There’s an art to poker that requires more than just knowing the rules. The game is a mental test and a window into human nature. Some players lose their tempers after a bad beat, while others are unfazed by even the worst luck. The biggest difference between break-even beginner players and big-time winners is usually just a few small adjustments.
The goal is to form the highest-ranking hand based on card rankings and win the pot, which is the sum of all bets placed by each player in a hand. You can raise, call or fold when it’s your turn to act. Say “call” if you want to bet the same amount as the last player, and “raise” if you think you have a better-than-average chance of winning the hand.
A key to success in poker is learning to read the other players’ bluffing tells. This involves observing their eyes, idiosyncrasies and betting habits to determine whether they’re holding a strong or weak hand. It also helps to talk with other players about their strategy and results for an objective look at your own strengths and weaknesses.
The key to beating the stronger players at your table is to play aggressively. If you’re a tight-ass player, you’ll be shoved around by the sharks and out-muscled. Poker is a game of defiance and hope–defiance that leads to disaster if you don’t have the cards, and hope that keeps you betting money that you shouldn’t because a turn or river might give you that straight or flush you want.