8 game poker mix stud starting hand

Mixed Games & 8-Game Poker Guide – HORSE & 8-Game Rules

Mixed games are when multiple poker games are played in rotation, switching from one to the next after a certain number of hands have been dealt.

If you’re looking for profitable opportunities in poker, mixed games are a great option since most players lack the skills and knowledge needed to beat the games that are involved. Plus, learning new variants of poker can be a fun challenge.

Doug Polk recently announced a new mixed game course on Upswing Poker, so today we’ll discuss some of the rules and game play of the lesser-known variants of mixed game poker.

Any game where different variants of poker are played in rotation can be classified as a mixed game, but many of the most popular mixed games are included in the following rotations!:

  • H.O.R.S.E. (Hold’em, Omaha Hi, Razz, Stud, Eight or Better Stud)
  • 8-Game Mix (same as HORSE plus No Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, and 2-7 Triple Draw)

Most mixed game poker tournaments use one of these formats, and both are well-established cash game formats. In this article, we’re going to focus on the rules for each poker variant in 8-Game mix.

The variants involved in 8-Game poker are as follows (Note: games in blue will be covered in Upswing’s upcoming Mixed Games training course):

Let’s get started!

Note: If you’re interested in the new Mixed Games Mastery course, click here or below to learn more about it.

2-7 Triple Draw Lowball

2-7 Triple Draw is a ‘Lowball’ variant of poker, and the hand rankings are the exact opposite of conventional poker.

In 2-7 Triple Draw poker, the player who shows down the worst–or ‘lowest’–hand wins the pot. As the name suggests, it is a ‘triple draw’ game: you are initially dealt five cards, and you may discard any number of them in exchange for new, random cards during three drawing rounds. If you like your hand, or want your opponents to think you like your hand, you can ‘Stand Pat’ rather than discard.

How to play limit 2-7 Triple Draw poker:

  • 2-7 Triple Draw uses a ‘Blinds’ structure. The player to the left of the dealer button puts in a forced bet called the ‘Small Blind’, and the player two to the left of the button puts in the ‘Big Blind’.
  • The dealer button rotates clockwise one position after each hand, forcing everyone to pay exactly one small blind and one big blind every time the button orbits the table.
  • Each player is dealt five cards face down, starting with the player to the dealer’s left.
  • There is a round of betting where each player can fold, call, or raise. (Action starts with the player to the left of the Big Blind.)
  • Each remaining player can draw after the betting round, meaning they can discard as many or as few cards as they like, which will then be replaced from the deck.
  • Repeat #4 and #5 until the players have had three chances to draw.
  • One final round of betting takes place. In total, there will be four betting rounds broken up by three drawing rounds.
  • Players who haven’t folded showdown their hands, and the player with the lowest hand wins the pot.
  • 2-7 Triple Draw is a fixed limit game, meaning players can only bet and raise a set amount–1 big blind during the first two rounds of betting, and 2 big blinds during the final two rounds of betting.

Showdown and hand rankings:

At showdown, the player with the lowest five card hand wins the pot. Flushes and straights count in 2-7 Triple Draw, which means the strongest possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2 (also known as “number one” or “the wheel”).

2-7 triple draw rules the wheel mixed games

The best possible hand in 2-7 Triple Draw, known as “the wheel” or “number one”

Also, note that an Ace is always a high card in 2-7.

The aim is to make the lowest hand with no straight, flush, or paired cards in your hand. There is no qualifying hand in 2-7, meaning you can win with a flush or straight or any holding, so long as it’s a lower hand than your opponent’s.

2-7 triple draw 8 game showdown

2-7 Triple Draw Showdown Example: 7-5-4-3-2 beats 8-6-4-3-2

Click here for a deeper explanation of hand rankings in 2-7 Triple Draw.

Limit Hold’em

Most of you will be familiar with the rules of No Limit Hold’em (NLH), so we’ll only briefly differentiate Limit Hold’em.

Following the traditional poker hand rankings, each player is dealt two cards and must make the best five card hand using their cards and the community cards in the middle of the table.

