Poker is a card game in which players wager chips, or “money,” to win a pot. The highest-value hand wins the pot, and players may also bluff in order to get other players to call their bets. Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck, although some games use multiple packs or add wild cards (usually jokers) to the mix.
In most games each player must “ante” an amount of money, typically a nickel, to be dealt two cards. Once everyone has their two cards they can choose to fold, call or raise. When betting gets around to you (bets are made in clockwise order) if you don’t want to call or raise your opponent may raise your bet. It’s okay to fold at this point if you don’t think your hand is good enough, but remember that it’s not just the best hands that win in poker, it’s also who plays their cards the best.
After everyone calls a player puts one of his or her cards into the middle of the table, facing down. This is called “calling.” If you have a strong hand you should bet aggressively at this time to make the pot bigger, forcing weaker hands out of the game. You should also be aware of your opponents and know their tendencies. For example, if your opponent is very conservative you should probably avoid high-bets early in the hand. Aggressive players are risk-takers and can be difficult to read.
Once the first betting round is over the dealer deals three more cards face up on the board, which are community cards that any player can use. This is called the flop. Again, the pot is increased by betting and players can decide to raise or fold their cards.
If you have a strong hand and the others are not calling, it is usually better to stay in and raise your bet to force out the other players. You can also try to improve your hand by combining your cards into a better one. For example, if you have two pairs of the same rank, you can combine them into a flush.
At the end of the hand the winner is declared and the remaining chips are put into a special fund, called the kitty, which belongs to all players in the game. The kitty is used to pay for new decks of cards and food and drinks. Players may also use the kitty to cut one low-denomination chip from each pot that has more than one raise. This allows the players to share in the cost of running the game and is a great way to keep the game moving smoothly. If the kitty is empty at the end of the game, it is usually refilled with new chips at the next game. Otherwise the players may decide to start a new game at another time.