Poker is a game that requires a great deal of skill and knowledge. The ability to read your opponents, to understand odds and percentages and to make decisions that are profitable in the long run is key. The game also involves an element of luck, so there will be times when you lose a hand that you know you should have won – this is called variance. However, by learning the basic winning strategy, anyone can play the game and win money over the long term.

The first step in understanding poker is to work out your opponent’s range. New players tend to try and put their opponents on a specific hand, but experienced players will look at the entire selection of possible hands that their opponent could have and then work out how likely it is that they will have one of those hands. This allows them to better judge how risky to be when making their own calls or raises.

You will also need to learn how to read your opponents and watch for tells, which are the behavioural clues that indicate an opponent’s strength of hand. For example, if a player has been calling all night and then raises on the flop, they are probably holding a strong hand. It is also important to fast play strong hands – not just call them, but bet aggressively with them too. This will build the pot and force weaker hands out of the way.