The Basics of Poker

Poker is a card game in which players bet with chips that represent money, known as the pot. Each player is dealt two cards face down and one card face up, and betting occurs in intervals after each deal. The first player to bet during a betting interval must either call (match) the amount of the bet placed by the player before him or raise it. When a player raises, the other players must either call or fold.

The highest possible poker hand is a royal flush, consisting of an ace, king, queen, and jack of the same suit. This hand beats any other combination of cards, including three of a kind and pairs of high cards. If there is a tie, the higher ranking of the final card decides the winner.

Although the outcome of individual hands largely involves chance, players’ long-run expectations are determined by their decisions to place money into the pot based on probability, psychology, and game theory. Unlike most casino games, where bets are forced, in poker bets are only made when a player believes that the bet has positive expected value or is trying to bluff other players for strategic reasons.

Practice and watch experienced players to develop quick instincts and improve your game. Observe how they react to different situations, and try to predict what cards your opponents might have before the flop. This will help you determine when to stay in and when to fold — and even whether it’s worth calling the flop at all.