Poker is a card game in which players place bets on the outcome of their cards. The goal is to minimize losses with weak hands while maximizing winnings with strong ones. The game has many variations and is played by millions of people worldwide.

The rules of poker vary by game and between tables, but the general rule is that each player puts an initial amount of money into a pot before cards are dealt. This is called an ante or blind bet (and sometimes bring-in). The dealer shuffles and cuts the deck, then deals each player a number of cards. These cards are face up or face down, depending on the game. After the first round of betting, each player must decide whether to keep their current hand or discard and replace it.

Once a player has decided to keep their hand, they can raise their bet by adding more chips into the pot. Other players can either call the new bet or fold. A raise often means that a player is holding a strong hand and doesn’t want to risk losing it.

Being able to read other players is a huge part of poker strategy. This includes observing other players’ body language, betting patterns and tells. It is also important to understand how the game’s rules affect a player’s odds of winning a particular hand.