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The Art of the Float in No Limit Hold'em

The Art of the "Float" in No Limit Hold'em
by Daniel Johnson of

These days No-Limit Holdem is even more complicated in terms of strategy than it was just a few short years ago. Most players know how to be aggressive from position and continuation bet flops, but there's a couple of ways to combat them. Obviously being observant and paying attention to what your opponents are doing during a cash session or tournament is the first step in being able to pull of some more creative maneuvers, but you also have to learn how and when to execute them. One of these more complicated, but often effective moves is called "floating".

Before online poker floating was simply known as calling with the intention to bluff on later streets, but despite the name change, the move is the same. The thing to realize is this move is only effective in position and should only be implemented when in a heads-up (*See our article on Heads Up Strategy pot. When you are floating you are essentially representing a made hand on the flop. You want your opponent to think you are trapping so that he/she will check and then you can take down the pot with a bluff.

You should look for spots where you can float, but like any move in poker, it shouldn't be forced. Don't float someone just because you want it to work or just because the pot is really big; you have to be confident that it WILL work before you try it.

One thing you have to be sure of before you float is what type of player you are up against. You have to be fairly sure that this player is capable of continuation betting a wide range of hands on the flop and also that the player will slow down once he/she sees that you have called the continuation bet. If you are up against a very aggressive player that has been double and triple barrel bluffing, then floating won't work. Floating should be used against fairly experienced players because the art of the float is all about putting the thought in your opponent's mind that you have some kind of made hand. If you are playing against a level one thinker, he/she might be completely unaware of what your call is supposed to mean and just bet again anyway.

Floating in position and heads-up is also the only way to go. If you are out of position you simply don't know what your opponent is going to do behind you so it's very hard to check call a flop on a float and then lead the turn. Your opponent will probably not believe you most of the time because it seems a little too strange. Also floating against only one opponent is a necessity because obviously it would be harder to bluff multiple players; one of them is likely to have something.

Another thing to consider is the board. Dry boards are easier to float on for a couple of reasons. One is that your opponents are less likely to have strong hands or strong draws that they could continue betting with. Another is that your future bluff will be more believable. Why would you call with nothing on a dry board? To your opponents, your hand looks strong since there are few or no draws that you could have.

You can float on boards with possible draws sometimes as long as you use scare cards. Always be aware of what your opponents may have and what turn cards could scare them. If they continuation bet a flop like 8 4 10 and you float and then the turn comes something like a J, 7 or 9, it's probably a good time to bluff. There are many straight draws you could have been calling with on the flop that would have connected with this turn. When you are floating or bluffing in general you should always be thinking about what hands you can represent to make the bluff seem more plausible.

There are many things to consider before floating as we have seen. It's an important addition to your game because it gives you more opportunities to win uncontested pots and pots that other players might not be capable of winning. It's another weapon that if used properly, can give you an edge. It's also a move that doesn't have to cost you too much when it doesn't work, because if an opponent calls your turn float, you can always get away cheaply and wait for another spot. The main thing is to always be aware of your opponents and what they are doing. Keep an open mind to adjusting and changing gears when you are playing and don't be afraid to try moves like floating if you think they will work. It is risky, but this is poker and sometimes you have to take risks to reap the rewards.

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