The Basics of Poker


Poker is a card game that requires an immense amount of skill to win. There is some luck involved (especially if you don’t fold your hand), but the majority of the decisions are based on odds and psychology. The game is usually played with a standard deck of 52 cards, though some games add wild cards (jokers) or specific rank of cards (Ace).

At the start of each round players put up an initial bet, called the “ante.” This is typically a small amount of money, for example a nickel. Once everyone has ante’d they are dealt 2 cards face down (hidden from other players). They can then decide to either call, raise or fold their hand.

After the antes have been called 3 community cards are dealt face up on the table, this is referred to as the “flop.” A second betting phase begins. At this point players must consider what they have and how their cards match up with the community cards.

A key to success is learning to read other players and watching their tells. This includes not just subtle physical poker tells like scratching the nose or fiddling with chips, but also their general tendencies and patterns of play. For example a player who often calls and then suddenly makes a huge raise may be holding an extremely strong hand.

There is a saying in poker, “play the player not the cards.” What this means is that while you may think you have a great hand (pair of kings for example) it’s really all relative to what other players are holding and how your pocket pair compares.