The Basics of Poker


Poker is a card game with a significant element of chance, but also requires skill, psychology and knowledge of the other players. Players place bets into a central pot during betting rounds; while some bets are forced, most bets are made voluntarily by players who believe that their actions have positive expected value or are trying to bluff other players for strategic reasons.

In most games, each player must ante up (the amount varies by game but is usually at least a nickel) before they are dealt cards. The dealer then shuffles the cards and deals them to each active player, one at a time in rotation starting with the player to their left. The first player to act may ‘call’ the bettor or ‘raise’ him, or both. If no other players call the bettor’s bet the hand ends and the player who raised gets the pot.

A poker hand comprises five cards; the higher the rank of the card combination, the better the hand. In addition, some games include wild cards that take on whatever suit or rank the possessor desires; this can be used to break ties.

When the betting round is over, the dealer puts a fifth card on the board that anyone can use (the “river”) and then everyone gets another opportunity to bet/check/raise/fold. Whoever has the highest ranked hand wins the pot. This is called a showdown. If no one has a high pair or higher, the highest single card breaks the tie (for example if both have jacks). This is called a high card.