Poker is a card game in which players place bets on the strength of their hand. The game is characterized by a variety of betting rules and the ability to use bluffing strategies. Although the outcome of any individual hand largely depends on chance, skillful players can improve their long-term expectations by choosing actions chosen on the basis of probability, psychology and game theory.

A dealer button is placed in front of each player, and a round of betting begins after the cards are dealt. Depending on the game, one or more players may be required to place an initial amount into the pot, called forced bets, in the form of antes, blinds or bring-ins. During each subsequent betting interval, a player may choose to raise the bet or check. When a player checks, he must put in chips of the same value as the raiser, or fold his hand.

In most modern games of poker, players use poker chips which are colored and have assigned values to them. Players typically exchange cash for these chips at the start of the game. The lowest-valued chip is usually white, with each color of chip representing a different denomination. A white chip is worth a minimum bet, a red chip is worth five whites and a blue chip is worth 10 whites.

Before a hand is played, the cards are shuffled and cut by the player to the right of the dealer. The dealer then deals the cards to each player, beginning with the person to his left. The cards are dealt face-up or face-down, as specified by the particular game being played. Bets are made by placing chips into the center of the table, called the pot.

After a betting period, the last remaining players reveal their hands and the winner takes the pot. If no player has a winning hand, all the remaining chips are collected in a central pot called a “kitty.” Any players who are still in the game at the end of the game take their share of the kitty in equal proportions. The kitty is used to pay for new decks of cards and for food and drinks. The players may also decide to use the kitty for other purposes by unanimous or majority agreement. When a player leaves the poker game before it ends, he forfeits his share of the kitty.