Preflop is as the title suggests the phase in a poker hand before the flop. We will talk about the flop next but for now you need to know what to do before that. Preflop is when the blinds (and antes if there are any) are placed, the two players left of the deal place their required bets before the hand is dealt. The player left of the deal is the small blind (SB) and the player to his left places the big blind (BB), you will be told how much the blinds are before play begins (this amount increases periodically during tournaments). Every time a new hand is dealt the dealer button moves one place to the left therefore so do the small and big blinds. This gives every player a chance to be in these positions as some positions are better than others.
These blinds are forced bets and must be posted before any cards are dealt. The other players in the hand must match the amount of the big blind or raise it in order to stay in the hand (they can of course choose to fold preflop}. The small and big blind bets count towards their players bets for example if no player has raised before the decision comes back to the big blind then the player in the BB position may play without adding any more chips.
After the small and big blinds are placed the dealer may deal the cards, they will deal two cards to each player, one at a time in a clockwise direction from left to right. The first card is dealt to the player who is immediately to the left of the dealer (the small blind) and goes round the table from there.
These two initial cards are dealt directly to each player and are to be kept secret, they’re known as a players ‘hole cards’. When all players have their hole cards the betting will begin with the player to the immediate left of the Big Blind.
Starting with this player, each player in turn can choose to ‘call’ (match the current amount bet}, ‘raise’ (place a larger bet which must be at least double the current bet) or ‘fold’ (choose not to play the hand and push their cards face down into the middle of the table to be discarded.).
In any hand the minimum amount that can be bet must be equal to the amount in the big blind. Any player can bet more than this amount and this is called ‘a raise’. If any player raises all players must then match the amount of the raise in turn if they want to stay in the hand, they can choose to fold at this point even if they have already called a previous bet.
When the decision gets back round to the small blind, they can choose to either ‘call’ (they pay the rest of the amount to make their small blind the size of the current bet), raise or fold.
The last player to act preflop is the big blind. Unless of course the BB chooses to raise in which case play goes back round the table in a clockwise direction as before. If the BB checks (he doesn’t raise and simply stays in the hand for free if the bet hasn’t been raised) then the preflop stage is over and the flop is then dealt.
Once this stage has been played it is time to move on to the flop.