Poker is a card game in which players place bets and try to form the best five-card hand. Although the game’s outcome has significant elements of chance, a player can improve their long-run expectations by taking actions chosen on the basis of probability, psychology, and game theory. The game is played in private homes, card clubs, and in televised games on television and the Internet. It is considered the national card game of the United States, where it has become a popular pastime and has inspired many books, films, and television shows.
At the beginning of a betting round, all players must ante an amount (the amount varies by game) and then receive cards. After this, they can choose to call a bet, raise it, or pass. If they choose to raise, they must make a minimum bet before other players can call it. During the course of a hand there are usually several betting rounds. At the end of the hand, whoever has the highest hand wins the pot, which is the sum of all bets made during that particular hand.
A standard pack of 52 cards plus the joker is used in most forms of poker. The joker counts as a wild card and can be used to complete a straight or a flush in certain circumstances. If the two highest hands have identical rank, then they tie and the winnings are split evenly. There are also special hands, such as four of a kind or threes of a kind, which beat higher hands.