How to Become a Great Poker Player

Poker is a card game requiring a combination of skill, chance and deception. The aim is to form a high-ranking hand (based on the cards) in order to win the pot, which is the sum of all bets placed by players during the betting intervals between deals. Players place chips into the pot voluntarily, based on the expectation of positive return on their investment. Despite the substantial role of luck, skill can overcome variance and improve a player’s expected winnings.

A successful poker player has several skills, including the ability to read opponents and calculate odds. They must also be able to maintain a cool head and resist the urge to bluff when they don’t have a strong hand. In addition, they must commit to smart game selection and be able to choose limits that fit their bankrolls and level of play.

While experience helps, the real key to becoming a great poker player is mental strength. Poker requires a lot of patience, and it’s not uncommon to go on multiple-buy-in downswings before making a profit. You must also learn to recognize and accept variance, as it is the cause of bad beats and suckouts.

Finally, you must be willing to take risks in low-stakes games to learn and improve. While some of these risks will fail, the lessons learned will build your comfort with risk-taking. Eventually, this will lead to greater success in higher-stakes games.