The Basics of Poker


Poker is a card game in which players wager money, or chips, against each other. The aim is to win a pot by placing bets in relation to the strength of one’s hand. The bets are based on the principles of probability, psychology and game theory. In addition, bluffing is an important part of the game.

The game may be played with two to 14 people, but the ideal number is six or seven. A hand consists of five cards and is dealt face down to each player. After betting, the cards are revealed and the highest-ranked hand wins. A player can choose to check (make no bets), call, raise or fold. Each action depends on the player’s starting hand, position at the table and the actions of other players in front of them.

There are many different poker games, each with their own rules. The most common are stud, draw and fixed limit. In fixed-limit games, each player is allowed to place a bet within a predetermined amount of the previous bet. This amount is called the pot size. A fixed-limit game is also characterized by a maximum number of raises, usually twice the amount of the previous bet.

A poker game begins with each player buying a certain amount of chips, or “buying in.” Each chip represents a specific value – for example, a white chip is worth 1 unit; a red chip is worth five units; and a blue chip is worth 10 units. Players may use any type of chip in the game, but it is almost always played with a deck of poker chips.

At the beginning of a hand, players must decide whether to check or make a bet. A player may also choose to raise or fold, depending on the strength of their starting hand, the position at the table and the actions of other player’s in front of them. If a player is not sure what to do, they can ask the dealer for advice.

The strongest possible hand in poker is a royal flush, which consists of an Ace, King, Queen, Jack and ten of the same suit. This beats all other hands, except for two pairs and three of a kind. Two pair contains two cards of the same rank, plus two unmatched cards; and three of a kind is three matching cards of any rank.

A player can also improve his hand by adding a fifth card to it. This is called making a straight or a flush. If the player has a straight or a flush, he is said to have made a winning hand. Otherwise, he has an inferior hand, such as high card or a low pair. If no one has a winning hand, the pot is split between the players. If no one has a winning hand, everyone is required to call the bet of the player immediately to his right. This is known as the ante.