Official poker is a game of cards which involves betting. Before each round of play, players are required to ante (or put in) an initial contribution to the pot. The amount of the ante may vary by game. Once the antes are paid, each player receives their hole cards, and betting begins.

The first betting round starts with the player sitting immediately to the left of the big blind, who can fold, call, or raise. Betting then continues clockwise with each player having the option to fold, call, bet (if no one before them has bet), or raise. The first betting round ends when all players have folded or called their last bet.

After the third betting round, a showdown occurs where all players reveal their hands and the player with the highest five-card poker hand wins the pot. The pot is divided into two parts: half goes to the winner and half to the runner-up.

Poker is a game of skill and strategy, which requires minimizing losses with bad hands while maximizing winnings with good ones. This involves a number of rules and tactics, some of which can be very confusing to newcomers.

Protection of the Hand

Protecting a player’s own hand is extremely important, as it can be easy for another player to muck the hand and take the pot away from the original player. This is especially true when playing in high stakes tournaments.


A player can check during a betting interval if they believe they have the best hand, but the other players in that round must call their bet or fold. This is known as sandbagging, and is allowed unless it has been decided that this is not permitted in the rules of the game being played.