Poker is a card game played by a group of players around a table. The object is to win the pot (the sum of all bets made in a single hand). Poker has many variants but all share certain essential features. The most important of these is that a player must ‘ante’ (put a small amount of money into the pot) before betting can commence. Once the betting comes round to you, you can choose to fold your hand, call or raise. You may also bluff in the hope that other players will assume that you have the best hand and call your bet.

A poker hand consists of five cards. The higher the hand, the more it is worth. The values of the cards are in inverse proportion to their mathematical frequency; for example, a pair of kings is much less valuable than a full house or a royal flush. The game also contains several wild cards, which can take the place of any suit or rank.

A good poker player will have a keen awareness of his opponent’s betting patterns. He will be able to read their tells, such as their eye movements and other idiosyncrasies, the way they hold their chips and the way they bet. It’s very important to learn to be able to do this quickly, because the most successful poker players are those who can make optimal betting decisions in all situations. This is what separates them from other poker players who rely on chance and luck.