The Basics of Poker

Poker is a card game in which players compete to make the best hand out of a standard deck. It is played worldwide and has many different rules. The basic structure of the game is that each player receives a hand from the dealer and must make a series of bets. The winning hand is determined by the highest combination of cards from each player’s hands.

Each player starts the game by placing a fixed amount of money, called an ante, into the pot before the first deal. The ante may be a single unit or a fixed proportion of the minimum bet. This ante provides a small incentive to play and prevents the dealer from having to pay a large ante each time a hand is dealt.

The ante also ensures that no player can fold without losing a large amount of money. This is especially important in cash games, where a player must continuously bet to keep the action going.


A player who wishes to make a bet can call by saying “I open” or raising the ante to an agreed minimum. If a player chooses to call, they must take turns betting clockwise until a person who has not already opened checks or everyone has checked.

When a player is about to check, they should look at their cards and decide if they want to raise or fold. They should do this if they have a hand that is likely to win, but if they don’t they should fold their hand.

Checking is a good strategy for cash games, because it prevents the dealer from having to shuffle and prepare another deck while a bet is in progress. This strategy allows the game to run much faster than with a full deck, as the dealer does not have to shuffle each time a new pack is ready.

In other variations, a player can choose to bet or raise any number of times before the turn comes around for the next player. The player must then match or raise the latest bet in order to maintain their own “check.”


In all poker games, a player who wants to open the action must place a bet into the pot. In some variations, this is called opening the pot, but the term is usually used only when a player is making the first bet in a round of betting.

The bet should be at least as big as the ante; however, a player may over-call by placing one or more oversized chips into the pot. This is an over-call, and it is a good idea to announce the intention of over-calling before making the bet.

When a player folds, they must remove their chips from the pot and return them to the table. This is an act of charity that helps the players who are behind in the action and can help the game run smoothly.