What is ‘Preflop’?
In flop poker variants, ‘preflop’ describes the situation before the ‘flop’ is drawn – that is, any situation before any players have seen any of the community cards to be dealt in the hand. Texas Hold ’em is by far the most common form of flop poker, and involves a round of betting between all players once the blinds and/or antes have been posted before the flop is drawn. Any bets, calls, raises and folds taking place in this part of the game will be taking place preflop.
While most poker strategy takes place in later streets, a large amount of play – and therefore a large part of where winning players will make their money – will take place preflop. Preflop strategy alone can comprise hundreds of books solely on the subject, with position, ante, the number of players in the hand and playing styles drastically altering whether it is correct or not to raise, call or fold with various hands.
While there is often substantial betting preflop in cash games, particularly at a higher level, the amount can vary drastically in tournament play. Before bubbles, play tends to tighten up, and when antes become high and many players are left on short stacks, a large number of all-in calls preflop occur as players seek to double their stacks to obtain a chance of making the final table. In this scenario, in certain positions and with certain stack sizes, it can become correct for players to fold what would ordinarily be considered extremely good hands preflop, for fear of a large number of all-in calls.
Preflop strategy, like many other components of poker, can vary wildly depending on the type of game as well as the situation within the individual hand. While the lack of visible cards limits the opportunity for bluffs and deeper strategy, mastering preflop play is essential to becoming a winning player.