Poker is a card game in which players try to form the best five-card hand. The aim is to win a pot of money, usually represented by chips, that are placed into the center of the table. The rules of each variant differ slightly, but all share certain fundamental elements.

After the cards are dealt, each player has the option to check (checking means to fold) or to call a bet. Each player is allowed to raise a bet once at least one other player has raised theirs. Betting ends when all players check again or when no further calls are made.

Depending on the rules of a particular game, players may be forced to place an initial amount into the pot before they receive their cards. These forced bets are called antes, blinds, or bring-ins and are often required before any other betting begins.

Once all the players have raised their bets and checked again, a third card is dealt face up on the table, which is called the flop. Each player then uses this card along with their two hidden cards to form a poker hand.

The highest ranked poker hand is a Royal Flush, which consists of five consecutive cards from the same suit (ace through ten). Other commonly held hands include four of a kind, three of a kind, and straight. Good poker players are able to observe the body language and betting behavior of other players, as well as read the betting patterns, to gain insights into whether their opponent is bluffing or has a strong hand.