There are many skills needed to succeed in poker, some will be easy to learn and others will take time. It’s important to add as many skills and moves to your poker arsenal as possible to keep opponents on their toes. Of the more advanced plays you can learn, “floating” will be a play that can become one of the most important to learn. Floating in poker is both a defensive and offensive maneuver while playing. This is why learning the concept is vital to succeed in poker.
So what is floating in poker?
Floating is when you call a bet on the flop with the intention of taking the pot away on the turn or possibly river. When performing the float, your cards really won’t matter all that much. The goal is to take the pot away on the turn or river by betting, thus we rely less on our hand strength and more on our hand reading skills. This play will take time to master but it’s easy to start implementing into your game right away.
The theory behind floating is simple. When someone raises pre flop it’s very likely they will fire a continuation bet on the flop. We know that making a hand in poker is difficult and will not happen as often as we would like. Therefore we can determine that our opponents’ continuation bets will not always represent genuine strength. This makes floating in specific situations profitable by allowing us to take a pot away when we believe the player has no real hand.
Of the many factors involved when floating, the most important two are being heads up with your opponent and having position on them as well. It’s important to be heads up because trying to take a pot away from more than one person is tough enough let alone when we have no hand. Also, if someone bets into more than one opponent it’s more likely they have a real hand, making the float a negative play. Position is crucial as well, because our game plan relies on our opponent checking or giving up on the turn or river allowing us to take the pot away. If we are out of position and check, we are giving up the hand and conceding control to the other player.
A typical pretty good player will c-bet on average about 60% of the time. Making a pair with two random cards will happen roughly 31% of the time. This is a big gap in how often a person c-bets and how often they will actually make a pair. This is just an example and we will need to add in the times our opponent has a pocket pair or makes a draw. This can be offset by the times our opponent does make a pair but it is a very weak pair that has little value and is basically the same as having nothing. If we always fold when we have nothing to a c-bet we are letting our opponent off very easy and most importantly losing money. This is where the float comes into play. We can think of it as, “keeping them honest”.
The next information we will need to gather will be how aggressive a player is. This play will work best against someone who is not overly aggressive and less keen on firing 3 barrels. Overly aggressive players will not give up on a hand and floating with no made hand will waste money. This play will also not work against players who are passive and call down with very weak hands. The ideal player to perform this move against will be a good player, or at least someone who has a fold button. I know this may seem odd, but good players know how to fold and don’t play overly aggressive for the most part. They also will fire c-bets with enough frequency that we will need to start floating them on occasion.
If you play online and use a HUD, all of these stats will be found easily. You want to look at c-bet, and turn c-bet stats. Often times we will see a player c-bet a high percentage, but give up the turn fairly often. When playing live try to keep track of how many times a player does these particular plays.
The next criteria that will determine if floating will work is the board texture. Certain board types will be better options to float. A flop of will be less likely to connect with someone else’s hand. In theory a person raising pre-flop is more likely to have high cards than any other combination of cards. This makes a board texture described above unlikely to hit our opponent’s hand. This is also a very good board to c-bet since a good player will know we will not have a hand in this spot a large portion of the time. Board textures of this type will get c-bet with a higher frequency than others, making the float an excellent choice to continue the hand.
It’s also important to note, you must continue with your plan when deciding to float. If you float and then give up on the turn, you are just calling and wasting money. There may be times that we can check behind. For example if we make a second pair and we now have some showdown value, checking behind might be a better option, but that’s for another article. For the purpose of this discussion, you must always plan on taking the pot away on the turn when shown weakness.
An example of a successful float play
We hold in the cutoff. We call a raise from middle position and the flop comes down . Our opponet c-bets as expected. We elect to call and see what happens on the turn. If checked to again on the turn we will bet regardless of what the card is. We have a read on our opponent that he gives up on the turn a good bit. The turn brings the . Our opponent checks to us, we bet and force the player to fold.
There will be times when we will have the plan of taking the pot away on the river. Some players will fire a flop and turn bet with great frequency that can be exploited in the same way. The concept remains the same with the only difference being when we take the pot away.
We can see it is quite simple to perform the actual float. The difficulty lies in the timing of it. This is a more advanced concept and will take time to learn when exactly to use it. It will not work 100% of the time but if performed correctly at the right times, in the long run it will be a profitable play. You may also start to see some side effects of performing the float. If we are doing this correctly our opponents may notice that we are floating a lot, and elect to start c-betting less. This will start to give us free cards and let us take many pots away on the flop while risking less. This is where the defensive aspect of the float comes into play.
If you’re eager to start implementing this into your poker toolbox, start practicing your hand reading skills and watching your opponents. Note who c-bets too much, gives up on the turn and so forth. Floating in poker is a powerful tool that will begin to advance your play and get you ready to move up in limits, ultimately making more money.