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Poker is any of a number of card games in which players wager over which hand is best according to that specific game's rules in ways similar to these rankings. Often using a standard deck, poker games vary in deck configuration, the number of cards in play, the number dealt face up or face down, and the number shared by all players, but all have rules that involve one or more rounds of betting.
In most modern poker games, the first round of betting begins with one or more of the players making some form of a forced bet (the blind or ante). In standard poker, each player bets according to the rank they believe their hand is worth as compared to the other players. The action then proceeds clockwise as each player in turn must either match (or "call") the maximum previous bet, or fold, losing the amount bet so far and all further involvement in the hand. A player who matches a bet may also "raise" (increase) the bet.
The betting round ends when all players have either called the last bet or folded. If all but one player folds on any round, the remaining player collects the pot without being required to reveal their hand. If more than one player remains in contention after the final betting round, a showdown takes place where the hands are revealed, and the player with the winning hand takes the pot.
With the exception of initial forced bets, money is only placed into the pot voluntarily by a player who either believes the bet has positive expected value or who is trying to bluff other players for various strategic reasons. Thus, while the outcome of any particular hand significantly involves chance, the long-run expectations of the players are determined by their actions chosen on the basis of probability, psychology, and game theory.
Poker has increased in popularity since the beginning of the 20th century and has gone from being primarily a recreational activity confined to small groups of enthusiasts to a widely popular activity, both for participants and spectators, including online, with many professional players and multimillion-dollar tournament prizes.
In casual play, the right to deal a hand typically rotates among the players and is marked by a token called a dealer button (or buck). In a Online casino, a house dealer handles the cards for each hand, but the button (typically a white plastic disk) is rotated clockwise among the players to indicate a nominal dealer to determine the order of betting. The cards are dealt clockwise around the poker table, one at a time.
One or more players are usually required to make forced bets, usually either an ante or a blind bet (sometimes both). The dealer shuffles the cards, the player on the chair to his or her right cuts, and the dealer deals the appropriate number of cards to the players one at a time, beginning with the player to his or her left. Cards may be dealt either face-up or face-down, depending on the variant of poker being played. After the initial deal, the first of what may be several betting rounds begins. Between rounds, the players' hands develop in some way, often by being dealt additional cards or replacing cards previously dealt. At the end of each round, all bets are gathered into the central pot.
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A complete hand is dealt to each player, and players bet in one round, with raising and re-raising allowed. This is the oldest poker family; the root of the game as now played was a game known as Primero, which evolved into the game three-card brag, a very popular gentleman's game around the time of the American Revolutionary War and still enjoyed in the U.K. today. Straight hands of five cards are sometimes used as a final showdown, but poker is almost always played in a more complex form to allow for additional strategy.
Cards are dealt in a prearranged combination of face-down and face-up rounds, or streets, with a round of betting following each. This is the next-oldest family; as poker progressed from three to five-card hands, they were often dealt one card at a time, either face-down or face-up, with a betting round between each. The most popular stud variant today, seven-card stud, deals two extra cards to each player (three face-down, four face-up) from which they must make the best possible 5-card hand.
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Five-card draw: A complete hand is dealt to each player, face-down. Then each player must place an ante to the pot. They can then see their cards and bet accordingly. After betting, players can discard up to three cards and take new ones from the top of the deck. Then, another round of betting takes place. Finally, each player must show his or her cards and the player with the best hand wins.
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There are several methods for defining the structure of betting during a hand of poker. The three most common structures are known as "fixed-limit", "pot-limit", and "no-limit". In fixed-limit poker, betting and raising must be done by standardised amounts. For instance, if the required bet is X, an initial bettor may only bet X; if a player wishes to raise a bet, they may only raise by X. In pot-limit poker, a player may bet or raise any amount up to the size of the pot.
When calculating the maximum raise allowed, all previous bets and calls, including the intending raiser's call, are first added to the pot. The raiser may then raise the previous bet by the full amount of the pot. In no-limit poker, a player may wager their entire betting stack at any point that they are allowed to make a bet. In all games, if a player does not have enough betting chips to fully match a bet, they may go "all-in", allowing them to show down their hand for the amount of chips they have remaining.
While typical poker games award the pot to the highest hand as per the standard ranking of poker hands, there are variations where the best hand, and thus the hand awarded the pot, is the lowest-ranked hand instead. In such games the best hand contains the lowest cards rather than the highest cards; some variations may be further complicated by whether or not hands such as flushes and straights are considered in the hand rankings. There are also games where the highest and lowest hands divide the pot between them, known as "high low split" games.
Other games that use poker hand rankings may likewise be referred to as poker. Video poker is a single-player video game that functions much like a slot machine; most video poker machines play draw poker, where the player bets, a hand is dealt, and the player can discard and replace cards. Payout is dependent on the hand resulting after the draw and the player's initial bet.
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