H.O.R.S.E poker is named for the five poker variants that make up the game- Hold ’em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Stud and Eights or better. H.O.R.S.E tournaments rotate between the five games. All tournaments have the same basic rules, but there is some wiggle room with regards to prize structure and blind levels. For H.O.R.S.E poker, special rules exist to accommodate the different game types. After these rules are put into place, H.O.R.S.E tournaments run in much the same manner as any other.
All five games in the H.O.R.S.E tournaments are played with fixed limits, rather than with a pot limit or none at all. Players play each variant for one round, and the rotation continues in the same manner throughout the tournament. Hold ’em and Omaha have a flop, where players receive hole cards (kept hidden from opponents’ view). Razz, stud and eights or better are all stud variants. In stud and hold ’em games, players try to make their best hand out of five cards, while in eights or better and Omaha, players make a highest and lowest hand. In razz poker, the objective is to have the worst hand.
In most poker tournaments, every player contributes a fee called a buy-in. Every player starts with a stack of chips, not necessarily the same as the buy-in amount. In a H.O.R.S.E tournament, players can buy in with as little as ten dollars and receive $1,500 in chips. They play through the five-game rotation in with the same stack of chips, just like they would in a regular tournament.
The chip stacks are usually large in relation to the beginning blind (the obligatory bets made by the two players to the left of the dealer at the beginning of each hand). As the tournament progresses, blinds rise at set intervals.
There are several prize structures in poker tournament play, and each runs by the same basic concept but some are set in favor of the top players while others distribute the money more evenly. Depending on the number of players, the prize pool may pay out to the top thirty percent or maybe just the top ten percent. In larger tournaments, payouts can be done by group.
In H.O.R.S.E tournaments, players often make strategic decisions based on the blind and ante structures to be succesful in these poker tournaments. For instance, if there are are a few players that have short stacks and there is one elimination left, they may look at how many hands are left or the button position. Then, they might use that information to decide whether they can fold effectively or try to double up before the blind.