The Basics of Poker


Poker is a card game in which players bet into a central pot and try to get the best hand possible. This is done by playing cards from a standard 52-card deck. The highest hand wins the pot, and some games have extra cards called wild cards that can take on any suit and rank.

Before a hand begins, each player is required to place an initial amount of money into the pot called an ante. This ante is usually small and is decided by the table before the deal begins.

Once the antes are placed, the dealer will then begin dealing two cards to each player. These cards are kept secret from the other players, so that no one can tell what each player holds. Once everyone has their cards, players can choose to fold, check, or raise their bets.

Bluffing is a common strategy in poker. While it is not considered cheating, it is an unsportsmanlike behavior and should be avoided unless the player has no other way to win the game.

During a betting round, if no other player calls (matches) a bet, the bettor is awarded the pot and the hand ends immediately. If the bettor raises, all of the opponents must call, or match his bet, and the hand continues until all of the chips have been called in.

When a player folds, he is indicating that he does not wish to play the current hand. He may also be indicating that he wishes to stay in without betting, a move known as checking.

In most variants, a player is not permitted to make another bet until the first betting round has ended and the previous bettor has folded or checked. However, in some variants, a player who wishes to stay in can do so by making an additional bet after the initial bet.

Straights and Gutshots

A straight is a hand consisting of five cards in order, such as 4-5-6-7-8. A gutshot is a straight completed from “inside” by one possible card, such as a 7 on the flop. A gutshot is half as likely to hit as an open-ended straight, and is thus the least favorable type of straight.

Three of a Kind

A three of a kind is a hand of three cards that are all the same rank, such as 3-4-6-7, or 6-4-5-2. A hand that contains two cards that are not a pair, such as a 2-2-4-5, is also considered a three of a kind.

High Cards

When hands tie on the ranks of a pair, three of a kind, etc., the cards outside break ties according to the High Card rules. When hands have the same rank, but different cards outside, they will compare the High Card of each hand.

The lowest possible hand in most poker games is a pair of aces. Depending on the variant, this could be a high pair or low pair; in some games, the ace may be treated as low.