The Basics of Poker

Poker is a card game played in betting rounds, each designed to achieve a particular goal. The aim is to win a pot by making bets and raises that exploit opponents’ weakness and psychology. It is an extremely complex game, with many variations, but there are some basic rules that must be understood to play well.

Each player starts with 2 cards face up, which are known as their hole cards. There are then 4 betting streets, called the flop, turn, river and showdown. In each street a player must decide whether to call the previous players’ bets, raise their own or fold. A good poker player has a strategy designed to predict opponent hands accurately and make long-term profitable decisions.

The highest-ranking poker hand is a royal flush, which contains a king, queen, jack, and ace of the same suit in sequence. A full house is three matching cards of one rank plus two matching cards of another, and a pair consists of 2 matching cards of the same rank with 1 unmatched card. There is also a straight, which is five consecutive cards of the same suit.

Reading other players’ tells is an important part of playing poker, but it’s often underemphasized in poker articles and books. It can help you identify more conservative players who tend to fold early, and aggressive ones who bet high on later betting streets before seeing how other players react to their cards.