Poker is a card game played by two or more players. It is a game of chance, but in the long run players’ decisions are driven by strategy and mathematics. It involves bluffing and reading opponents, as well as the ability to keep emotion out of the game.

The object of the game is to win the pot, which is the sum of all bets made during a single hand. The pot may be won by a player with the highest-ranking poker hand or by making a bet that no one else calls. The game can be played with any number of players, but the ideal number is six to eight.

During each betting round, each player must either match or beat the amount raised by the largest opponent, or fold. Once all players have folded or matched, the dealer deals three cards on the table that everyone can use, called the flop. Another round of betting then takes place.

Card shuffling is important because it introduces chance and genuine randomness to the game. It also prevents players from predicting the cards that will come up later and gaining an unfair advantage. Before dealing the cards, they must be “washed” or spread out and mixed across the table before being gathered together (for example, by spreading them on a towel for about seven seconds). Once the cards are collected, they must be re-spun in the same order. This is done to ensure that each player has an equal opportunity to win the pot.