Stud and 7-Stud high-low are ‘board card’ games. The second distinction is between high-only games (Holdem / 7-Stud), low-only (Razz) and the ‘Split-Pot’ games of Omaha/8 and Stud Hi-Lo. This mixture ensures that there are relatively few players who will specialize in all the games – making the tournament a good all-round test of poker skills.

Strategy in all tournaments with fixed limit betting involves a good understanding of pot-odds and outs. The key to the early stages of such tournaments is to take a succession of small ‘positive expectation’ situations which will see you gradually accumulate chips. Whether you choose to play loosely pre-flop or a tighter game this accumulation is the key, by the time the games rotate for a 2nd and 3rd time the blinds will be getting high in relation to the average stack size and it is easy to get ‘left behind’.

A common strategy for HORSE poker tournaments is for players to stay tight during the games that they are less familiar with and loosen up (pick up the aggression) in those games where they have more experience. While this is a viable strategy it may involve passing up edges – and there is no guarantee that you will find truly positive expectation situations in your ‘best games’ later in the tournament. Ensuring that you are familiar with the basic strategy for all games will enable you to strike a balance between being more aggressive in your best games and taking positive expectation situations where you are less familiar.

Aggression and positive play are key elements of all poker tournament play, and HORSE is no exception. As the blinds rise you will need some ‘ammunition’ in order to put pressure on your opponents. Taking some (positive expectation) risks earlier in the game can put you in an excellent position to do this.

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