The Basics of Poker

Poker is a game of chance, but the best players are able to calculate pot odds and percentages, read other players, adapt to the situation and develop strategies. In addition, they have patience, are able to make quick decisions and know when to walk away from a bad hand.

To start a hand, everyone puts in some money, called the ante. This is usually a fixed amount of chips (e.g. 10 or 25 whites). Players then place those chips into the pot according to their own decision, which is often based on probability, psychology and game theory.

When the cards are dealt, each player has a choice to fold, call or raise. If you have a strong hand, it’s a good idea to raise – this will force weaker hands out of the pot.

A strong hand consists of four of a kind (two matching cards of one rank and two matching cards of another rank) or three of a kind plus a straight or flush. The highest pair wins ties, but the high card breaks ties if neither hand has a pair. The remaining cards form the low hand. If you have a low pair, it’s a good idea to call and see if you can improve by the turn. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to fold and try again with a different hand. However, don’t get too attached to your pocket kings or queens – an ace on the flop may spell doom for your hand.