How to play Limit Hold’em poker:

  • Limit Hold’em uses a familiar blinds structure. The player to the left of the dealer button puts in the small blind, and the player two to the left of the button puts in the big blind
  • Each player is dealt two cards face down, starting with the player to the dealer’s left
  • There is a round of betting where each player can fold, call, or raise. (Action starts with the player to the left of the big blind.)
  • The dealer burns one card and deals the flop (three community cards), which is followed by another round of betting
  • The dealer burns and deals the turn (a fourth community card), which is followed by another round of betting
  • The dealer burns and deals the river (a fifth community card), which is followed by a final round of betting
  • The remaining players show their cards and the best hand wins the pot. Any combination of the five community cards and two hole cards may be used to make the best possible five card hand.
  • Limit Hold’em is a fixed limit game, meaning players can only bet and raise a set amount–1 big blind preflop and on the flop, and 2 big blinds on the turn and river. Only four bets may go in on each street, which is why the 4th bet is called the “cap”.
limit holdem 8 game showdown

Limit Hold’em Showdown Example: KQs makes a straight, beating the two pair of JTo

Limit Hold’em games are usually the softest game in a given poker room, so knowing how to play it well can be a valuable skill. Check out 7 Tips for Winning in Limit Hold’em to bolster your skills.

Omaha 8 or Better

Many of you will also be familiar with the Omaha variant of poker, in particular Pot Limit Omaha, which is probably the second most popular poker game in the world.

Omaha 8, also known as Omaha 8 or Better, or Omaha high low split (‘Hi/Lo’), is a split pot game. The best high hand wins half of the pot, and the best low hand wins the other half of the pot.

It is possible for a player to win both the high and low portions of the pot–known as “scooping”. If there is no qualifying low hand (five cards below 8), the best high hand will scoop the whole pot.

Omaha 8 can be played as a limit, pot limit or even no limit game. The most common variant is Limit Omaha 8 or Better, which is also the variant included in most mixed games.

How to play Limit Omaha 8 or Better poker:

  • Limit Omaha 8 or Better uses a “blinds” structure: The player to the left of the dealer button puts in the small blind, and the player two to the left of the button puts in the big blind.
  • Each player is dealt four cards face down, starting with the player to the left of the dealer.
  • There is a round of betting where each player can fold, call, or raise. (Action starts with the player to the left of the big blind.)
  • The flop (three cards), a turn and a river are dealt with betting rounds following each.
  • At showdown, players must use exactly 2 hole cards to make their best 5 card high and low hand. The same cards can be used to make a high and a low hand.
  • A low hand qualifies for half of the pot when it is an 8-low or better. If there is no qualifying low hand, the high hand scoops the entire pot.
  • Omaha 8 or Better is usually a fixed limit game, meaning players can only bet and raise a set amount–1 big blind preflop and on the flop, and 2 big blinds on the turn and river. Only 4 bets may go in on each street, which is why the 4th bet is called the “cap”.

Showdown and hand rankings:

The high hand rankings follow traditional poker hand rankings.

The low hand follows the A-to-5 lowball hand rankings, in which Aces are the lowest card and flushes and straights don’t count against your hand. This makes 5-4-3-2-A the best possible low hand (and a strong high hand in it’s own right). The worst qualifying low hand is 8-7-6-5-4.

mixed games omaha 8 or better

Omaha 8 Showdown Example: KK86 makes a heart flush, winning the high half of the pot. A642 makes an 8-5-3-2-A low, winning the low half of the pot

Check out this article for some Omaha 8 or Better (and limit Hold’em) strategy tips.

7 Card Stud

7 Card Stud, or simply ‘Stud’, is thought by some to be the purest form of poker. Before Hold’em and other community card games became popular, Stud was the most common variant of poker played.

Unlike the previously discussed games, Stud uses an “Ante” and “Bring-In” instead of blinds. The game is also structured differently than community card poker games, with each player receiving a dedicated hand with seven cards only they can use.

8 game stud format

How to play 7 Card Stud poker:

The dealing of the cards is quite different from any of the previous games we’ve discussed, and instead of ‘Blinds’ there is an ‘Ante’ and ‘Bring-In.’

