Poker is a card game for two or more players. The object of the game is to win the pot, which is the sum total of all bets placed in a single deal. The pot can be won by having the highest-ranking hand or by making a bet that no one calls. The rules of poker are complex, and the game can be intimidating for newcomers.

To start a hand, the dealer deals each player a set number of cards. The player with the highest card wins the button (first position), and ties are broken using the suit ranking – spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs – from highest to lowest.

Once all players have their cards, they can choose to fold, call, or raise. A player who raises must place a bet equal to the largest previous bet, and must continue raising until all players have called his or her bet or folded.

Top poker players fast-play their strong hands, meaning that they bet early and often to build the pot and to discourage those players who may have a better hand than the player with the strongest cards. This strategy can help them to win more money than players who are more conservative and tend to fold their cards early.

When not playing a hand, it is a good idea to observe the other players at the table. This down time can allow you to notice small tells that may be difficult to spot while involved in a hand.