Poker is a card game in which players place bets (or chips, representing money) into a common pot. The player with the highest-ranking hand wins the pot. The game is often played with a minimum of five or six players, though it can be played with any number of players.

Before the cards are dealt, each player puts in a mandatory bet known as the blinds. The player to the left of the dealer places his bet first, and then each subsequent player must put in enough chips to make up the difference between his total contribution and that of the last player. This is called being in the pot.

Once the cards are dealt, each player forms a poker hand according to the rules of the particular game being played. The poker hands can be ranked as follows: A straight contains 5 consecutive cards of the same rank. A flush contains 3 or more matching cards of the same suit. A full house contains 3 matching cards of one rank and 2 matching cards of another rank. A pair consists of two matching cards of the same rank and 1 unmatched card.

A good poker player must have several skills to be successful. Discipline and perseverance are important, as is the ability to focus during games and to avoid distractions or boredom. The player must also be committed to smart game selection, choosing the limits and game variations that will be most profitable for him or her. Finally, a good poker player must be able to read his or her opponents. This is achieved through careful observation of subtle physical tells such as eye movements and idiosyncrasies, hand gestures and betting behavior.