What Is Floating & When Is A Good Time To Use It?
What Is Floating?
When it comes to poker terminology, “floating” is when you call a bet – generally while holding a weak hand without much (or any) showdown value – with the intention to win the pot on later streets. Floating is one of the most effective ways to bluff your way to a win, even though there will definitely be times where the float will fail to develop into a profitable bluffing situation and the money already invested will need to be surrendered.
However, when executed successfully by hand-ranging our opponent well and using our “perceived-range” (aka the collection of hands our opponent thinks we have in any given scenario) to our advantage, the float can be one of the most thrilling and personally-satisfying plays in the game. After all, what’s better than letting your opponent stuff money into the pot and then pulling the rug out from under them and putting those same chips into your own stack?
Floating is necessary due to the concept of “balance” (needing to keep an equal number of bluffs and value-bets in each particular spot) since you want to be able to flat some of your big and medium-strength value-hands such as sets and 2nd pair with a good kicker and therefore must also do it, at least occasionally, with your weaker hands as well. This will keep your opponent from being able to narrow your range too much and force them to guess which part of your range you’re actually holding in any given situation.
Additionally, when playing against hyper-aggressive opponents, especially recreational ones who may not have a cohesive game-plan for how to play that style profitably, doing a lot of both in-and-out-of-position floating can be an extremely powerful play as there simply aren’t enough value-hands in the deck for an overly aggressive opponent to defend with. By floating, we allow these types of opponents fire away in weak-equity spots and then spring our trap and try to steal those chips away.
Let’s have a look at a couple situations where we can add a bit of floating into our game.
In position against a tight opponent on boards that are bad for the aggressor.
Imagine being in-position against a snug opponent who opens from middle position. Not wanting to open yourself up to any shenanigans, you elect to just flat-call JTs on the button and take it to the flop heads-up. The board rolls out as 78Q with one of your suit.
Against aggressive opponents you could decide to bluff-raise a continuation-bet in this spot – a completely reasonable play since you can represent sets, good queens, and bottom two-pairs – but against specific opponents who you know are unlikely to bet two streets without a made hand, floating one here and saving your bets for the turn and river is viable as well.
Notice that when we do float, not only are we drawing to the nuts with a 9 and leaving the possibility open for a backdoor flush-draw, but if the turn should bring an ace or king – the two worst cards for our range versus our opponent’s – we actually add outs to our draw with either a double belly-buster on an ace or an open-ended straight draw on a king. These small nuances in hand-selection are ones that often escape the notice of inexperienced player, or are dismissed as not being overly important, when the truth of the matter is that adding even just a tiny bit of equity time and time again over thousands and tens-of-thousands of hands will add up in an incredibly significant manner.
In position against loose opponents.
Take the same scenario as the one above – holding JTs in position but this time versus a loose-aggressive opponent. For the sake of this discussion, let’s ignore the fact that we would almost assuredly three-bet with such a strong hand against this opponent-type and assume we elected to flat (perhaps due to ICM consideration in late-stage tournament-play).
In contrast to the first scenario where we float the flop because we expect our tight opponent to slow down on later streets, this time we’re floating specifically because we know our loose opponent won’t!
By letting our aggressive opponent continue to bet at an unsustainable rate (after all, the laws of averages and card-distribution dictates that you simply can’t have enough value hands to justify continuous betting), we follow the spider-approach to poker where we lay out our trap and patiently wait for our prey. Therefore, floating the flop with the intention of raising the turn (which we’ll often follow up with a river bet), or floating both the flop and turn with the expectation of shoving a wide-range of river-cards that put our opponent’s value range in a difficult spot, will both be incredibly powerful plays that by and large fall outside the abilities of most recreational players.
It’s important to note the difference between these two strategies and not expect the latter opponent to slow down or give us a window to steal it away. This makes it a much more difficult play to pull off and thus must be approached with caution for less-experienced players. In fact, practising floating exclusively while in position against tight opponents (with hands that have equity!), is the ideal way to begin adding this powerful strategy into your game. Remember, just because you understand the theory behind the play, doesn’t necessarily make it easy to execute properly when playing against opponents in real-time. Therefore, make sure not only to attempt this in-game, but to then return to the hand-history after the game has been completed and review the various aspects of each unique situation and analyze whether it was in fact a good spot to employ the float. Put in this type of work consistently and before long you’ll be out there floating like an Olympian in no time at all.
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