The Basics of Poker

Poker is a card game played with a minimum of two players and a maximum of 14. The object of poker is to win the pot, which is the sum of all bets placed during one deal. Players place bets by raising, calling, or dropping. Usually, players raise only when they have a strong hand. In most forms of the game, a player can only call if no one else has raised during the betting interval. Players may also “sandbag,” meaning they make a bet of nothing, but only if no one before them has called.

At the start of a hand each player must put in a small amount, called the ante, to get dealt cards. Players can then say “call” to raise the amount that the previous player raised or “raise” to increase their own bet. A player can also say “drop” to leave the hand.

When a player is in a weak hand they should always fold, rather than playing it out and losing more money. This is because the law of averages dictates that most poker hands are losers.

After the first betting round is complete the dealer puts three more cards on the table that anyone can use – these are called the “flop.” Once again everyone gets another chance to bet or raise. If a player is still in the hand at this point, the dealer will put a fifth card on the table that anyone can use (the “river”). At this stage the cards are exposed and the player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot.