The $50,000 HORSE tournament at the World Series of Poker is one of the most prestigious events in all of poker, but the structure does not allow room for mistakes. Typically, over 80 percent of the field is still alive halfway through the second day, but none of those players have enough chips to play more than two big hands. Everyone is in danger of going broke. In fact, it’s the same in nearly every HORSE tournament I’ve ever played in, which means it’s crucial that you never waste a single bet.
In no-limit tournaments a few players usually break out from the pack and acquire huge chip leads early on. The blinds and antes only become an issue for them towards the very end of the tournament, but that almost never happens in HORSE tournaments because you’re playing limit poker. The blinds and antes are an issue the entire time so saving chips whenever you can is vital.
In a HORSE tournament it’s particularly important to hold on to your chips in the Stud games because there’s an extra round of betting compared to the flop games, Hold ’em and Omaha. That’s why I think it’s best to play conservatively on Third Street in the Stud games.
For example, let’s say you have A-2 in the hole and a 5 up in Razz. This is one of the best starting hands you can have in Razz so you should definitely open for a raise. But a player showing a 6 re-raises you. For him to reraise you, it’s almost 99 percent certain he has two wheel cards in the hole. He has a very good starting hand, but, of course, your hand is still better.
If this were a cash game, you would want to re-raise him. However, in a HORSE tournament you should just call because you’re only a small favorite at this point in the hand. Not re-raising here is kind of like staying away from coin flip situations in No-Limit Hold ‘em tournaments. You’re avoiding a situation where you’re not a huge favorite. In a HORSE tournament you don’t want to push too hard when you only have a slight advantage.
If you put in three bets on Third Street and get two or more callers, pots odds are going to force you to stay in the hand no matter what you catch on Fourth Street. Playing this way, you might win a big pot, but you might also lose one. You simply can’t afford to play this way in a HORSE tournament because losing one or two such hands can cost you your entire stack.
I’d recommend seeing what falls on Fourth Street before committing any more of your chips because you will have a much better idea where you are at in the hand. If you and your opponent both catch good cards on Fourth Street, you become a much bigger favorite to win the hand than you were on Third Street. Now instead of being just a 52 percent favorite you might be as much as a 65 percent favorite, and you can start raising and re-raising to protect that advantage.
If you catch a bad card on Fourth Street, it will be much easier to muck your cards if you didn’t put in three or four bets on Third Street. For example, if you catch a jack and your opponent catches a 4, you’re going to be happy you didn’t cap the betting on Third Street because now you’re behind in the hand.
Another advantage to just calling a reraise on Third Street with the best hand is deception. If you and your opponent both catch good cards on Fourth Street your opponent is going to think he still has the better hand. You are in effect slowplaying your hand, and it could pay off handsomely because the size of the bets has now doubled.
Because every player in a HORSE tournament is just one or two hands away from going broke, it’s extremely important to save your chips whenever you can. Playing more conservatively on Third Street during the Stud games is a great way to accomplish this.
Thanks to FullTilt for this article.