Poker is a card game involving betting between players and a showdown at the end of each hand. The game has a number of variants, but the essential features are common to all: A player’s success in a hand depends on acting strategically and on luck in the short term, but is mostly determined by their actions in the long run. This is a key reason why poker is a great game to play with friends.

Poker games typically involve between 2 and 14 players, with the ideal number being 6 or 7 players. The object of the game is to win the pot, which is the sum of all the bets made during one deal. A player may win the pot by having a high poker hand, or by making a bet that other players call.

The initial round of betting begins after all players have received their two hole cards. Each player must place an initial forced bet into the pot, called an ante or blind bet (sometimes both). The dealer then shuffles and cuts the deck and deals each player one card face up, beginning with the player to their left.

In later betting rounds, players can bet higher amounts. A player can also bluff by betting that they have the best hand, in which case other players must either call or fold. It is important to pay attention to a player’s tells, such as a nervous cough or sigh, a raised eyebrow, a flaring nostril, or a hand held over the mouth.