The Basics of Poker

Poker is a game that requires quick thinking and strong decision-making skills. It also challenges the player’s mathematical abilities and improves their mental health. In addition, it offers a great deal of entertainment and a social outlet for people from all walks of life.

The goal is to maximise value from your winning hands and minimise losses with your losing ones. This is called “MinMax”.

Basic rules

Poker is a card game where players compete for the highest hand. It is played in several rounds and each player has three options: call, raise, or fold. Cards are dealt face up or down, depending on the game. Some games use community cards while others do not. The goal is to make a high-ranked hand before a showdown.

Each player receives five cards and can discard any they want before the next betting round. Then, the remaining cards are rearranged to form a new hand. The highest hand wins the pot.

A high-ranked hand is made up of five consecutive number values from more than one suit. It must also contain an ace. The highest pair beats two distinct pairs and high card breaks ties. Players must ante something to get their hands, but they can raise and call bets as long as they have the money. Betting intervals vary by game, but most have a maximum bet amount (the size of the ante) and a minimum bet amount.


The game of poker has many variations. There are open-faced Chinese poker, Pineapple (not the fruit), and more. These games are rarely found in casinos or card rooms, but can be fun to play with friends and family in a home setting. These unique poker variants are also easy to learn. While they may have different payout structures than standard poker games, most of these hybrids follow the same general form of a hand and betting.

Traditionally, poker variants are classified as draw games, stud games and shared card (community card) games. However, there are some variants that do not fit into any of these categories and fall into more than one category. The table on this page outlines these categories and shows which poker games belong to them. Other useful dividing lines are high/low hands, and straights vs. flushes. These are often used in mixed games such as H.O.R.S.E. or in tournaments that use blind bets.

Betting intervals

Players in poker bet into a central pool called the pot, or sometimes the “kitty.” This pool holds the chips that all players have put into it. It’s important for the players to keep track of this. They should announce their bets verbally and push chips into the pool in a single unambiguous motion. In addition, the bets must be clearly separated from the private area where a player’s own chips are kept.

A player may check during a betting interval provided no one before them has made a bet. However, they must call if someone raises their bet. The minimum amount that can be raised varies between games, but it is usually not higher than the value of the smallest chip in use. If a player cannot raise a bet, they must drop out of the game. This is known as “sandbagging.” The aim of professional players is to maximize long term profit by managing their chips skillfully and outwitting opponents.


Bluffing is a key element in poker, but it requires careful consideration and must be executed correctly. A bluff can make or break a hand, and you should always take your opponent’s reaction into account. Your own table image is also an important factor. If you’re seen as a tight player, your bets will be believed to be stronger and more likely to succeed.

It’s also important to consider your opponents’ tendencies and recent history. For example, if they have been bluffed before or are short-stacked, they may be less likely to call your bluff. This is especially true if they are close to the money bubble in a tournament. If they are playing for their lives, they will be more concerned about busting out than preserving their stack, making them a good target for a bluff. This is why it is important to mix up your tells to prevent your opponents from recognizing your bluffs.