Basketball HORSE Rules

Basketball HORSE

Basketball HORSE

Let's learn about the rules and regulations of HORSE and how to play.

Here's what you'll need to play HORSE:

In order to set up the game, there are a few things you need to do. You first need to decide who goes first by flipping a coin and calling Heads or Tails. You should also make sure the rim is at least 10ft above the ground and that the basketball is at a pressure of 7.5-8.5 PSI. Once you've done all these things, you're ready to start playing!

HORSE Competitions In The NBA

horse Competitions In The NBA

The game of HORSE has had a history within the NBA. It is a fun way for players to be competitive with one another while staying connected. The NBA has held three HORSE tournaments over the years: in 1978, 2009, and 2010. Paul Westphal took home the first and Kevin Durant the most recent two.

Number of Players

horse number of players

HORSE can be played with as many players as you want. The one requirement is that there are at least two. However, the game becomes slower and less exciting the more players it has. You do not want too many players to a point where it takes several minutes in between shots. A good number of players to have in one game is between three and six.

Deciding Who Goes First

Whoever goes first in HORSE gets the first opportunity to put the other players on the defensive. It is a coveted spot, which is why there has to be a fair way to choose who gets to go first.

A popular way to decide who goes first is by seeing who can hit a jump shot first, with the successful player getting to go first. Another method is by flipping a coin. The player who gets to shoot first picks out their first shot and attempts it.

Taking Turns Shooting

Basketball Shot

At the start of the match, players decide the order in which they will shoot. Determining the order is usually done the same way as deciding who goes first.

During the game, players alternate shooting following that order. If a player misses a shot, the person after them shoots from wherever they want on the court.

If a player makes a shot, the person after them must make the same exact shot. If they miss they receive a letter, H for the first miss, O for the second, R for the third, and so on until the word HORSE is spelled.

In a three-person HORSE game, if there are two consecutive shots made, then player 3 must make that same shot or get a letter.

Boundary Rules

basketball boundary lines

Unlike the sport of basketball, there are no boundaries in HORSE. You can shoot from anywhere and a ball that bounces away is simply picked back up and play resumes.

Creativity is encouraged in the game of HORSE, so long shots outside the traditional boundaries are allowed.

Types of Shots in HORSE

basketball bank shot

As touched on earlier, creativity is key in the game of HORSE. When you're shooting you do not need to stick to basic jump shots. Some popular shots that are used in HORSE are as follows:

  • Bank Shot: the ball must hit the backboard before going in.
  • Swish: the ball is not allowed to touch the rim.
  • Opposite Hand Shot: the player shooting must use their nondominant hand.
  • No Look: the shot is attempted without looking at the hoop.
  • Sitting Down: the player sits down while shooting.

Style and Trick Shots

Basketball Trick Shots

Trick shots are an excellent way to trip up your opponents and give you a better shot to win the game. Below is a list of a few trick shots to try the next time you're playing a game of HORSE.

  • Behind The Back Shot: The player shoots with their back to the rim, and throws the ball backwards.
  • Bounce: The ball must take a bounce off of the ground before going in.
  • Swish or no Swish: The ball must go through the hoop cleanly, touching only the net on its way down.

The Referee

basketball referee calls

Recreational HORSE games do not require a referee, as players can keep track of the score and determine who goes first on their own. On the occasional instance where a ruling is needed, the players talk it out and make their own rulings. Part of this is because the game of HORSE has different rules depending on where you are playing.

In official NBA HORSE games, a referee is responsible for the following:

  • Determining the order of players.
  • Deciding if a shot is legal.
  • Keeping track of which letters each player has.

Strategy in HORSE

strategy in horse

In HORSE there are specific strategies used to gain an advantage over the opponent.

Opponent Weaknesses

The number one strategy is to find your opponent's weakness. For example, if they aren't a good long range shooter, take more long range shots. If they struggle with a certain trick shot like one handed, keep doing those.

