The Basics of Poker

Poker is one of the most popular card games, both in casinos and online. It’s also a very competitive game – even high-level professional players need to understand the rules and be able to read their opponents well.

A full deck of cards is dealt to each player, face down. Depending on the game, an initial amount of chips must be placed into the pot before the cards are dealt. This is called an ante.

Once the cards are dealt there is a round of betting, starting with the player to the left of the button. If nobody else raises, the remaining players reveal their hands and the highest hand wins the pot.

There are several different types of poker hands. A full house is 3 matching cards of the same rank, and a straight is 5 consecutive cards that share the same suit. A flush is 2 matching cards of the same rank, and ace-king or higher is considered a high pair.

Betting is a key skill in poker. In the early rounds, you want to bet as much as possible in order to make people fold their hands if they don’t have a strong one. You can also use bluffing to win pots. It’s important to be able to read your opponents and know how they are likely to react, which is why watching experienced players is so helpful. However, it’s best to develop your own instincts and avoid cookie-cutter systems that you think will work for every situation.