Poker is a card game that involves betting between players using chips (representing money, but traditionally also other units). It’s a game of incomplete information, which forces players to weigh the risks and rewards of each decision. This can be a useful skill for other areas of life, such as business and relationships.

The game begins with each player being dealt 2 cards face-down, hidden from the other players. This phase is called the pre-flop betting period. There are two mandatory bets (called blinds) that must be made by the players to the left of the dealer before any players can raise or call a bet. This gives the players an incentive to play the game. After the pre-flop betting phase, 3 cards are dealt face up in the center of the table (revealed to all players). This phase is called the flop. There’s another round of betting, which starts with the player to the left of the big blind.

A significant part of the game is deciding whether to raise your bets when you have a strong hand or to fold when you don’t. A good poker player has quick instincts and knows how to read other players’ behavior, including their tells (unconscious habits that reveal information about their cards). They also know when to bluff. This is important because weak hands often get beaten by bets from stronger players who can’t afford to lose their chips. In addition, bluffing can help you win more than a pot that’s already large.