Poker is a card game played by two or more players and contested over a pot, which consists of the player’s own chips (representing money). Each betting round involves placing bets into the pot according to the rules of the particular poker variant being played. While much of the outcome of a hand is determined by chance, most of the bets placed into the pot are done so on the basis of expected value, psychology, and game theory.

A popular catchphrase in poker is “Play the Player, Not the Cards.” This simply means that your success in poker depends on how well you compare your hands to the ones held by the other players at your table. If you have a pair of Kings, for example, but the guy next to you is holding American Airlines pocket rockets, your pair will lose 82% of the time.

The most important aspect of poker strategy is determining the opponent’s range and playing a hand in line with it. Advanced players also focus on narrowing their starting hand range.

Playing poker regularly can help you develop a number of useful mental traits that will benefit you in your daily life. This includes becoming a more efficient decision-maker, improving your ability to calculate odds and probabilities, and developing patience—especially when you’re making decisions that won’t impact you immediately or in the near future. A study even shows that consistent poker playing can improve cognitive function and delay the onset of degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.