The Basics of Poker

Poker is a family of card games where players compete to have the highest-ranking hand. Different variants of poker differ in the number of cards dealt, how many rounds of betting are required, and the rules for determining the winner.

The game begins with each player making a forced bet, usually either an ante or a blind bet (sometimes both). Once all the players have made their forced bets, the dealer shuffles the deck and deals cards to all the players one at a time, starting with the first player to their left.

During the course of each deal, each player is required to place in the pot the number of chips that he has deposited into the pot, which makes his contribution at least as large as the previous player’s. If the player declines to do so, he discards his hand and loses the opportunity to compete for the pot.

When the flop and turn are dealt, each player must decide to call or raise. The decision is made by comparing the real value of each player’s cards to the potential value of other players’ hands, taking into account the pot odds and drawing odds.

Tightness, a common measure of playing style, is one minus the proportion of hands in which a player voluntarily wagered money during the first betting round (called called or raised before the flop). The tighter the player’s play, the better. A tight player often has good self-control and can exercise pot control when playing with weaker hands.