Poker is a family of card games, most commonly played in casinos, private homes, and poker clubs. Various versions exist, and differ in the number of cards in play, the betting structure, and the way the cards are dealt. All variants involve one or more rounds of betting.
The goal of a poker game is to form the best five-card hand. This hand is usually made up of a pair, a straight, or a flush. However, other types of hands are possible, such as three of a kind or a full house. It is also possible to win by bluffing.
Poker may be played with any number of players, but an ideal number is between six and eight. In some variants, the number of players in the game is not standardized, and players compete for a smaller pot. There are three common betting structures in poker: fixed limit, no-limit, and pot-limit.
Fixed-limit games limit the maximum amount that can be bet, and require the players to make a standard raise or raise-and-fold wager. Each player receives five or seven cards face up, and each is allowed to discard up to three. After the first round of betting, the dealer takes turns shuffles and deals the cards to each player. If a player wishes to make a raise or raise-and-fold wager, the player must do so within the first betting interval.
When the deal is completed, the player who placed the ante into the pot is called an active player. He or she must place a fixed amount of chips in the pot. Any money placed into the pot is a bet, and may be used to bluff opponents or improve their hand. Typically, the first bettor has the responsibility to bet, but other players can check. Generally, the best combination of hands wins the pot, but different players can still win the main pot.
No-limit poker is similar to fixed-limit, except that the amount of money that can be bet is not limited. The ante is a contribution to the pot, and can be used to make a forced bet or a blind bet. The first bettor is required to bet the minimum in the first betting interval, but may choose to raise or call in later intervals.
Pot-limit poker is more complex. All bets in the pot are gathered into a central pot. A player can win the pot by making a bet that no other player calls. Some games award the pot to the lowest hand, whereas others split the pot between the highest and lowest. Other players may try to improve their hand by trading cards.
Poker is played in most countries around the world, and has been widely popular worldwide. It is played in private homes and casinos, and is considered to be the national card game of the United States. During the turn of the millennium, televised poker increased its popularity. Today, poker is played over the Internet.