Poker is a card game of strategy and deception that can be a lot of fun. The more you play, the better you get at it. But there are some basic things you should know before you begin playing.

The game starts with 2 mandatory bets called blinds put into the pot by the players to the left of the dealer. Everyone then gets 2 cards face down. After that, there is a round of betting and you can say hit if you believe your hand is good enough to stay in the pot. You can also say fold if you want to get out of the hand.

Once you have your cards, look at the rest of the table and consider what other people might be holding. For example, if the cards are all spades and someone has two of them then they may have a straight.

Another important thing to remember is that a poker hand is only as strong as the context it is played in. For example, if you have pocket fives and the flop comes A-8-5 then your hand is very weak. However, if the flop comes A-9-5 then your pair of pocket fives are very strong.

A great way to improve your poker skills is to watch other players and learn their tells (eye movements, idiosyncrasies, hand gestures, betting behavior etc.). Reading books on the subject and watching poker videos can also be very helpful. The more you play and watch, the faster your instincts will become.