The Basics of Poker

Poker is a card game that involves betting, with the highest hand winning the pot. It requires a certain amount of luck, but it also involves strategy and psychology. A good poker player can use the cards in his hand to bluff other players out of the pot.

To play the game, each player puts an initial bet into the pot (amount varies by game). Then each player is dealt five cards. Each player may discard 1 to 3 cards or “hold.” If a player holds, he or she can decide to raise the bet and compete for the highest hand.

The turn to bet passes in rotation to each player, or “active player.” Each active player must place into the pot enough chips (representing money) to match at least the total contribution of the player before him. If a player is unable to match the last raiser, he or she must call and stay in the pot until a showdown.

If a player has two distinct pairs, three of a kind or a straight, his or her hand wins the pot. If the players have two identical hands, high card breaks ties. If a player has no pair or better, he or she must fold and lose the bet. If a player is holding a weak hand and the flop turns out to be strong, he or she can call and stay in the pot, hoping that he or she will improve his or her hand.