The Basics of Poker

Poker is a card game played by two or more players and involves betting on the outcome of the hand using chips that have a monetary value. The goal is to minimize losses with poor hands and maximize winnings with good ones. It is a very complex game, with many variations, but the fundamental principles are the same.

The game starts with one player making a forced bet, called the ante or blind bet (sometimes both). Then the dealer shuffles and deals each player two cards face down, followed by several betting rounds. In the final round, the players reveal their hands and the highest-scoring hand wins the pot.

Most poker games are played with a standard 52-card pack including the joker. The joker counts as an ace or a straight, but not in a flush, and it also can be used to form certain special hands. In some variants, all deuces (2s) are wild cards.

During the course of each deal, players must make forced bets, known as blind bets, to compete in the final hand. In addition, each player can contribute to a communal pot called the kitty, built up by cutting a single low-denomination chip from any raise. The kitty belongs to all the players and is used for such things as paying for new decks of cards or food and drinks. When a player leaves the game before it ends, they forfeit their share of the kitty. The phrase “that’s poker” has become a colloquialism for accepting that success at the game depends on luck and chance, as well as skill.