The Basics of Poker

Poker is a game of cards played by a group of people with the aim of winning money. Though it involves some luck, long-run success is determined by the decisions a player makes in each hand on the basis of probability, psychology, and game theory. Players place bets into a pot only when they believe the risk has positive expected value or when they are trying to bluff other players for strategic reasons.

After 2 cards are dealt to everyone, the betting begins. You can say “call” to make a bet equal to the last one, or “raise” to add more to the betting pool. If you think your hand is worth a raise, you can fold the rest of your cards into the dealer.

A straight contains 5 consecutive cards of the same rank. A flush contains 5 cards that skip around in rank but are from the same suit. A full house is 3 matching cards of one rank and two matching cards of another rank. A pair contains two cards of the same rank plus one other unmatched card.

Observing other players is key to successful poker play. Learning the tells of other players – unconscious habits in their eye movements, facial expressions, hand gestures, and betting behavior – will help you identify their strategies and understand why they call certain bets and raise others. If you can identify aggressive players, they’ll be easy to bluff against later in the betting street.