I had someone ask me a few weeks back to explain the concept of “floating” to them as they had seen the term inside some poker magazine and not understood what was being talked about. Well anyone who has read Supersystem will be aware of it and many people have read that book but Doyle calls it something else and many people may have not spotted that what Doyle was referring to was in fact “floating”.
Floating is the process of calling a flop bet without much of a hand in order to try and create the thought in your opponents mind that you have a powerful hand and are deliberately letting them take the lead and bluff their stack off to you. It is psychological in nature and when done well and at the right time creates fear in your opponents mind.
You obviously do not have pot odds or any kind of odds when you do this but floating is not about odds except perhaps the odds that you can pull it off successfully which is a different thing. But calling a bet on the flop with nothing is totally alien to how many novice and even intermediate players play the game. They either fold the junk or re-raise on a bluff, but calling…..yuk!
But let me make one thing perfectly clear right here and now, floating is a very powerful weapon to have in your arsenal but it is also a very dangerous weapon that can lead to you hurting yourself as well if you are not careful. This is why position is very important when you make this type of play and only against a single opponent.
But looking at the situation from the eyes of your opponent for a minute. Let us say that the flop is J 6 2 and they are in the big blind after calling your pre-flop raise with A 10 (weak play). They are thinking down the lines of,
“my opponent has raised pre-flop, they may have a hand or they may not but if I check this flop then to win this hand I will either have to check and call and probably have to hit something on the turn or re-raise on the flop but this escalates the pot and could cost me more money if they really do have a hand. The flop is rainbow and ragged so they have unlikely hit it….I will therefore bet the flop”
Chances are that they will not think like this but this is just one possible potential line of thinking out of a very large number. So they bet about two thirds of the pot and you call with your 8-5. A pre-flop aggressor who is now merely acting weak but yet still prepared to be in the hand after a flop bet will act like an alarm bell to many players.
Now your call has put them into an awkward situation where they now have to fire a second barrel at a bigger pot in order to keep the initiative….harder to do and especially if you select your targets right (Poker Tracker will help you out here).
Plus the chances of hitting any hand that your opponent may have been drawing to in some semi-bluff has just been diminished after the turn card arrives and action on the turn now looks very scary to your opponent and your added position helps you to intimidate him even more.
But like I have said, floating is a very dangerous but effective weapon. Bit like having a gun for personal defence. It will keep you safe if used properly but could also kill the user if handled badly. Floating in the right circumstances can give you 100% equity in the pot when you get your opponent to fold the best hand but is very expensive when it goes wrong (to which I have found out to my painful cost recently in some low stakes games).
You need to have certain factors in place for a floating tactic to be effective. Knowing your opponents very well is an absolute must. If they are good players who are strong enough to fire a second barrel or good flop readers who may be putting you on some kind of draw then this strategy will work a lot less.
You also have to be far more careful in weak games against weak players making this kind of play because it simply goes over their hands (hang my head in shame here) most of the time and you simply end up burning money and then it becomes a serious leak in your game. But in better games then you also need to be aware of what your table image is if you are to float successfully.
If you have been caught floating or bluffing recently by any of these players then your chances have diminished before you even start or if you have just been active a lot simply by being on a rush of strong hands then this is going to look like you are bullying or attempting to bully the table. Your opponents might be multi-tabling or watching TV (if they are playing online poker that is) but you cannot allow for that.
How you are playing your hands at this moment in time and over the past few hands is affecting how the other players are playing whether you are aware of it or not. The game itself is like a constantly moving sand dune, forever changing shape. But if you can home in on what your opponents are doing at the table then floating when done properly can add an awful lot of money to your bankroll by the year end.
Carl “The Dean” Sampson can also be found playing free poker