Poker is a card game where players compete to form the highest-ranking hand. Players use their two hidden “hole” cards and five community cards to build a poker hand. The player who makes the best poker hand wins the pot, or all of the bets placed during a particular deal.

A good poker player needs quick instincts. To improve, practice playing and watch experienced players to learn how they react. Observe their betting patterns and body language to spot tells—unconscious habits that reveal information about the strength of a player’s hands. These can include eye contact, blinking, sighing, and a wide-open mouth or chin. Other classic tells include a twitch, sweating, nose flaring, and a hand held over the mouth to conceal a smile.

The most interesting parts of a poker story are the players and their reactions to each other. Describing a series of card draws, bets, and reveals will quickly feel lame or gimmicky. Instead, focus on the by-play between players and their reactions to each other’s moves—who flinched, who smiled, and who didn’t even blink. Then, use description to paint pictures in the reader’s head. This will keep the reader engaged and make the scene more interesting. If a reader can visualize the scene, they will be more likely to feel invested in the outcome. In addition, it will be easier for them to understand what is happening in the scene. This will help create tension and empathy for the characters.