What is Floating in Poker?
Most often you will float your opponent’s flop-bet with the intention of taking the pot on the turn or river.
Here are a few different types of float:
IP Float – You call your opponents flop bet in position with the intention of taking the pot either on the turn or river. Normally you will bet when your opponent checks, but sometimes you may raise a turn or river bet as a bluff/semi-bluff.
OOP Float – You call your opponent’s flop bet out-of-position with the intention of donking the turn or river (perhaps even check/raising). Should be used more sparingly, but may actually represent a larger amount of strength than the in-position float.
Double Float – Advanced float where you call both flop and turn with the intention of taking the pot on the river. You will need a good idea about villain’s tendencies to use this successfully.
Mississippi Bluff – Advanced deepstack line where you float flop and turn with the intention of jamming over a river barrel.
With/without a draw – Your floating opportunities will have a higher EV if you have some type of chance to improve to the best hand. There may still be situations where you think floating will be profitable with very little equity.
Which boards should I float?
In general the best boards to float are going to be dry boards. You represent more strength by floating an A72r board, since there are no draws you can have. There are also less combinations of hands villain can have when he checks the turn to you, meaning you should have a larger amount of fold equity.
Floating on draw heavy boards can also be profitable – you will be able to represent a large number of scare cards that hit on the turn and river. The downside is that your flop call will represent less strength since your calling range is watered down by draws. You would also likely raise a strong made hand for protection. As a result, villain’s turn barrelling frequency will likely go up on a drawy board. It’s also less likely villain is going to fold the turn when he checks to you. Perhaps he has picked up some type of draw he wants to check/call instead of barelling. Or perhaps he is planning a check/raise, hoping for maximum protection with his made hand.
The majority of your floats will be in-position, but OOP floats can still prove lucrative against certain players. In general it is going to be tougher to play the pot out-of-position, but this is also the very reason why you might be given more credit for having a made hand. Perhaps some players even expect you to float the A72r in-position, but out of position they are going to give you much more credit. OOP floats happen somewhat infrequently, and it’s rare a thinking opponent is going to put you on air without history.
Which opponents should I float?
The best players to target with floats are those with a high flop cbet% but a low turn-cbet%. These players are firing a large amount of their range on the flop but only continuining on the turn with the strongest part of that wide range. Against these type of players you will likely have a profitable steal on the turn; they are barrelling their strong made hands and you will likely have good fold equity vs their turn checking range. It’s useful if these players also have a high PFR or ATS, seeing as the high flop cbet% is then representative of a much weaker range.
We can deduce that players who cbet infrequently and/or double barrel frequently are bad players to float. If they are open raising very loose you may be able to profitably raise some turn barrels after floating the flop, but if villain is opening tight you are going to need to fold a huge amount to 2nd barrels.
Let’s consider a brief example.
Effective stacks are 100bb. Hero is on the button witha10. Villain open-rases to 3bb in the CO. Hero calls.
The flop is k72. Villain cbets 5bb into the 7.5bb pot. Hero calls.
Hero sees that villain is opening reasonably wide from the CO and has a high cbet%. This is a board hero expects villain to cbet with almost his entire range seeing as it is dry with a high-card. Hero also has an overcard and a back-door flush. This is an excellent spot for a float.
The turn is the 2. Villain checks. Hero bets 12bb into the 17.5bb pot. Villain folds.
Villain is likely check/folding seeing as he has shown a tendency to barrel his strong made hands. Coupled with the fact that hero has now turned a flush-draw with his overcard this is an excellent opportunity to make a semi-bluff. Even if villain does call, hero has a possible 12 outs to make the best hand.
Hero’s image and Villain’s perception of hero.
Floating is usually going to work best with a tight image: Your opponent is going to give you much less credit for having a hand if you have been calling a large amount in previous hands.
If villain is a strong player he may give you less credit for floating in spots which are good floating spots. In the above example with the a10, hero could have chosen to check back the turn and fire the river. This likely mimics the type of line you’d take with medium showdown such as TT on the K72. By betting the turn you may be isolating yourself against a stronger range and/or getting folds far too often. A strong regular may both realise it’s a good floating spot AND realise you may well be checking back medium showdown on the turn. This can have a polarising effect on your turn betting range. (Either you have a king/better or you have a bluff). This makes you susceptible to turn check-calls, or check-raises.
Against your average player who may not be thinking deeply, there is no reason you shouldn’t bet your bluffs immediately on the turn and check back your marginal showdown to the river, either with the intention of value betting thinly or checking back. Against slightly more perceptive opponents your ranges become somewhat inverted, where you may prefer to check back your bluffs until the river, but bet immediately for value on the turn with marginal showdown.
In general if villain expects you to be floating the flop and betting the turn, the EV of this play will go down. Villain will be check-calling some turns with value hands and maybe even check-raising as a bluff. It’s this type of villain that is more likely to give you credit a strong hand when you float OOP – he doesn’t expect you to be doing this light without decent history. Check-calling the flop and then donking the river after the turn goes check-check can often be an effective line. An average player will be taking this line for value a lot more frequently than he will as a bluff.
Let's consider a final example against a solid ABC opponent:
Effective stacks are 100bb. The BU who is a solid regular open-raises to 3bb. Hero is in the BB with 10j and makes the call.
The flop is a92. Hero checks, villain cbets 4bb into the 6.5bb pot. Hero calls.
Hero expects villain to be Cbetting this board with his entire range. Villain is a solid regular and by floating OOP hero is able to represent an Ace quite strongly on this dry board. Hero also has backdoor flush/straight draws which add to his equity and may provide semi-bluffing opportunities on the turn. It’s unlikely villain will 2nd barrel without an Ace or better given his perception of hero’s range, making it an easy fold to a second barrel unimproved.
The turn is 5. Hero checks. Villain checks.
Hero turns no equity and so checks with the intention of folding. Villain checks back, usually meaning he doesn’t have a strong made hand. Maybe sometimes he has a weak Ace, but mostly his range consists of weaker pairs and air.
The river is 9. Hero bets 10bb into the 14.5bb pot. Villain folds.
The river is a good card for hero. It limits the amount of 9x combos in villain’s range and also increases the combinations of hands with which hero is conceivably value betting the river. In villain’s mind hero nearly always has a pair of better; at least until he figures out hero is capable of floating flops OOP without made hands.