The Basics of Poker


A card game in which players bet on the value of their hands (of five cards). Each player must put up a sum of chips—representing money—into the pot before receiving any cards. Usually, each round of betting is followed by a showdown in which the players reveal their cards and the highest hand wins. There are a variety of poker games, each with its own rules and strategy.

Depending on the variant of poker being played, there may be one or more betting intervals in each deal. At the beginning of each interval, the player to the left of the dealer makes a forced bet (called either a blind or an ante). Each subsequent player must choose to “call” that bet, putting into the pot the same amount as the player to his right, or to raise that bet—putting into the pot more than the preceding player did. In the latter case, the other players must decide whether to call or raise in turn.

If a player puts in more than the other players, they are said to be “over-betting.” In most cases, over-betting is a bad strategy and should be avoided. If a player cannot match or beat the other players’ raises, they should drop out of the hand and not compete for the pot.

The most common poker hands are pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, and full house. A pair is two matching cards of the same rank. A straight is five consecutive cards of the same suit, while a flush is three or more matching cards of any rank. A full house is three matching cards of any rank plus two unmatched cards. Ties are broken by the highest pair or, if no pairs are present, the high card.

Poker is a card game that requires quick instincts. The best way to develop these instincts is to practice playing the game and to observe experienced players. A good poker player is able to read the other players at the table and make bets that are both profitable and risk-averse.

A large number of players—up to 14—may participate in a poker game, and the object is to win the pot, which is the aggregate of all the bets made during a particular deal. A poker hand must be made up of five cards and can consist of any type of combination.

While there are many different forms of poker, the game is most often played with six or eight players. A game can also be played with fewer or more players, though this changes the strategy and the betting pattern. A poker game can be ruined by bad behavior, such as threatening to leave the table or deliberately exposing a bluff. These actions are generally penalized by the other players. In addition, the players must agree to a set of rules for settling disputes. By mutual agreement, the players may establish a special fund called a kitty to pay for new decks of cards and food and drink.