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Texas Hold'em No Limit Intermediate

Floating in Poker | When and How

7,410 Views on 15/10/15

Learn when floating in poker is appropriate. You need to assess the situation in the hand and decide what post-flop strategy to utilize.

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Floating - What is it?

floating lanterns

So what is this floating we all keep hearing about when people are describing a hand they once played?

In today's much tougher games, when more than ever we need to be looking for any edge, no matter how small, floating is a concept which gives us a range of options as to how we might tackle a competent opponent.

The simplest description of a float would be a “bluff call.” Essentially we are calling a post flop bet or a raise not because we think our hand is good, or even has correct pot odds to draw, but to observe what our opponents next action is with a view to possibly trying to steal the pot away from them with what is likely a second best hand.

Back in the day before the Moneymaker effect took hold, continuation betting was far less prevalent than today. Now today, people are a lot more aware of how profitable it is, so it has become important to fight back in some way.
We can think about poker in an over-simplistic way and divide the game into two halves, a “value half,” and a “bluffing half." The value side of things appears much simpler, we think we have the best hand and we're generally happy to be putting chips in. But when we start to learn about bluffing it's not so simple.
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Many new players of the game aren't looking much further than bluff raising when a single opponent makes a continuation bet on the flop. Most of the time this is done without any thought for what to do if the raise is called or even re-raised. After a while though, it becomes obvious that we can't bluff raise too many flops to start with, or we will start to get played back at. So this is where floating comes in, we're happy to just stay in the hand and wait and see what happens next. It's the next option in our toolbox.

winning graphImagine how many players you see who make a continuation bet on the flop, but only ever fire a second barrel at you if they really do have a hand. Just think how easy it would be to call in position with only over cards on the flop, waiting to see if we face another bet. If we find ourselves checked to then we can make a small bet expecting to take the pot down most of the time.

The wider our opponents range is for making the continuation bet in the first place, the more profitable our turn bluff will be, simply because we can expect him to have weak hands a higher percentage of the time, meaning he will be check folding more often.

This example is the simplest case possible, but it's also a good starting point for those players who are looking to add some more sophistication into their game. The vast majority of players these days are using some kind of heads up display, and have all the information concerning continuation bet tendencies available for all streets.

Let's examine some important factors which we need to be thinking about when we are considering a float play.

Things to Take into Consideration

floating

The number of players involved in the pot is incredibly important. For example, UTG opens in a full ring cash game and the next 3 players all call. We may be holding a hand which makes a perfectly fine call too, but it's unlikely to ever be a fantastic float spot if UTG bets out and everybody else folds to us, last to act.

Firstly, even if we have observed the villain making continuation bets too frequently, given the positions involved, it's unlikely that a lead out is a bluff. We can expect to see over pair or top pair type hands most of the time. And the chance that a continuation bet from any remotely competent player into multiple opponents will be weak is extremely low. Always be thinking of what your opponents range is.
The principle of leverage tells us that if we make bets on earlier streets they always come with the threat of at least one more bet in the future of a likely larger size. By floating the flop and making a bluff on the turn we put our opponent in a spot where they can't be sure if we will bet the river.
 Poker ChipThis fear of what might happen is enough to push weak players out of the pot even when they suspect their hand may possibly still be good. If we were to float the flop and face a check on the turn, then checking behind and intending to bluff the river is a bad decision as we have now lost our leverage and our opponent knows that if they call they will see a showdown.

As mentioned above, we know we can't bluff raise too many flops, we should also be aware of floating too much. So if we are restrained to some extent, it makes sense to float those hands which will actually end up with the best hand at showdown the most often. Hands such as gutshots and over cards give us that little extra chance of winning that a hand like 54 won't as often. ATs can make a nice top pair, and a gutshot will be nicely disguised if we spike on the turn and face further bets.

The usual warnings apply if we end up hitting a one pair type hand, if it is a weak pair given the board then we shouldn't be looking to get too much money in if we suspect our opponent might be strong. The majority of the profitability comes fromwhen our opponent has a marginal hand and we are able to steal the pot.

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To finish I want to give a warning about taking it a little too far. Floating is supposed to be a cheap way to increase our overall profit. We need to be careful who we do it against, otherwise it will become a leak which costs us money, not the other way around. Be careful in the micro stakes games where we can find many players who take passive lines, i.e they stop betting but will call you all the way to showdown if you force them.
Also be careful when playing out of position. If we check call to float the flop, then the villain can check behind in position leaving us with only a single betting round remaining. This prevents us from being able to use leverage, making the whole situation much less profitable.
Lastly, a word on what floating is not. When we call a flop bet with an ace high flush draw, we are drawing, NOT floating. If the turn is a blank it may be an option to consider bluff raising as we still have a decent amount of equity and implied odds. Don't get into even deeper trouble by trying to bluff later streets by raising an opponent who might not be folding, when holding negligible equity following a float.

I hope this was helpful and I look forward to reading your comments below.

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Author

Mark Patrickson

Mark Patrickson is a professional cash game player grinding stakes up to 100nl 6 Max NL Hold'em13 years experience of poker, across MTT SnG and cash, FL PL NL.Currently living in South East Asia and trying to make it back to mid-stakes befo ... Read More

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