If you are reading this article, you have probably already mastered the basics, such as preflop raises and flop c-bets, and are ready for more advanced topics.
A float is a name the poker community gives to a particular advanced play applied on the flop when defending against opponents' c-bets.
You may have learned which hands are strong enough to call with on the flop for value and which hands you should turn into bluffs, but you are about to learn how to continue with some hands in your flop range that you were probably folding up to this point.
Note that floating in poker is reserved for specific situations and only works against particular types of players at a high frequency, which is why you should be careful and not use it too much.
Let’s go ahead and explain how floating works, when you can apply it, and why it’s a play that will increase your win rates.
A float is a name we use to describe the action of calling a flop bet with a very marginal hand, one that is very likely to be beaten and that's unlikely to be strong enough to take to the showdown.
Yet, hands we float flops with are often those that have enough backdoor equity to occasionally make the best hand by the river and ones that will serve as amazing turn bluff candidates.
There are several factors that play into a successful float in poker:
Floating is a play that works very well against opponents who like to c-bet too much but are not so aggressive to continue barreling on other streets if they entirely miss it.
Now that you have a general idea of what a float is, let’s look at a particular situation in which you can apply floating in your game.
Playing a $0.5/1 cash game online, a middle position player raises to $3, you call the button with Ac9c, and the blinds fold out.
With $7.5 in the pot, the dealer puts out a flop of Jc7h6h, and the original raiser puts out a bet of $4. The decision is now on you.
You have a hand that hasn’t connected with the board and is unlikely to be best at this point. Yet, this hand has some potential as a float.
If you call the bet here, you are representing many different hands, some of which are already strong and others with a lot of drawing potential, such as flush and straight draws.
There are countless turn cards that will favor your perceived range over your opponent's, and that will freeze him from putting in more bets on the turn, depending on his actual holding.
Your opponent’s range will still have many hands like AK, AQ, KQ, KT, and others that will not be too happy on many different turns. Conversely, you will have a position on the turn, and you will be able to represent hands like straights and flushes when the right cards peel off.
Whenever another club rolls off on the turn, you will have a hand that plays brilliantly as a bluff since it will give you a flush draw. Even cards like a T or 8 will give you a straight draw and some extra equity.
What works most in your favor is the fact that many different cards will make your perceived range even stronger, giving you potential straights, flushes, two pairs, etc.
You will be able to steal this pot a lot of the time, even if your opponent does choose to fire another bet on the turn.
Imagine the turn being a card like the 5c and your opponent firing a bet of $8 into the $15.5 pot. You will be in a prime position to make a raise and represent having made a straight or a flush, putting his strong hands like AA, KK, QQ, or AJ in the blender.
If he checks on cards like this, you will be able to win the pot more often than not, even with a small bet and not particularly expensive for you.
Finally, sometimes, you will be able to make your hand by the river and have a straight, flush, or top pair by the time all is said and done.
By floating the flop, you will open up a range of opportunities that didn't present themselves to you previously when you played ABC poker and folded this hand on the flop.
Like all things in poker, you should not observe floating in terms of any particular hand. Instead, you should think about creating a range with which you wish to float on different boards.
By adding hands into your standard flop calling range, which will typically consist of the obvious hands, you will be able to defend more on the flop and become more difficult to play against.
For example, consider the board of 9s7h4c, which is a rainbow board with many potential straight draws and some possible two-pair hands.
Obviously, you will want to continue against the bet with all the made hands like 99, 88, 44, 97, A9, K9s, T9s, 87s, etc. You will also continue with hands like T8s, 86s, 65s, etc. if these are still in your range on the flop.
However, defending only these hands on this board will allow your opponent to bet his entire range and make a profit simply by barreling the flop. Too often, you will have a hand that has no obvious connection with this board texture.
For that reason, you will need to create a floating range and add some hands into your overall defending range on a flop like this.
The ideal candidates to add to your defending range are hands that:
Some very obvious candidates are hands like AQs, AJs, ATs, KQs, and KJs, in any of the three suites represented on the flop. Each of these hands has the potential to turn a flush draw, with some of them also having the potential to turn a straight draw.
By adding these hands on top of the more obvious calls like JTs and J8s, which already have a straight draw, you will have a range that defends with proper frequency, especially against a smaller bet sizing.
Whenever you face a flop bet in position, you should evaluate the board carefully and consider which hands are the best potential floats that can get some extra equity on many turn cards.
You never want to float with hands that have almost no potential to improve into a strong hand, as these can easily make up the folding portion of your range, which you also need to have.
Floating in poker is an extremely effective way to make it more difficult for your opponents to play against you by adding more hands into your flop defending range. Yet, this does not mean you should start blindly floating with a ton of hands across all types of boards. In fact, there are some boards where you barely want to float at all.
Namely, boards that give the original raiser a great range advantage should not be floated too much. If the flop comes Ah9c4d, or Kd7c3h, the number of floats you should have should be much lower.
Of course, you can still float with some backdoor draws on these boards, but it is important to examine your opponent’s potential range first.
Early position raisers will tend to smash these types of boards, and recklessly floating against them will not be a great plan. Similarly, you should sometimes give up on floats when your opponents continue aggression on the turn, and you don't add any equity.
In these cases, your hand becomes very hard to play as either a bluff or a double float, and giving up is often your best course of action.
You should be able to pick up the pot enough times after your opponent gives up on the turn that you don’t need to pursue further action if a bad turn card comes and they continue firing.
We have previously stated that floating in poker is best done in position, and it definitely is. Yet, there are plenty of spots where you can float OOP as well.
A great example of floating out of position is when you call a preflop raise in the big blind, and a flop comes something like 7x7x4x or 9x6x3x.
Your opponents will often fire on these boards with their entire range but rarely connect with the flop.
Plenty of hands can be turned into a check-raise semi-bluff in these spots, but floating some of the time is also a good strategy as it balances out your ranges.
By calling with hands like king-high and ace-high backdoor flush draws in these situations, you will give yourself a chance to make top pair, a flush draw, or a flush by the river, along with the ability to bluff at it with air when the opponent checks back the turn.
Note that you should not start leading out turns after you float the flop OOP. Check almost every time after you call the flop, just as you would do with all your strong hands. If they check back, you will have a great stealing spot on the river if you don’t improve.
Floating is one of those plays that many poker players never learn to properly apply, but that can completely change your entire game and turn you from an average player into a big winner.
Knowing when to float and which card combos to use as floats on different boards will transform your game and make it much harder for your opponents to exploit you.
Keep in mind that floating should be reserved for players who think about the game at least somewhat and that you should not try to float calling stations that will call down your turn and river bluffs regardless of their hand.
Also, remember which boards are not great for floating, and make sure to give up on your float attempts when the aggressor goes for multiple barrels.
Combine all these tips and skills, and you will form an ideal floating strategy that will give you a huge edge in your games and make you a better poker player.
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