The Art of Floating in Poker


In every game, players try to develop new and inventive strategies to gain an advantage over other players in the game. This is especially true in poker as the games are played with real money against many real people, all going head-to-head in each round. While video poker is a very popular form of the card game, most strategies are built and applied to the table game. One strategy that has become very popular in recent times was created to simply block another very popular poker strategy. Applying to the forms of poker with a post-flop betting round, the strategy of floating in games like Texas hold’em poker and Omaha poker has been discovered as an apt defence for the technique of continuation betting. This is everything that you need to know about floating to add it to your arsenal.

What is floating in poker?

The player receives their hand as two high cards of the same suit. This is the kind of hand that could make someone logically make a continuation bet. Source: 

First off, it’s important to understand the positioning strategy of poker, in which the place that you sit at the table for each hand influences how you bet. For example, players who initiate continuation betting – which floating is designed to defend against – are often by those in position against a single opponent who has checked on the flop. But, this isn’t the only time that the strategy is deployed. The general idea of continuation betting is to take the pot in the opening round working on thinking that most of the time, a player’s hand will not improve on the flop. It’s effectively an intimidation tactic to achieve small gains.

So, floating has been created to combat this very popular strategy. It’s a very simple concept: when you believe that a player is betting on the flop simply to get the pot there and then (the continuation bet), you call (most commonly if you’re in position) to stay in the hand and then take the pot when the opponent checks. It has proven to be quite a successful deterrent and combatant of the aggressive continuation betting strategy when deployed correctly.  

When should I float in poker?

Showing the very best possible hand in many forms of poker, the royal flush. Players will rarely play for this outcome, but it does happen from time to time. Source: 

There are many aspects to consider here, such as the ideal conditions for floating in poker, the types of players to float, how often to float in a game of poker, and the value of the flop. Starting with the ideal conditions; when you’re playing live poker, you’ll want to be heads-up on the flop, not in a multi-way pot, and be prepared to target medium and large stacks. If you shoot for small stacks on a large pot, others could easily call or go all-in leaving it down to the value of your hand. As for the players to float against, you’ll want to target very aggressive players as they tend to open fire on flops without having much in their hand and it should help to manage them and slow their game. You should also keep tabs on others who you see raise pre-flop and their reaction when they get called – such as if they give up on the turn.

While the continuation bet doesn’t necessarily require much timing or finesse, using the float strategy does. It can be a profitable technique which, if used early to success, can deter continuation attempts in the future. However, it can be a dangerous way to play, and you need to know beforehand that your opponent is willing to fold. The dangerous aspect is that you may be playing with very little information and the bets can get big very quickly if your target calls or raises in the next phase. If you’ve found yourself a favourable opponent, it then comes down to flop. If someone has raised in an early position, you’ll be looking for a close, low-to-medium texture flop where a couple of the cards are of the same suit as this should help to weed out most of the opposition who have come in playing high cards. It’s also important to know when to give up on a float. Due to the many variables at play, not every flop will work out. So, as a general rule to play this poker strategy by, try not to float on contain card combinations like a king and queen, king and jack, jack and ten, or jack and nine because these boards are likely to have a hit or have outs.

When should I avoid floating in poker?

When cards are revealed, even a strong hand like two aces to make four-of-a-kind can be defeated by a mighty royal flush. Source: 

Given the need for timing and strategic deployment, you shouldn’t be afraid to play the long game and avoid pulling a float too early in the game. As with many tactics in poker games like Omaha and Texas hold’em, it’s never a bad idea to play easy and get a feel for your opponents before trying anything too risky such as floating. Sometimes, the very aggressive players and continuation bettors reveal themselves early, so as long as you can avoid falling into their traps early on, you should be able to impose some floating should they attempt such tactics again.

Another time to avoid floating is when you’re not going for a heads-up pot. The poker strategy is designed for one player to combat the one player who has opted to go for a continuation bet. It’s also less advised if your opponent has a far superior stack to yours as they can simply play you out of the game: always come in to float if you’re at a similar strength if not stronger than your opponent. You should also look to deploy the float when in position and not when out of position because it grants you the advantage of potentially picking up on their weakness should they check on the turn.

The strategy of floating in poker is quite a specific tactic to have ready in your arsenal. However, given the huge volume of players online and at live tournaments who try to deploy very aggressive strategies or continuation betting, it is very useful to keep in your back pocket just as a way to take back control of a game and perhaps foil an opponent’s cheap attempts to grab quick pots. 



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