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The Basics of Poker


Poker is a card game whose object is to win the pot, the sum of all the bets made by the players during any one deal. The game can be played with any number of players, but the ideal number is six. Each player has chips (representing money, for which poker is almost always played), and may choose to call the bet of any player to his left; raise it; or drop out. If a player declines to call a bet or raise it, he forfeits any chips that he has already put into the pot.

After a bet is made, each player is dealt two cards and five community cards are revealed on the table (“the flop”). The players aim to make the best possible 5-card hand by combining their own two personal cards with the 5 community cards.

The game is usually played with a standard pack of 52 cards; the suits are spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs. Some variant games use multiple packs and/or add wild cards, such as deuces or one-eyed jacks.

A key element of poker strategy is reading tells, the unconscious habits of a player that reveal information about his or her hand. Observing experienced players and imagining how they react can help you develop good instincts. The most successful players have a combination of good instincts and a deep understanding of the game’s fundamentals. The word “poker” first appears in English in 1836, though earlier references exist in published reminiscences of Jonathan H. Green, a journalist and dragoon campaigner, and Joe Cowell, an English comedian.