Poker is a card game played by 2 or more players. The object of the game is to win the pot, which is the total of all bets made during a deal. A player may win the pot with a high-ranking hand or by making a bet that no other player calls. There are many different forms of poker, and rules vary slightly from one variant to the next. However, there are some basic principles that all players should follow.

After all players have received their two hole cards, a round of betting begins. The bets placed in the pot are called “blinds.” They are mandatory, meaning that each player must place in the pot a number of chips equal to or greater than the amount placed by the player to his left.

Once the players have a chance to evaluate their hands, 3 additional cards are dealt face up in the center of the table, which are called the flop. This is followed by another betting phase, with the player to the left of the dealer.

The key to good poker strategy is to know when to fold and when to bet. Trying to prove your opponent wrong by bluffing will usually backfire, but bets are effective for forcing weaker hands out of the pot and raising the value of your own hand. In addition, it’s important to pay attention to the way your opponents react—who flinches and who smiles. This can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling about the situation.