The Basics of Poker

Poker is a card game played by two or more players with chips. Players compete for the pot (the prize money) by forming the best possible five-card hand. The rules of poker vary from one game to the next, but there are a few basic principles that all games share.

Before a player sees her cards, the players to her left place bets (known as blinds). Once the blinds have been placed, the dealer deals each player five cards. Players can then call, raise or fold. If they raise, they must match the previous bet amount or be eliminated from the game.

Experts recommend keeping your cards face down or close to the chest (hence the phrase, “playing it close to the vest”), but if you need to look at them, make sure the other players can’t see them. Otherwise, your opponents may be able to detect tells (unconscious, physical signs that reveal the strength of your hand). Classic tells include shallow breathing, sighing, flushing red, blinking excessively, swallowing or biting one’s nails, staring too long at their cards and nervous habits like shaking hands or covering them with a jacket.

The highest hand is a Straight Flush, which contains five cards of consecutive rank in more than one suit. Three of a Kind is a set of matching cards of equal value, while Two Pair includes two cards of the same rank plus two unmatched cards. Tied hands are compared based on the rank of the higher card, but there is also an optional kicker that is used to determine winners in cases of a tie.