The Basics of Poker


Poker is a card game played with a minimum of seven players in which the goal is to win by having the highest-ranked hand when all of the cards are revealed. If you don’t have a superior hand, you can also try to win by bluffing. If you bet that you have the best hand, other players must call your bet to decide whether to concede or to bluff as well. If all other players drop out, the player who has the best hand wins the pot – the sum of all bets placed during that hand.

A game of poker can be organized into two basic formats: cash games and tournament play. The latter is characterized by the use of tournament chips that are used to place bets during each round. The value of a chip depends on its color and denomination, with white chips being worth a small amount (e.g., the minimum ante or bet), red chips being worth five whites, and blue chips being valued in between. Players usually purchase a fixed number of chips to buy in to the game.

Maria Just, who teaches at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, says poker can be a great way to learn how to make decisions. It teaches you to take risks, she says, and it can teach you when to change your strategy when your odds of winning a hand are decreasing. “That’s something I think is important in any field,” she adds.