Poker is a card game in which players compete to form the best five-card hand, based on the rank of the cards, in order to win the pot. The pot is the total of all bets placed by all players in a given deal. A player can win the pot by having the highest-ranking hand, or by placing a bet that other players call but do not raise.

To begin a game, the dealer deals each player two cards face down. These are known as the hole cards. Once all players have either matched the amount of the biggest raise or folded, the dealer “burns” the top card and places it face down on the table out of play. Three community cards are then dealt, forming the flop. The remaining players may then proceed with another betting round.

The most common poker hands are straight, flush, three of a kind, and two pair. A pair consists of two cards that are the same value, such as both sixes or both fours. Straights and three of a kind beat full houses.

One of the most important parts of poker strategy is to understand the game well. This includes the rules and all of the different variations. It also means learning how to read other players, including their tells. Many players study poker by reading books, taking notes, and observing experienced players to develop their own style of play. A good poker player always takes time to self-examine their results and tweaks their strategy going forward.