Poker is one of the most popular card games in the world. It has been played since ancient times and is believed to be an ancestor of other card games such as blackjack and rummy. While there are many different poker variants, the basic game play remains the same. The goal is to minimize losses with poor hands and maximize wins with strong ones.

Each player starts with an initial contribution, called an ante, which he places into the pot before his turn. Then, he must decide whether to continue betting, in which case he says “raise” (putting more money into the pot than the person to his right) or to fold.

It is conventional to shuffle the cards before each hand, although the dealer has the last right to do so and the final say in whether to cut or not. A shuffled pack is then offered to the player to the dealer’s left for a cut. If that player declines to cut, any other player may cut.

A player’s ability to read the other players is crucial in Poker. He must be able to determine how much their cards are worth and compare them to his own to figure out the strength of his own hand. He must also be able to identify conservative players from aggressive players. Conservative players typically fold early in a hand, while aggressive players tend to bet high early on to see how their opponents react to their cards.