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The Basics of Poker

The Basics of Poker

Poker is a card game played with a group of players. Each player has two personal cards in his or her hand, and five community cards on the table. Players compete to form the best five-card poker hand, with each individual card contributing a small amount of value to the overall pot. High-ranking hands are often made up of cards of different suits, whereas lower-ranked hands consist of pairs of unrelated cards.

To win, you must be able to read your opponents and learn their tells (unconscious physical signs that reveal the strength of their hand). This requires a good understanding of how each player is betting, including their bet sizes and pattern. It also requires you to be able to avoid giving away your own tells, such as eye movements or body language or nervous habits like biting fingernails.

A good starting point is to practice and observe experienced players, and try to replicate their behavior in your own play. This will help you develop quick instincts and improve your game.

Depending on the rules of your game, you may be required to make a contribution to the pot before the cards are dealt, called an ante or blind. In a betting interval, if you wish to match the bet of the person to your left, you must say “call” or “I call” and then place your chips into the pot. Similarly, if you wish to raise the previous bet, you must say “raise” or “I raise.” At the end of the hand, players can trade their chips for money (“cashing out”). Copyright 2010 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. All rights reserved.