Here's what you'll need to play HORSE:
Setting up the Game
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. Due to COVID-19 there are currently discussions within the league to hold a remote HORSE tournament.
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 to have 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.
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.
At the beginning 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.
If a player makes a shot then 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 the same shot or receive a letter.
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 HORSE there are specific strategies used to gain an advantage over the opponent.
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.
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.
As mentioned, the game of HORSE has many variations. It can be fun to create your own rules. Below are some examples of additional rules that can be added.
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 up to you to decide which version you would like to play by.
Bouncing the ball off of the ground or objects 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.