Poker is a card game that involves betting between two or more players. The object of the game is to win the pot, which is the sum total of all bets made during one deal. While the outcome of any particular hand depends largely on chance, the long-run expectations of the players are determined by actions chosen on the basis of probability, psychology, and game theory.
The game can be played with a number of different cards and in many different ways, but the basic rules are the same. Before the cards are dealt, each player must place an initial contribution to the pot, called an ante, or buy in for a certain amount of chips (representing money). This is known as “buying in” and is a mandatory part of every deal.
During the course of each betting interval, or round, a player must choose whether to call a bet, put in more chips than the previous player, raise, or drop (“fold”). The skill required to minimize losses with poor hands and maximize winnings with good ones is a central element of poker strategy.
A poker hand consists of five cards and the value of each card is in inverse proportion to its mathematical frequency. Players may bluff by betting that they have the best hand when they do not, in order to induce opponents with superior hands to concede. A related tactic is semi-bluffing, in which a player with a weak hand bets aggressively in the hope of encouraging opponents to fold their better hands. The ability to read the tells of other players – their eye movements, idiosyncrasies, hand gestures and betting behavior – is also an important part of successful poker play.