The Basics of Poker


Poker is a game of chance and skill in which players place bets on the relative value of their hands of five cards. A player may win by forming a high-value hand, such as a straight or a flush, or by bluffing, betting that their hand is better than it actually is, in the hope that opponents will call the bet and reveal their cards. In addition to a strong understanding of basic probability and game theory, successful poker players must also have a high degree of emotional control in order not to let their frustration with bad beats overwhelm them.

During each betting interval, or “hand,” one player, designated by the rules of the specific poker variant being played, has the privilege or obligation to make the first bet. Each player to his left then must either call that bet by putting into the pot the same number of chips, or raise it by putting in more than that amount. A player who is unwilling or unable to call a raise drops out of the betting and forfeits his stake in that hand.

During the course of each betting interval, an amount of money, called the “kitty,” is built up by the players who call or raise each bet. This money is then distributed evenly among the players who remain in the hand. Typically, the kitty is used to pay for new decks of cards and food and drinks during the game.