The Basics of Poker


Poker is a card game of chance in which players wager chips on the outcome of their hands. The value of a hand is in inverse proportion to its mathematical frequency, and winning is accomplished by either having the best hand or by bluffing, whereby players betting that they have a superior hand encourage other players to call. Poker may be played with any number of players, but optimum results are obtained with six to eight players.

Before a deal begins, each player puts in a small amount of money, called a blind or an ante. Cards are then dealt, and each player has the option to keep his or her cards face down or reveal them. If a player does not like the hand he or she holds, he can “check,” meaning that he or she will not put any more money into the pot, or he or she can raise the bet, forcing all other players to match it or fold.

No one may raise by more than a set amount, called a limit. This limit varies with the stage of the game; for example, it might be five before the draw, and ten after it. Exceptions are made for games of high skill, such as No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha. It is customary for groups of players to make their own rules, called house rules, which should be written down. These can be a good way to ensure that the game is conducted fairly.