In the game of poker, there are a ton of different advanced moves that professionals use from time to time in order to maximize their earnings. While most of these advanced moves are for use only when you have a strong hand, there are still a couple of moves that can be used when you have a weak hand. One of these moves that is good when you hold weak hands is known as floating, and it is essential for poker players to learn this move if they don’t want their bankroll to drown.
Floating can be defined as facing a bet and deciding to call it with a hand of low strength with intention of stealing the pot at a later point in the hand. This is a move that is always done after the flop is dealt and when you are against only one other player.
Who Should You Float?
A float is a great way to take advantage of another player who continuation-bets far too often. A continuation bet is when a player who raised before the flop makes a bet on the flop. In today’s aggressive poker environment, there are tons of players who fit this description, since poker coaches and online training sites have been advocating a strategy that involves a large number of continuation bets for over a decade.
You should be floating these players any chance you get in order to take the hand away from them on a later street. Most players who continuation-bet too often are quick to check the turn and then fold to big bets, so we recommend taking advantage of this.
Another player that is ideal to float is one who often folds whenever scary cards come on later streets. If you are playing in a casino, someone who is a senior citizen will normally fit this bill perfectly. For example, any time you call an old man’s bet, an ace comes on the turn, and he checks to you, this is basically free money if you try to steal the pot. This is also true for situations where a turn or river card comes that completes a flush or a straight draw, as this will regularly induce folds from players who hate scary cards.
The third type of player that qualifies as a floating target is a player that usually bets on the turn for value when they have a big hand because they are afraid of getting sucked out on, and then they check when they are weak.
Any time a player routinely checks the turn when they are weak, they instantly become a candidate for constant floating action, in our opinion.
This is because they simply do not have enough strong hands in their checking range to withstand a constant barrage of bets on the turn after being a victim of the almighty float move. If they do happen to call your bet, you can comfortably bet the river as a bluff, unless the river completes a draw of some sort, since you know that the strong hands in their range would have bet on the turn in this situation.
Where Should You Float From?
When it comes to what position you should perform the float move from, you can do it while you are either in position or out of position. They each have their own benefits, and both moves can be profitable if they are used properly.
Out of Position
While an out-of-position float is sometimes used by some professionals, it is not nearly as popular as a float from a player who is in position during the hand. However, just because a move is not popular does not mean that it is not effective. In fact, some of the more effective moves in poker are ones that the general public has not caught on to yet.
Let’s say you call a raise when you are in the big blind with nine-ten of spades. The flop comes three-seven-king with three different suits, and the original raiser makes a continuation bet.
These sorts of dry flops that do not have many draws involved are great for the out-of-position float, because the original raiser is more likely to be betting with air. It is also preferable to have some sort of backdoor draw in case you misread your opponent, which you do have in this case.
Calling this continuation bet with just ten high might feel risky or reckless, but there is a method to this madness. As long as you have good instincts and timing, you should be able to figure out when to show aggression to take down the pot. This will either come in the form of a check-raise on the turn after the original raiser bets again or on the river where you bet after the original raiser checked behind when you checked on the turn.
Floating in position is a much safer way to go about executing the float maneuver. The reason for this is because you have the luxury of seeing what your opponents do before you act, unlike when you are out of position. This happens to be a huge advantage when you are floating with a weak hand, because some players use a tight strategy against players who have a positional advantage on them.
Let’s assume you have nine-ten of spades again, but your position is on the button this time. The player to your right makes a raise before the flop, and you are the only player who called the bet. The flop once again comes three-seven-king with three different suits, and the original raiser makes a continuation bet.
Even though this is the same flop and you have the same hand as the example when you floated out of position, you can still do the float play here, even though you are in a different position now. The success of this play in position will probably be higher than the success of the out-of-position float, but both moves are necessary to an effective overall poker strategy so that you can always keep your opponents guessing.
Just like in the out-of-position float move, it is preferable to have some sort of sneaky backdoor flush draw or straight draw on the flop when making this play. If you happen to hit these draws while in position, you will be able to punish your opponent with big river raises, and they will have a hard time believing that you had strength on the flop and still like your hand once the river is dealt. However, you will not always need to hit these big draws, since you will routinely steal pots without any showdown occurring.
How will you steal these theoretical pots? Well, you will either be able to bet on the turn after your opponent checks, or you will be able to check behind on the turn and then bet or raise on the river, depending what your opponent does. The turn bluff, while you are in position, will work more often than it did when you were out of position, since your opponent already showed weakness.
Why Should You Float?
We like to include floating in our repertoire of poker moves because we feel that it will make us more money in the long run. There is something positive to be said for being completely unpredictable, because you build up a reputation for sometimes calling bets with absolutely nothing.
The toughest thing for beginners to understand about floating is that you have to forget about the strength of your hand and start to play the players. By doing this, you can exploit your opponent’s tendencies and punish them if they are too loose or too aggressive in certain situations.
People are far too preoccupied with what two cards they hold in their hand, because they are too afraid to look like a donkey if they get caught calling bets or making bets with a bad hand. The truth is that great players have bad hands all the time; they just know how to conceal this fact better than others. This fear of looking stupid is exactly why floating is not as popular of a play as it should be, and it really holds some people back from realizing their full potential as a poker player.
When Should You Avoid Floating?
Now that you understand everything about who, where, and why to float, the next step to becoming a floating expert is to know when you should avoid floating. The best way to know when to do a poker move is to fully understand how to detect when you should not be doing it.
The basic rules of floating indicate that you must be on the flop in order to execute a float maneuver and that you must be facing only one other player on that particular hand. However, it is not enough to just know the basic guidelines for a move if you want to fully understand everything about it and when to avoid executing it.
One of the times when you should avoid floating is when you are against an opponent that is “sticky.” Sticky is a poker term for someone who has a lot of trouble folding marginal hands like a small pair or an inside straight draw. Obviously, characteristics like this are not what you are looking for in your opponent when you are trying a bluff. Within a few rounds at the table, you should be able to determine who fits this description, because you will see them resisting bets more often than they are folding to them.
Another time to avoid trying a float move is if the table you are currently sitting at has already seen you unsuccessfully attempt to do one. This move is best done while you are flying under the radar and you have a tight image.
Once players begin to recognize a pattern and start fighting back against your turn and river bluffs after you float the flop, you can switch gears back to playing ABC poker and just wait for a good hand.
This will allow you to build your image back up and show people that you don’t just play bad hands so that you can then go right back to floating again!
A third time when we like to avoid implementing floats into our strategy is when we are at a table where our edge is so great that we don’t need to do anything fancy. Therefore, we never float. Just kidding, but in all seriousness, you need to be able to recognize when you are at a wild table that plays really reckless and silly so that you can effectively switch gears to a more conservative strategy.
In the game of poker, you have two options: you can float, or you can drown.
Everybody wants to stay above water with their bankroll, which is why we recommend using the float maneuver as a great way to raise your current win rate. These moves will also decrease your level of predictability, and you can really start to play mind games with your opponents as long as you know who, when, where, and why to float.