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The Basics of Poker

Whether it’s a cash game or tournament, poker is a card game of chance that requires a bit of skill and psychology. There are dozens of variations on the game, but the basic mechanics remain the same: players bet chips and win or lose them.

Each player puts a fixed amount of money (the amount varies by game, but it’s usually a dollar or two) into the pot before they are dealt cards. This is called a blind or ante. If the player has a strong hand, they can raise the amount of money in the pot and force weaker hands out of the game.

After the cards are dealt there is a round of betting, starting with the player on the left. Each player may choose to call, raise, or fold their hand. They may also check, which means they will pass on the betting. If a player checks, they cannot raise their own bet later in the same betting interval.

The goal of the game is to win the “pot,” which consists of all the bets made by players in a single deal. This can be accomplished by having the best hand or by raising the highest possible bet that no other players call. The strongest hands are a pair, a full house, or a straight. A pair contains 2 matching cards of one rank, a full house contains 3 matching cards of the same rank, and a straight contains 5 consecutive cards of the same suit (but they can skip around in rank). You can also win by bluffing.