  • Stud is almost always played as a fixed limit betting game. The small bet size is used on third and fourth street, and the big bet size is used on fifth street and beyond.
  • Each player antes a fraction of the small bet before the cards are dealt. In a $2/$4 limit game, for example, the antes are usually $0.30.
  • Three cards are dealt to each player, including two face down “hole cards” and one face up “door card”.
mixed games stud starting hand

Example of a strong starting hand in Stud. The K♠ is face up for all players to see. The A♣ and K are hole cards that only their owner can see.

  • The player with the lowest Door Card must start the betting with the Bring-In, which is usually about half the size of the small bet. Alternatively, the player may also complete the size of the small bet.
  • If multiple players have the same low card, the card with the lowest suit will Bring-In (the order from highest to lowest is spades-hearts-diamonds-clubs).
  • A round of betting begins with the player to the left of the Bring-In, who may call the current bet, raise, or fold. The betting proceeds clockwise.
  • Four more cards are dealt to each player with rounds of betting in between:
    • Fourth Street: Each player is dealt another card face up. There is then a round of betting, and the player with the highest value exposed hand is first to act, so a player with A-K♠ exposed would act before a player with J♠-9 exposed. The player may bet the small bet size or check unless any player is showing a pair, in which case they, or any other player, may raise the stakes by using the big bet size instead.
    • Fifth Street: Each player is dealt another card face up. As with the previous street, there is a round of betting and the player with the highest exposed hand acts first. This time, the player may bet the bigger limit bet or check.
    • Sixth Street: Once again, each player is dealt another card face up, and the player with the highest exposed hand must act first, either checking or betting the big bet size.
    • Seventh Street (the ‘river’): On Seventh Street, each player is dealt one final card face down for a total of three face down cards and four exposed cards. The player with the highest exposed hand is first to act in the final round of betting, and they must bet the big bet size or check.

Showdown and hand rankings:

The showdown for Stud is quite simple. The player with the best five card hand using any combination of their seven cards is the winner. These hands follow the traditional hand rankings.

mixed games stud showdown

Stud Showdown Example: The player on the right wins with a club flush, beating the two pair of the player on the left

Check out this article for some Stud (and Razz) strategy.

Razz

Razz is is a variant of Stud with almost identical gameplay, but hand rankings are reversed. While Stud follows the conventional high hand poker rankings, Razz follows the A-to-5 lowball hand rankings.

However, there are no high hands in Razz, which means there are no qualifications for low hands. A player can have a Queen low or a pair or worse and still win the hand, so long as their hand is lower than their opponent’s at showdown.

How to play Razz poker

Razz plays very similarly to Stud, but you’ll notice a few key differences.

  • Razz is almost always played as a fixed limit betting game. The small bet size is used during the first two rounds of betting (third and fourth street), and the big bet size is used on fifth street and beyond.
  • Each player antes a fraction of the small bet before the cards are dealt. In a $2/$4 limit game, for example, the antes are usually $0.30.
  • Three cards are dealt to each player, including two face down “hole cards” and one face up “door card.”
  • The player with the highest Door Card must start the betting with the Bring-In, which is usually a little larger than the ante. Alternatively, the player may also complete the size of the small bet.
  • If multiple players have the same high card, the card with the highest suit will Bring-In (the order from highest to lowest is spades-hearts-diamonds-spades). This is the only time suits are used in Razz, and this method is not used to break a tie at showdown.
  • Aces are always low in Razz, so a King is the highest possible Door Card.
  • A round of betting begins with the player to the left of the Bring-In, who may call the current bet, raise, or fold. The betting proceeds clockwise.
  • Four more cards are dealt to each player with rounds of betting in between:
    • Fourth Street: Each player is dealt another card face up. There is then a round of betting, and the player with the lowest value exposed hand is first to act, so a player with A-4♠ exposed would act before a player with J♠-9 exposed. The player may bet the small bet size or check unless any player is showing a pair, in which case they, or any other player, may raise the stakes by using the big bet size instead.
    • Fifth Street: Each player is dealt another card face up. As with the previous street, there is a round of betting and the player with the lowest exposed hand acts first. This time, the player may bet the bigger limit bet or check.
    • Sixth Street: Once again, each player is dealt another card face up, and the player with the lowest exposed hand must act first, either checking or betting the big bet size.
    • Seventh Street (the ‘river’): On Seventh Street, each player is dealt one final card face down for a total of three face down cards and four exposed cards. The player with the lowest exposed hand is first to act in the final round of betting, and they must bet the big bet size or check.

