Poker is a card game in which players place bets on the outcome of a hand. While the game is largely based on chance, successful players make bets that maximize their expected return using a combination of probability theory, psychology, and game theory.

Before the cards are dealt, each player may be required to make a contribution to the pot, called an ante. The dealer shuffles the cards and deals them to each player in turn, beginning with the player on their left. Each player has the option to call, raise, or check (stay in without betting). The first player to call a bet is said to “call,” while a player who bets more than the previous player is said to raise.

In most poker variants, the highest-ranked hand wins. This can be a straight, a flush, or a three-of-a-kind. The high card rule also breaks ties if there are multiple pairs with the same number of distinct cards.

It is important to understand how to play poker correctly and how to read other players. In addition to knowing the basic rules, it is essential to study hand rankings and understand the impact of positions on your game. Also, it is important to avoid playing poker when you are tired or frustrated. If you are feeling this way, it is best to walk away from the table and come back when you are in a more relaxed state. This will help you make better decisions and improve your chances of winning.