The game of poker has its roots in card games and bluffing. It has a very long history, and it is believed that it was developed in China and Persia before being brought to Europe.

To begin playing, players must put in an initial amount of money to the pot before they see their cards, called antes or blinds. This helps to create a pot that encourages competition and prevents weak hands from getting bet and winning too often.

Players can check, which means passing on betting, or they can bet, putting chips into the pot that their opponents must match or raise. They can also fold, meaning that they give up their hand.

There are many variations of poker, so the best way to learn is to find a group of people to play with. It’s possible to play for free, or you can bet small amounts of money – even counters – to get the hang of it.

When you’re learning, it’s important to know what the cards mean and how they fit into a hand. Knowing that a flush beats a straight, for example, will help you to assess your hand and decide whether to stay or fold.

Before starting to play, shuffle the cards and cut them once or twice to ensure that the deck is mixed up properly. Then deal four hands of hole cards face down to each player and evaluate them, observing how their advantages may have changed as the flop, turn, and river are dealt.

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