Poker is a card game in which players bet on the outcome of their hands. The player with the best hand wins the pot. The rules of the game vary widely, but all variants share certain essential characteristics.
First, a player antes (buys into the betting pool). The dealer then deals two cards face down to each player and keeps them secret from the other players.
Then, 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 replaced.
After a round, the player with the highest-ranking poker combination in his faceup cards bets first. The other players then call his bet or fold.
Throughout the game, 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. In the long run, the outcome of any hand significantly involves chance; however, the long-run expectations of players are determined by their actions chosen on the basis of probability, psychology, and game theory.
Some research groups are interested in poker as a means to explore human decision-making in an environment where every player has very little control over the outcome of his or her decisions. For example, the Computer Poker Research Group at the University of Nevada is working to develop a program that simulates the game of poker and predicts its outcomes.