Whenever I played H.O.R.S.E. before, I usually never stuck around for more than two or three rounds before tiring of it. Can be a slow-moving game, especially if one doesn’t get hands to play. Since I knew I was going to play a longer session this time, I was able to be more patient and not be too eager to mix it up with less-than-ideal cards. Having such discipline is a key (the key?) to succeeding in any H.O.R.S.E. cash game, I’d imagine.
The longer session also helped me get a better line on my opponents’ play, figuring out who were the risk-takers, who were the nits, who were the more savvy players, etc. -- not a bad idea when playing any game, but certainly of relevance when playing H.O.R.S.E. I once wrote a post about limit hold ’em in which I suggested three factors had equal influence over one’s fortunes during a given session: one’s Ability, the number of Bad opponents at one’s table, and the Cards. There I concluded that to come away a winner in a given session, one usually needed at least two of these three factors on one’s side. (E.g., the only way to overcome poor starting hands was to play ’em well and have others make mistakes against you.)
I think my limited experience with H.O.R.S.E. had previously given me the impression that the “C” part of this formula -- the cards -- was somehow more significant than the other two -- my ability & the number of bad opponents I faced. Easy to do after a Razz hand where you start with 7-2-3 or something, catch paint cards on fourth and fifth, then have to fold to that guy who began with a 10 showing on third. It might be true, actually, that in certain high-level mixed games -- e.g., the WSOP $50K buy-in or the “Big Game” (apparently moving to the Venetian?) -- players for the most part can be equally-skilled at all the games, thus making the cards matter a bit more. Of course, even there you’ve got folks who are relatively less adept at one game or another. And down at 0.50/1.00, you’re necessarily going to encounter wildly varying skill levels from game to game, so it makes sense to pay attention to how others play the various games.
Looking at the five H.O.R.S.E. games, I’ve probably played more hands of LHE than any other form of poker, and so obviously am most comfortable there. Notice some players overvaluing ace-rag and other hands that in a regular LHE game wouldn’t be rated as highly but in H.O.R.S.E. are pushed because folks are tired of folding their way through Razz, Stud, and Stud/8. I’m also at ease with limit Omaha/8, partially from having played so much PLO, but mostly from having a decent idea about starting hands there. Razz is a game I’ve never enjoyed very much, but actually found myself looking forward to it coming around in the H.O.R.S.E. sequence. Again, I know some basics here -- look for 8-low starters (at worst), preferably not rough; know when to steal; avoid fancy plays on later streets; etc. Of the two remaining stud games I’m certainly more knowledgeable about Stud high, though have a long way to go in both. Actually, there’s are certain strategies associated with betting the stud games (Razz, Stud, and Stud/8) that are largely unfamiliar to those of us who spend most of our time playing flop games (Hold ’em & Omaha).
Plan to play some more and report back soon. Mentioned before how over the past three years I’ve tended to gravitate toward one game and then obsess over it for the entire year -- NLHE (’05), LHE (’06), and PLO (’07). Still early, but it could well be ’08 turns out to be the year of the H.O.R.S.E.
Labels: *on the street