Poker is a game of chance, but you can increase your chances of winning by learning the rules and basic strategy. It’s also important to understand the role of variance (the randomness of the game) and work on your bankroll management skills to protect yourself against the downswings that are inevitable in any poker game.

In a standard game of poker, there are usually five players at the table, each buying in with a certain number of chips. The most common chips are white and are worth one unit, while a blue chip is worth ten whites and a red chip is twenty whites. Depending on the game, there may be additional colored chips that are worth more or less.

After all players have purchased their chips, the dealer shuffles and deals the cards. Each player then chooses to keep any of his or her two personal cards and discards the rest — either putting them into the “pot” for betting or drawing replacements, depending on the rules of the game being played.

The first step in playing well is to learn how to read your opponents. You can do this by studying their body language, mood shifts, and even the way they move their hands and chips. It’s also important to learn how to read the table conditions, such as whether or not there is a potential draw that could improve your hand. Finally, top players often fast-play their strong hands — raising quickly to build the pot and chase off other players who are hoping for a better hand.