The Basics of Poker

Poker is a card game in which players place bets on the strength of their cards. Although the outcome of any particular hand depends on chance, the long-run expectations of players are determined by actions chosen on the basis of probability theory, psychology, and game theory. Players may also bluff for various strategic reasons.

A complete poker hand consists of 5 cards. A flush is 5 consecutive cards of the same suit. A straight is 5 cards in a row that skip around in rank but are not the same suits as each other (such as 5-4-6-3-2). A full house is 3 matching cards of one rank plus 2 matching cards of another rank. A pair is two cards of the same rank, with an unmatched third card.

Before the cards are dealt, a player must contribute to the pot, an amount of money represented by chips or other tokens. This contribution is called the ante. Depending on the poker variant being played, there are one or more betting intervals during which a player may be required to place an amount of money into the pot at least equal to that placed by the player to his left. A player may also be allowed to check, in which case he remains in the hand without placing any additional money into it.

When it is your turn to bet, you can say “raise” to add more money to the pot. The other players must either call your new bet or fold their cards. It is important to practice and watch experienced players play in order to develop quick instincts.