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Floating in NL Hold'em

Floating is a skill that is perceived as moderately advanced by many players, but is actually quite simple. Floats can and should be worked into your game with a bit of consistency. When you are able to give players the idea that you may or may not have anything when you call a flop bet, it gives you leverage as the hand gets to the later streets.

What is a Float

If you were unaware, a float is when a player calls a flop bet (while holding nothing) in hopes of taking the pot away on a later street. For the most part, floats are attempted on the flop, though you can also float the turn in certain situations. Floating is a popular and often times cost effective alternative to bluffing.

If you think your opponent has nothing when they make a bet on the flop, you could always go ahead and try to raise them out of the hand. While this strategy will work, it is also going to end up costing you a lot when you are wrong.

Floating will allow you to call the other player’s bet in hopes that they will slow down on the turn. If they fire another bet on the turn you will then have an opportunity to either exit the hand or make a play and try to take the pot down. The success of your floats will largely depend on the hands and boards that you are working with.

For example, floating on a draw-heavy flop will enable you to push someone out of a hand if the turn completes a draw. Floating on a dry board, however, will force you to represent a hand that made something on the flop. The ability to accurately portray a strong hand will be one of the largest determinants in whether or not your float bet works.

The Right Boards to Float

Knowing which boards you should and shouldn’t float is one of the most important skills to have. There will be never ending opportunities to float, but often times you will be better off simply giving up. The boards that are best to float will typically depend on a number of variables.

You should always consider the pre flop action in any given hand, how your opponent tends to play, and how many turn cards will give you a realistic shot at taking away the pot. If any of these factors is out of whack, it will make it tough for your float to actually work.

Pre flop action is information that is readily available to you and is generally easy to analyze. If the other player opened pre flop and led out with a smallish bet on the flop, there is a moderately good chance that they are making a continuation bet and will give up on the turn.

If, however, you opened the action preflop and got a caller who then led out on the flop, you should be more wary. This is a situation where your opponent can easily have a big draw or a made hand, both of which you should avoid.

If the flop has lots of big cards or cards that would otherwise scare your opponent based on the hand that you are putting them on, you might be in a good spot to float. For example, a player who c-bets on a J-Q-7 board with two spades will give up a large percentage of the time when another big card or a spade comes on the turn.

This is a time where you can call the flop bet because you know that you can represent a hand that beats your opponent on the turn. Plus, if they bet again on the turn, you will have a better opportunity to either re raise or get out of the hand completely. Floating on random boards like 7-6-J rainbow will make it difficult for you to scare someone on the turn, while J-Q-7 with a flush draw is going to scare off any hands that aren’t already made or chasing big draws.

The Right Players to Float

If your opponent is one of those players who can’t seem to ever find the fold button, don’t waste your time or money trying to float. You might be able to push them off a hand every once in a blue moon, but it will end up costing you money more often than not. The better strategy for these types of players is to wait around for big hands and squeeze out the most value possible.

It is poor strategy to bluff a calling station but it is also weak strategy to float a calling station. A float is going to work if, and only if, you are able to get folds. When a player leads out but is not prone to letting go of their hand no matter what they have, you are better off waiting for a more ideal situation.

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