Showdown and Hand Rankings:

Limit Razz follows the A-to-5 lowball hand rankings, meaning flushes and straights don’t count against your hand and the best hand is 5-4-3-2-A.

Qualifying for the low is not necessary in Razz, so a Queen-low like Q-J-7-4-2 would beat a paired hand like 7-6-6-3-2.

razz mixed games showdown

Razz Example Showdown: The player on the left has a 6-5-4-3-A low, beating the 9-8-5-2-A low of the player on the right. Note that the five spades do not count against the player on the left’s hand.

Check out this article for some Razz (and Stud) strategy.

Stud 8 or Better

Also known as 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo, Stud 8 is essentially a mix of Stud and Razz.

What does the E stand for in HORSE poker?

The “E” in HORSE represents Stud Eight or Better. The game’s creators decided to use the “E” in Eight rather than the “S” in Stud. This was probably the case because HORSE sounds a lot better than HORSS.

Stud 8 is a split pot game. The best high hand wins half of the pot, and the best low hand wins the other half of the pot. The low hand must “qualify” with at least five cards below 8 in order to win half of the pot. This game uses the A-to-5 lowball rankings for low hands, meaning straights and flushes do not count against your hand. 

It is possible for a player to win both the high and low portions of the pot–known as “scooping”. If there is no qualifying low hand (five cards below 8), the best high hand will scoop the whole pot.

How to play Stud 8 or Better poker:

  • Stud 8 is almost always played as a fixed limit betting game. The small bet size is used during the first two rounds of betting (third and fourth street), and the big bet size is used on fifth street and beyond.
  • Each player antes a fraction of the small bet before the cards are dealt. In a $2/$4 limit game, for example, the antes are usually $0.30.
  • Three cards are dealt to each player, including two face down “hole cards” and one face up “door card”.
  • The player with the lowest Door Card must start the betting with the Bring-In, which is usually about half the size of the small bet. Alternatively, the player may also complete the size of the small bet.
  • If multiple players have the same low card, the card with the lowest suit will Bring-In (the order from highest to lowest is spades-hearts-diamonds-spades).
  • A round of betting begins with the player to the left of the Bring-In, who may call the current bet, raise, or fold. The betting proceeds counter clockwise.
  • Four more cards are dealt to each player with rounds of betting in between:
    • Fourth Street: Each player is dealt another card face up. There is then a round of betting, and the player with the highest value exposed hand is first to act, so a player with Q-4♠ exposed would act before a player with 5-3♠ exposed. The player may bet the small bet size or check unless any player is showing a pair, in which case they, or any other player, may raise the stakes by using the big bet size instead.
    • Fifth Street: Each player is dealt another card face up. As with the previous street, there is a round of betting and the player with the highest exposed hand acts first. This time, the player may bet the bigger limit bet or check.
    • Sixth Street: Once again, each player is dealt another card face up, and the player with the highest exposed hand must act first, either checking or betting the big bet size.
    • Seventh Street (the ‘river’): On Seventh Street, each player is dealt one final card face down for a total of three face down cards and four exposed cards. The player with the highest exposed hand is first to act in the final round of betting, and they must bet the big bet size or check.

Showdown and hand rankings:

The pot is split between the best low hand (following the A-to-5 lowball hand rankings) and the best high hand.  If there is no qualifying low hand, the best high hand wins the whole pot.

mixed games 8 game stud 8 showdown

Stud 8 Example Showdown: The player on the left wins the low half of the pot with a 7-6-5-3-A low, beating the 8-7-6-5-3 low of the player on the right. The player on the right wins the high half of the pot with a nine-high straight.

