The Basics of Poker



Poker is a card game in which players wager on the relative strength of their hands. The game can be played by two to 14 players. The object of the game is to win a pot, which is the sum of all bets made during one deal. A player may win the pot either by having the highest hand or by bluffing. In a bluff, the player hopes that their opponent will call them with a weak hand. John von Neumann showed that, with optimal strategy, players can bet large both with their strongest hands and bluffs at mathematically precise frequencies.

The rules of poker differ from game to game, but most involve a mandatory bet before the cards are dealt (called a blind or an ante). Once the cards are dealt there is a round of betting, starting with the player to the left of the dealer.

Once the bets are made, each player has the option to call (match) the previous player’s bet or raise it. To “raise” a bet, a player must put in more chips than the previous player. Players may also “drop” (fold) if they don’t want to match the previous player’s bet or don’t have a strong enough hand to continue betting.

In most games, the best hand is a pair of matching cards of any rank, followed by three of a kind, then a straight, and finally a flush. The high card breaks ties.