Horse Race Game Rules and How to play

Are you looking for a drinking game that’s easy to play, even easier to set up, and tonnes of fun? This Horse Race game rules guide will teach you how to play one. 

Horse Race (sometimes also spelled ‘Horserace’) is a simple betting game commonly played as a drinking game at parties.

Its rules are fairly simple – the game copies the principles of actual horse races, adapting them for the classic deck of cards. 

As such, Horse Race resembles other card games inspired by sports such as Baseball (see Baseball card game rules) or Golf (see Golf card game rules).

Key highlights of this Horse card game rules guide:

  • What is the Horse Race card game
  • Horse Race game rules
  • Horse Race scoring 
  • Horse Race rules in pictures 
  • Horse Race card game (Video tutorial)

Continue reading for a complete guide on how to play the Horse Race card game.

What is the Horse Race card game?

Horse Race Card Game Info Image

The Horse Race game is a card version of the regular horse races. Players bet chips on aces, which act like horses, and receive winnings depending on the odds.

Number of Players: 3 – 4 players.

Ages: 21+ (drinking version)

Difficulty: Easy 

Length of Play: 5 – 10 minutes

Similar to: Baseball card gameGolf card game, Tripoley

Type of Game: Drinking card game

Main Objective: Bet on the right ‘horse’ to complete the set course first.

Our Take: Horse Race is an undemanding drinking game you can teach your friends in just a few minutes and then enjoy for the rest of the evening.

What You’ll Need to Play Horse Race

If you want to play a card version of Horse Race, you’ll need the following cards:

  • Decks: 1
  • Number of Cards: 52
  • Cards Omitted: Jokers

Besides the cards, you will also need a set of casino chips for your bets (or some substitute).

Horse Race Game Rules

The dealer sorts out all four aces from the deck and lines them up in a column, face-up. This is the side layout.

Remove all face cards, including jokers, so you’re left with just the numbers.

The rest of the deck gets shuffled, and the dealer draws 7 cards and places them face up in a horizontal row above the aces. We’ll call this the top layout.

The remaining cards form a draw pile, placed face-down between the players.

Starting the Game.

Before the game begins, the players decide which horse they put their chips on.

Players get 20 chips each, and they can bet as many of them as they like on any horse.

I’ll explain how the odds work in our scoring section below.

Once everyone is happy with their selections, the race can begin.

Tip: You can use real money instead of chips to spice up the game. Of course, remember that gambling for real money, even if using just coins, is only suitable for adult players!

How to Play Horse Race

To start the race, the dealer must turn over the card on top of the draw pile.

Whichever ‘horse’ matches the suit of the drawn card advances one step forward on the game board, i.e., under the top layout. 

Continue drawing cards and moving the corresponding aces forward one step at a time until one of them lays under the first of the 7 cards in the top layout.

Whichever ‘horse’ had 8 matches with the drawn cards wins the race.

Calculate the winnings for whoever bet on the winning horse based on the odds at the start of the race and the number of chips the player bet.

Switch dealers after every round.

Horse Race Scoring

Your score results from the calculation of odds and bets. The odds of each ‘horse’ (ace) depend on how many of the 7 drawn cards match its suit:

  • 0 matching suits – 1:1
  • 1 matching suit – 2:1
  • 2 matching suits – 3:1
  • 3 matching suits – 5:1
  • 4 matching suits – 10:1

Example: If player bets on a ‘horse’ with 2 matching suits, for every chip they bet, they’ll get 3 chips back, including the chip they bet.

If you’re playing Horse Race as a drinking game, convert chips into fingers of alcohol.

Anyone who runs out of chips is out of the game. The player with the most chips once everyone has had a turn as the dealer wins the game.

Horse Race Rules in Pictures

Step 1

The dealer sorts out all four aces and lines them up in a column, face-up. This is the side layout representing your racing horses.

Horse Race game rules 1 image

Step 2

Draw 7 cards and place them face up in a horizontal row above the aces as your top layout. The remaining cards form a draw pile.

Horse Race game rules 2 image

Step 3

Players have 20 chips each. They can bet as many chips as they wish on any horse.

Horse Race game rules 3 image

Step 4

Draw one card at a time, always moving the ace with the matching suit forward under the 7 cards in the top layout.

Step 5

The first horse (ace) that makes it past the top layout wins the race. Then calculate your scores based on the odds.

Horse Race game rules 5 image

Horse Race Card Game – Video Tutorial 

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens in Horse Race if more than 4 cards of a certain suit are drawn in the top layout?

Although unlikely to happen, if this does occur, redraw the top layout. Five cards of an identical suit in the layout make the game a bit too easy for players to predict the winning ‘horse.’

Can you play Horse Race with more than 4 players?

You can play the Horse Race card game with more than 4 players, but you’ll need another deck and more chips. As a rule of thumb, stick to 1 deck and 1 set of chips for every 4 players.

Can players who did not win drink in Horse Race?

Sure, everyone gets their chance to drink in Horse Race. 

The winning player can even use the chips they won to nominate another player to drink a respective number of fingers. Even players who are out of the game can get nominated.

Online Resources

The following are other interesting online resources you may find useful related to the horse race card game:

Other Similar Games to Horse Race (Our Guides) 

If you like Horse Race, here are our guides to a few other betting card games you can try:

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Read all the articles (108) written by Lucia Fajnerova