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Explain Poker Like I’m Five: Floating

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Mar 18, 2015


When you’ve played poker for years, it’s easy to forget that technical poker speak may as well be a different language. Many players just picked up a deck of cards for the first time and are wondering what the hell a reverse implied range merge against a large stack to pot ratio is.

Maybe you are new to poker as well and want to start analyzing the game at a deeper level, but the lingo and foreign concepts get in the way. To help, _Card Player_ brings you this brand new series, Explain Poker Like I’m Five.

Every issue, we’ll take on a new term or idea, perhaps one you might come across elsewhere in this very magazine, and we’ll break it down to its simplest components.

The Concept: Floating

What Is It?

Calling a bet or a raise with the intention of stealing the pot with a bluff on a later street, even though you don’t currently have the equity to justify a call. Advanced players will often float in order to show strength without having to inflate the pot with a raise of their own.

Okay, Now Explain It Like I’m Five

Floating is calling with the worst hand in order to bluff on a later street.

Give Me An Example

A player raises in middle position and you call on the button with 6Spade Suit 5Spade Suit. The blinds fold and the two of you see a flop of JDiamond Suit JHeart Suit 9Diamond Suit. Your opponent then fires in a continuation bet of a little more than half the pot.

At this point, your hand has no value and you could easily fold and move on to the next one. However, you know that your opponent always makes a continuation bet when he is the preflop aggressor, so there’s a good chance that this flop missed him entirely.

You would like to take this pot away from him, but rather than raising now, you’d like to keep the pot small and see what he does on the turn. So instead, you decide to float, which is calling his bet.

The turn is the 2Spade Suit and your opponent checks. You bet half the pot and your opponent folds. Perhaps he folded A-K or a medium pocket pair. Either way, your float allowed you to take down the pot with the worst hand for the minimum price.

Of course, there are times when a float can backfire. Suppose this time, the turn is the same 2Spade Suit and your opponent bets again. Now, you know there is a good chance that you are beat and you have to fold, sacrificing the chips you used to call on the flop. Or, the turn is the KHeart Suit and your opponent bets. Now, by floating the flop instead of raising, you may have allowed your opponent to hit, and, once again, you are forced to sacrifice your call. There is also the chance your opponent will check-raise on the turn, making you lose not only your flop call, but your turn bet as well.

Floating is one of the more advanced plays to add to your poker arsenal, but it is best used in position against more predictable players who tend to play their medium- to low-strength hands passively after the flop. ♠