Poker is a card game in which players place chips into the pot voluntarily for various strategic reasons. The game involves a certain amount of chance, but in the long run winning hands tend to win more often than losing ones. This is because of a combination of probability, psychology and game theory.

Initially players place a small amount of money into the pot called the ante. Once this is done betting begins in intervals or rounds. Each player in turn has the option to call, raise or drop (fold). If a player calls then they must put at least as many chips into the pot as the person before them. A player who raises puts in more than they originally called and therefore takes control of the action in that particular round.

Once a hand is dealt the next step is to look at the cards and decide whether to stay or hit (raise). A “stay” means that you have 2 matching cards of equal value, such as two 3s, and wish to keep them. A “hit” means that you want to add a new card to your existing hand and improve it.

It’s also important to practice reading your opponents. While there are subtle physical tells in poker, a large percentage of reads come from patterns and betting histories. This is an essential part of the game and should be practiced extensively.