# How to Play Poker

Poker is a card game where players place bets on their hand, with the best hand winning. While the game is often based on chance, its underlying skill involves decisions made on the basis of probability theory, psychology and games theory. Players can also influence the outcome of a hand through bluffing. It is important to know how to read the table and recognize a good hand from a bad one.

Before cards are dealt, the rules of the poker game may require each player to put an initial contribution, called an ante, into the pot. Each betting interval is then begun when a player, in turn, either calls (puts into the pot exactly as many chips as his or her predecessors) or raises. If a player is unwilling or unable to call the raised amount, he or she must drop out of the betting and discard his or her hand.

A poker hand is a combination of five cards. It consists of the two personal cards in each player’s hand, plus the five community cards on the table. The community cards are arranged into the following ranks and suits: A flush is any five consecutive cards of the same suit. A straight is five cards in uninterrupted sequence of value, but not necessarily from the same suit. Three of a kind is three matching cards of the same rank, while a pair consists of two cards of the same rank plus two unmatched cards.

Each player can make any of these hands, and the player with the highest rank wins the pot. Some hands, however, are better than others and will win more frequently. For this reason, players must be able to read the table and decide whether or not to raise their bets, call other players’ bets or fold.

After the betting interval is completed, all players reveal their hands and the player with the best poker hand takes the pot. The players who remain in contention then play again.

If you have a strong poker hand, try to bet as much money as possible during the first round of betting. This will force weaker hands out of the pot and raise the overall value of the poker pot. In addition, if you have a weak hand that will lose to a good poker hand, you can still try to increase the value of your pot by betting at it. This will encourage other players to raise their bets and help you win the pot. However, if you have a very weak hand, it is often best to just fold. This will minimize your losses and save you time. Also, don’t hold your cards where other players can see them. This gives them an advantage and looks suspicious. Also, it’s annoying for other players to dig through the deck and hands you’ve folded to see what you might have had. Keeping your cards face down or close to your vest is a good way to prevent this.