Floating

When it is likely that you do not have the best hand and have little chance to improve, it is fundamentally a bad play to call just to see another card. However, there are certain instances where you can exploit particular opponents by calling their flop bet with the intention of winning with a bluff later on. This is called floating.

Online poker is rampant with players who c-bet often but barrel infrequently. The most common way to exploit them is to float their flop bet and then fire the turn when checked to. Using my strategy, this situation will most often arise blind versus blind. When folded to in the small blind, some players will open a very wide range. They will then c-bet the flop 100% of the time and give up on the turn unimproved, believing they are making a profitable long-term play.

Most of the time they will be right. But attentive players can and should exploit them often via a float. I keep c-bet and barrel stats in my HUD for quick reference during play if I am open raised by the small blind. If my opponent c-bets over 80% of the time but barrels less than 40%, I will call pre-flop in position with any two cards.

When facing an open from a position other than the small blind it is very difficult to float as a call will have you playing out of position. And making pre-flop calls to attempt floats from outside the blinds puts you at risk of being squeezed. As a result, you will not have many opportunities to float as a short stack player. Only under certain circumstances can you employ this move profitably. And until you are skilled in assessing ranges, player tendencies, and equity, you are better off avoiding complicated floats altogether.

Here are some examples of floats:

Example #13.1: Floating with air No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($49.25)
CO ($55.70)
Button ($56.87)
SB ($51) Opens 45% from the SB Hero (BB) ($15)

Preflop: Hero is BB with Q♥, 9♣
3 folds, SB bets $1, Hero calls $0.50
A standard call against a wide opening range.

Flop: ($2) 5♥, 2♣, 7♠ (2 players)
SB bets $1.34, Hero calls $1.34
The SB continuation bets a very dry board, and the Hero floats.

Turn: ($4.68) J♠ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $2.34,1 fold
The SB checks, and Hero’s holding is irrelevant as he bets and takes down the pot.
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Example #13.2: Following through on a float No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($74.95)
CO ($31.25)
Button ($168.59)
SB ($36.50) Opens 60% from the SB Hero (BB) ($15.18)

Preflop: Hero is BB with 5♥, 3♦
3 folds, SB bets $1, Hero calls $0.50 Hero calls with plans to float.

Flop: ($2) 10♥, J♦, 8♠ (2 players)
SB bets $0.50, Hero calls $0.50
The SB min-bet leads. Raising is tempting, but on this board there are a lot of hands Villain may be going for a check-raise on. Hero instead floats.

Turn: ($3) 4♠ (2 players)

SB checks, Hero bets $2, SB calls $2

The SB checks a blank turn, and Hero follows through on his float but is called.

River: ($7) 6♥ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $3.50, 1 fold
SB checks again and Hero double barrels his float to try and get folds from showdown value and air hands that beat him, as it is unlikely that Villain has top pair. Sometimes players will check- call the turn hoping you will check back the river and let them take their weak made hand to showdown. There is no need to bet large as our opponent may be more likely to call if our bet looks suspiciously big.
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Sometimes you will find the opportunity to turn your float into a bluffing opportunity when barreled on the turn. The following example illustrates how to do so:

Example #13.3: Semi-bluff raising a turn scare card

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (4 handed)

CO ($51.67)
Button ($45.25)
SB ($50)
Hero (BB) ($19.15)

Preflop: Hero is BB with K♠, 10♦
2 folds, SB bets $1.50, Hero calls $1

Flop: ($3) 3♠, 5♠, 6♥ (2 players)
SB bets $2.50, Hero calls $2.50
Hero floats with overs and backdoor flush draw.

Turn: ($8) Q♠ (2 players)
SB bets $5.50, Hero raises to $15.15 (All-In), 1 fold
The turn brings an over and a possible flush. We likely have 25% equity when called, so our opponent has to fold less than half the time for this to be a profitable shove.

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