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Floating

By Tony Guerrera

A term that’s gotten increased exposure recently, especially among the internet kids, is “floating.” Though floating is a relatively new term, the line of play it describes is far from new, and it’s a line of play that’s an essential part of your arsenal if you wish to play hold’em at its highest levels.

Floating refers to calling with the intention of bluffing later in the hand. For example, your opponent raises from the cutoff to three big blinds. Action folds to you, and you’re sitting in the big blind with 62o. Even if you put the cutoff on a pure steal (in other words, you put the cutoff on a random hand), your 62o is way behind his distribution. If we’re looking at hand values in the pure context of hit-to-win poker, it’s a horrible hand that you should fold.

However, thinking about hand values under the hit-to-win paradigm goes out the window when you start thinking of how you can outplay your opponents postflop. In this article, we’ll explore various types of floats that you can use to your advantage and lines of defense to use against players who may be floating against you.

Floating Out-Of-Position

Taking the hand example from the introduction, suppose the preflop raiser is an inveterate continuation bettor. If that’s the case, a potentially profitable line of play with your 62o is to call the raise preflop with the intention of check-raising your foe on the flop. An alternative line of play is to call the preflop raise with the intention of check-calling the flop, checking on the turn to see what your opponent does, and then betting out on the river if your opponent checks behind on the turn. This type of float is highly reliable against players who’ll only fire a bullet on the flop. Another type of float is employing a stop-and-go bluff. Call your opponent’s preflop raise and then lead out with a bet on the flop. Or, call your opponent’s raise and continuation bet and then lead out with a bet on the turn.

You can also float out-of-position against foes who’ve shown no aggression preflop. Perhaps the best time for this is limping from the small blind when either 0 or 1 players have limped in the pot before you. Check the flop to see what your opponents do, and if they check, lead out with a bet on the turn.

Floating In Position

Floating in position tends to be a bit easier. When an opponent raises preflop, you can call from the button or the cutoff in the hopes that the blinds fold. And while it’s best to be heads-up against the preflop raiser, having one of the blinds call and being against two opponents isn’t a disaster. If the preflop raiser bets, you can raise him immediately on the flop, or you can call him on the flop with the intention of showing aggression on the turn. The nice thing about floating in position is that you tend to have more information to work with. Your bluffs will usually have a higher probability of success.

Float With Care

Floating in a no-limit hold’em game can resemble going down white water rapids. It can be fun and rewarding, but you need to be careful because it’s also dangerous. Floating is an effective weapon, but you need to make sure you don’t to overuse it. Knowing how to float isn’t a license granting you permission to play every hand. Always think of timing and whether an opportunity is legitimately presenting itself.

One of the best times to float is when you have cards that warranted you getting involved in the first place. Perhaps you have AK, and you’ve missed the flop. Or perhaps you called a preflop raise with a small pocket pair looking to hit a set, but instead, three overcards have fallen. Don’t float every time these things happen to you; however, when they happen to you, do keep in mind that floating is an option. If you call preflop raises knowing that you can either hit the flop or consider floating if you miss the flop, then you’ll be playing with a rock-solid foundation (notice the precision of my wording here…I didn’t say “hit the flop or float;” I said “hit the flop or consider floating”).

Another great time to consider floating is when you have outs. Suppose you flop a flush draw, but your opponent plays such that you don’t know if you’ll get proper odds to continue. The additional equity you get from floating may allow you to stay in the pot…you have two ways of winning (hitting your hand or successfully bluffing) instead of just one. Conversely, a good time to consider floating with any two cards is when a potential draw is on the board…a draw that you can represent.

If you float too much, your opponents will eventually catch on, and they’ll either start trapping or rebluffing you. Both are undesirable situations, so to prevent your opponents from becoming too tricky against you, don’t float 100% of the time, but instead, mix up your play once in awhile to keep your opponents off guard and to steal an extra pot here and there. Though floating takes you beyond the realm of hit-to-win poker, successfully floating still requires the “snake in the grass” mentality where you sit around and wait for the right opportunities to strike.

Tony Guerrera is the author of Killer Poker By The Numbers


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