Poker is a game of cards in which players bet on the strength of their hands. Minimizing losses with poor hands and maximizing winnings with strong ones is the core of the skill required to play well. Before the cards are even dealt, however, some forced contribution – a minimum ante or blind bet – must be made by one or more players. This amount is then gathered into a central pot and may be re-elevated on later betting intervals, depending on the rules of the particular game.
During each betting interval, players can bet on the strength of their hands. This is done by placing chips (representing money, for which poker almost invariably uses) into the pot. The lowest-valued chip is a white chip, while each player has a set of other colored chips that are worth different values. For example, a green chip is worth five whites and a blue chip is worth ten whites.
As with any competitive skill game, luck plays a significant role in individual hands. However, the long-run expected value of every possible poker hand is determined by decisions the player makes on the basis of probability, psychology and game theory. A player whose actions are optimal with respect to these factors will win more than his opponents on average. This is why it is important for players to study the game’s structure, rules and variations, as well as develop good instincts based on experience.