Poker is a card game that involves betting between players. It can be played with any number of cards and is a game of chance as well as skill. A professional poker player needs a combination of poker knowledge, psychology and game theory to achieve long term success.

Depending on the rules of a particular game, one or more players must place an initial amount into the pot before the cards are dealt. These are called forced bets and come in the form of antes, blinds or bring-ins. A player who declines to do this, or “drops,” forfeits his hand and may not compete for the pot.

Once the cards are dealt, a series of betting intervals, or rounds, takes place. Each player in turn must either call the bet by putting into the pot the same number of chips as the player to his left, raise his bet or drop. A player who drops loses any chips that he has put into the pot during that betting interval and must withdraw from the game.

The most common poker hands are pairs, three of a kind, four of a kind and straights. Pairs consist of two matching cards, three of a kind has four cards of the same rank and a straight consists of five consecutive cards in the same suit. Depending on the game rules, it may also be possible to exchange a card or cards from your own hand for ones from the table to make a better hand.