The Basics of Poker


A card game played between two or more players. The object is to form a winning hand by betting that you have the best one and forcing other players to call your bets if they have superior hands themselves or to fold if they have inferior ones. Players also attempt to win by bluffing, where they bet that they have a good hand when in fact they do not. There are countless poker variants, but most share common features.

To begin a hand the dealer shuffles the cards and the player to his left cuts. He then deals each player a number of cards, which may be face up or down, depending on the game. Then the first of several betting rounds begins. After each round the cards are reshuffled and bets are gathered into the central pot.

During the first betting round the dealer deals three cards face up on the board. These are community cards that everyone can use. They are called the flop. After the flop betting continues and once again each player has a chance to check, raise or fold their hand. Then the dealer puts a fifth community card on the board, which is called the river. After this final betting round the players reveal their hands and the player with the highest ranked five card hand wins the pot.

If you have two cards of the same rank, then you have a pair. If there are no other matching pairs then the highest outside card (called the kicker) wins the pot. If you have a pair of 8’s and an ace kicker then your hand wins the pot.

To make a straight you must have five consecutive cards of the same suit. This is the easiest poker hand to make, but it’s not always easy to get. A straight is a high-value hand that can be raised by other players when you bet.

A flush is a four-card poker hand consisting of any combination of suited cards, plus an ace. A flush beats a straight when the ace is the highest card in the hand. A three of a kind is any combination of three cards of the same rank. A full house is a three of a kind and a pair. A straight beats a full house when the ace is the highest card in your three of a kind.

The best way to learn poker is to practice and watch experienced players play. This will allow you to develop your own quick instincts. But even more important is developing the right mental framework. The right mental framework is a key to successful decision making and will help you become a better overall player. It’s all about putting yourself in other players’ shoes and imagining how they would react to the situations you are faced with at the table. Over time this will lead to you making correct decisions that will improve your poker results.