Order of Shooting

The order of who goes first in HORSE is a critical advantage. If you have the chance to go first, you can dictate what happens in the game until you miss your first shot.

Variations of HORSE

variations of horse

The game does not always have to be played using the HORSE acronym. Players looking for a shorter game will often play to P.I.G. while players that desire a longer game can make up their own acronym with more than five letters. Another set of differences within the game are the rules themselves.

Creative Add-On Rules

creative add on rules

As mentioned, the game of HORSE has many variations. It can be fun to make your own rules. Below are some examples of additional rules that can be added.

  • Tip-ins: When the shooter misses the shot you can tip the ball in and the shooter gets a letter if the ball goes into the basket.
  • Restrictions: If a player has more skills than you on the court, it is possible to add restrictions such as no dunking in the game.
  • Shooter Gets a Letter: If all players make the same shot in the basket the original shooter gets a letter.
  • Championship Shot: On the final shot (the E) you get two tries to make it.


Are you allowed to do the same shot/trick twice?

The game of HORSE is one with several variations. There is no one set of official rules that one can follow from. However, some iterations of the game state that you cannot perform the same exact shot twice. Other versions state you can do the same shot/trick as long as you didn't previously make it. It's your decision as to which version you would like to play by.

Are you allowed to bounce the ball of objects?

Bouncing the ball off of objects or the ground is a great way to win a game of HORSE. Not only is it allowed, but it is encouraged. Throw the ball off the fence, the roof, or a tree, whatever works. It's a tough act to follow, and with a make, the person after you will have a hard time making it themselves.

How do styles work in HORSE?

Style shots are another way to say trick shots. Style shots are an excellent way to give your opponents letters. Shots such as one handed, backwards, and no-look shots are an alternative to the traditional jump shot. They add to the fun of the game of HORSE, keeping it from being the same as the sport of basketball. It is what makes HORSE its own unique game.

How many players can play HORSE?

HORSE can be played with as many players as you want. If you had 20 people who all wanted to play, they all could. However, generally when there's more people the game becomes less fun. That's because it takes much longer in between your shots. If you have more than 8 players you might want to consider breaking it up into two smaller games.

What are the rules of HORSE for multiple players?

The game of horse is relatively simple. A shooting order is chosen at the beginning of the game. Players follow that order taking turns shooting. If the player in front of you makes their shot, you have to take the same exact shot. If you miss you get a letter. If you spell HORSE you lose the game. The last player without HORSE wins the game.

What happens when the first player makes the shot?

After it is decided which player gets to go first, they attempt the first shot of the game. They have free range to shoot from wherever they want. If they are to make the shot then the player after them in the order must make that same exact shot.

What happens when the first player misses the shot?

Alternatively, the first player may miss their shot. If that happens then the next player in the order still shoots, but they do not have to take the same shot that player 1 took. There is a reset of sorts and the second player can shoot whatever shot they choose to.

What happens when the second player makes the shot?

There are two different situations where the second player could make their shot. The difference is based on how many players are in the game. If there are more than two players, the third player would have to take the same shot that player two just made. If there are only two players there is a small catch. If player two makes the same shot that player one had just made, then that shot is over and player one can shoot from anywhere.

What happens when the second player misses the shot?

If the first player had made their shot, then the second player must take that same exact shot. If they were to miss then they would receive a letter, H for their first miss. Now if the first player had missed their shot prior, then there would be a different outcome. Following a miss, if the second player also missed then nothing would happen, and the player after them in the order would shoot next.

Who gets to shoot first in HORSE?

Shooting first in the game of HORSE has its advantages. It allows you to put the pressure on the other players right away with a make. Due to the advantage that it holds it isn't fair for the same person to start every game. There are two common ways to distinguish who gets to go first: a coin flip or a shootout. A coin flip works well in a two player game. A shootout is good for a game with more people, where the first to make a shot gets to go first.