Official poker is a game played in cardrooms, casinos and other places where gambling is legal. The rules are generally written and published, and the game is generally regulated by local laws. The game involves betting and bluffing, with a good understanding of the odds and probabilities of winning a hand being essential to play well. There are many variations of the game.

Generally, players must place forced bets before being dealt cards—these are usually the ante and blind bets, but some games use other types of forced bets. The dealer shuffles the cards, then deals them to the players in a series of betting intervals, beginning with the player on his or her left. During each betting round, the player with the highest-ranking poker combination in his or her faceup cards acts first; this player may fold, call, raise, or check.

The final betting interval is known as the showdown, in which all players reveal their hands and the winner of the pot is determined. In the 1850s, straight poker was eclipsed by draw poker, which allows each active player, in turn starting at the dealer’s left, to discard some of his or her original cards and receive replacements from the undealt portion of the deck.

In this type of poker, one player serves as the banker, keeping track of how many chips each player has and how much cash he or she has paid for them. The banker keeps an accurate record of the amount of money paid to each player and also makes sure that no private transactions take place among players.