Check out this article for some Stud 8 (and HORSE tournament) strategy.

No Limit Hold’em

No Limit Hold’em is far and away the most popular variant of poker in the world. Here’s a brief explanation of the gameplay.

How to play No Limit Hold’em poker:

  • No Limit Hold’em uses a blinds structure. The player to the left of the dealer button puts in the small blind, and the player two to the left of the button puts in the big blind
  • Each player is dealt two cards face down, starting with the player to the dealer’s left
  • There is a round of betting where each player can fold, call, or raise. (Action starts with the player to the left of the big blind.)
  • The dealer burns one card and deals the flop (three community cards), which is followed by another round of betting
  • The dealer burns and deals the turn (a fourth community card), which is followed by another round of betting
  • The dealer burns and deals the river (a fifth community card), which is followed by a final round of betting
  • The remaining players show their cards and the best hand wins the pot. Any combination of the five community cards and two hole cards may be used to make the best possible 5 card hand.
  • There are no betting limits, meaning players can bet and raise any portion of their stack at any time.

Showdown and hand rankings:

Once the betting is complete, the last player to bet or raise shows their hand first. The player who makes the best five card hand using any combination of the community cards and their hole cards wins the pot (using traditional poker hand rankings).

We have a ton of strategy articles for No Limit Hold’em here on Upswing Poker. Click here for cash game strategy articles, and click here for tournament strategy articles.

Pot Limit Omaha

Also a very popular variant of poker, many people will at least have an idea of how Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) works.

PLO is very similar to No-Limit Hold’em with three major differences: each player gets four cards instead of two, players must use exactly two hole cards at showdown, and the max bet at any time is the size of the pot.

How to play Pot Limit Omaha poker:

  • PLO uses a blinds structure. The player to the left of the dealer button puts in the small blind, and the player two to the left of the button puts in the big blind
  • Each player is dealt 4 face down hole cards.
  • The dealer will deal a ‘flop’ (three community cards), a ‘turn’ (a fourth community card) and a ‘river’ (a fifth community card) with a round of betting taking place between each. Players may use the community cards in conjunction with their hole cards to make the best 5-card hand.
  • ‘Pot Limit’ means that a player can bet or raise only the size of the pot. For example, if a pot is currently $10, the maximum bet is $10. However, if a player has bet and another player raises the pot, that player’s call is included in the raise size. (A good way to work this out is by multiplying the original bet by 3 and adding the size of the pot before the bet.)
    • Example: The pot is $10. Player A bets $5. Player B raises the size of the pot. How much is player B’s raise? Answer: Multiply Player A’s bet by 3 ($15) and add the original size of the pot ($10). A pot sized raise is therefore $25 ($15 + $10 = $25).
  • Players must use exactly two of their four hole cards in conjunction with the community cards to make their best five card hand.

Showdown and hand rankings:

Once the betting is complete, the last player to bet or raise will show their hand. The best five card hand wins the pot, using traditional poker hand rankings.

mixed games PLO showdown

PLO Showdown Example: AAJ5 wins with a set of Aces, beating the pair of Aces of AKKT. Note that AKKT does not have a flush because he only has one spade; he would need two spades in his hand to make a flush.

Click here for a list of Pot Limit Omaha strategy articles.

Final Thoughts on 8-Game Poker & HORSE

Mixed games are super fun poker games to play with friends because of the constant rotation. It’s a lot tougher for one player to dominate when there are multiple games, which will make your home games a lot more fun for everyone.

If you want to try your hand at mixed games online, your best bet is probably the biggest sites (PokerStars, PartyPoker, 888). Unfortunately mixed games aren’t popular enough to be prevalent on smaller sites like Ignition and America’s Card Rooms.

Note: If you’re interested in the new Mixed Games Mastery course, click here or below to learn more about it.

 

I used to play a ton of poker. Now, I run the Upswing Poker strategy blog and help out our growing community of Upswing Lab members.

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