H.O.R.S.E. for those of you that don’t know already is Poker’s version of the Decathlon. You can’t be a one trick pony and specialize in just one game here. A player who excels in the H.O.R.S.E games will need to have well rounded poker knowledge as you will have to play the games of:
Holdem, Omaha H/L, Razz, Stud, and Stud Eight
While there are many players that are good at a couple of these games, few can really profess to be experts in them all. And playing them all in a rotation takes constant adjustments.
Phil Hellmuth who is the most decorated player in terms of WSOP bracelets for instance with 11, have never won a single one outside of Hold’em, and while Phil will tell anyone who will listen what a fantastic player he is in all of the poker games, the results seem to say otherwise.
The H.O.R.S.E. event at the WSOP was introduced in 2006 and was won by Chip Reese, and while the Main Event is certainly the largest and the winner has always been considered to be the “World Champion”, the H.O.R.S.E event with it’s $50,000 buy in (5 times larger than the main event) is considered by most poker pros to be the real gauge of who the best player is.
Winners so far have been:
2006 Chip Reese
2007 Freddy Deeb
and in 2008 an alcohol fueled Scotty Nguyen
Since the passing of Chip Reese in 2007, the winner of this event is also awarded the Chip Reese memorial trophy in addition to the prize money and the bracelet.
So what does it take to be a good H.O.R.S.E player?
Well first you need to learn the rules of all of the games, that’s not too hard, but if you don’t spend some time playing each of them you will find that Hold’em players will make a lot of mistakes in Omaha for instance.
Second of all you had better be good at limit poker because all the games are limit in most settings rather than No-Limit of Pot Limit
Third, all of the the games have one thing in common, you really need to have a good starting hand if you expect to make a good showing in the long run. While you may be able to rope-a-dope your way around the ring playing No Limit Hold’em with creative holdings, you will get run down in the long run doing that here.
Funny enough, my strongest game of No Limit Hold’em translates to my weakest game in Limit Hold’em and I actually do much better in Razz it seems.
Why would anyone want to play H.O.R.S.E anyways?
For me its about variety and a challenge but I find that it gives me so many ways to think about the hands that it improves my Hold’em game.
My first H.O.R.S.E tournament I ran deep, 28th out of 2,700 people and most likely could have done a bit better but had to give the tourney to a friend to finish off as I had to go teach a class.
So you are saying you’re a pretty hot all around player?
Nope, not by any means, I have a lot of weak games there, but I do think that I am better than the average high jumper when it comes to running all the races.