Ask the Pro - Floating The Flop

Ask the Pro - Floating The Flop

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Poker is a game of strategy and counter strategy. Once some bright spark had invented the continuation bet as a license to print money, it became necessary to develop the float to shut the bastard down. Floating is calling the flop in position in with the intention of taking it away on the turn. Sounds pretty fancy, but risky too. What are the ideal conditions to float a flop? As we were hanging around the bar at the WPT Vienna and Bratislava recently, we decided to ask the pros.

Ruben “rubenrtv” Visser - Team Pokerstars Pro and WPT Vienna Day 1B chip leader

I think this is completely opponent-dependent. For instance, if you feel your opponent has the tendency to make a continuation bet on too many flops, it would be a good adjustment to call his bets with a wider range of hands. This is especially correct if he or she will often shut down on the turn and check-fold to your bet.

An example of a hand that would be nice to float with is QcTc on a 9-6-4 board with one club. This a board with which the pre-flop raiser does not connect very often, but you, as a caller, definitely could have connected with. Hence, you can represent a bunch of hands by calling his bet on the flop and are likely to win the pot on the turn by betting when your opponent checks. Furthermore, there are also quite a few turn cards+ which would improve your hand. Besides the obvious queen and ten, any club would give you a flush draw, while any J- K-7 or 8 will add a straight draw to your hand which can justify calling once more. This way, you can either hit a well-disguised hand or win the hand if your opponent checks the river.

So to summarise, you should try to float against players who c-bet too much, but are also likely to fold to your aggression on later streets. Try to float on boards which you (as a pre-flop caller) are likely to hit and not on boards that connect really well with the raising range of the pre-flop aggressor such as A-7-2 rainbow.

David Vamplew - EPT London winner and WPT Venice 3rd place finisher

Floating the flop, calling a flop bet with a weak hand with the intention of bluffing on a later street, is best used as a counter strategy versus players who continuation bet too often and/or do not tend to follow that up with further aggression.

It is best to stick to floating flop bets in position, as the advantage of acting last on the turn and river will be very important, since you will have neither a strong hand nor the betting initiative.

Good flops to float are those which do not hit your opponent's opening range very hard and on which you can still represent a big hand by flat calling. Something like 9-7-2 rainbow is an ideal board to float, since the big cards that make up most of your opponent’s opening range have rarely connected and yet they are likely to bet this flop close to 100% of the time. You can credibly represent a hand like 7-7 or 9-7 having flatted this flop since, if you actually did have such a strong hand, your opponent might expect you to just call and let them bluff later streets.

Something like J-T-8 with a flush draw is not such a great flop to float since your opponent is likely to expect you to raise most of your strong made hands on the flop because the board is draw heavy. This means that you cannot creditably represent a big hand.

It is also a good idea to try to have a hand that is able to pick up outs on the turn when floating. If you flop a backdoor flush or straight draw and float the flop, you also have the chance to make a strong and well-disguised hand, which can win you a big pot the times that your opponent does actually have something. Over cards such as, for example, K-Q on the 972 flop mentioned before are also great because, if a king or queen comes on the turn, your opponent is very likely to keep betting to try to get you to fold a mid-pair and you can get them to bluff into you on the turn and river with a weaker hand.

Hiren “Sunny” Patel - WPT Bratislava 15th place finisher and winner of over $400,000 playing online

The original idea of floating involves calling an opponent’s pre-flop raise in position, missing the flop completely, but still calling their continuation bet, and then betting the turn to take down the pot when your opponent checks to you. 

Ruben pointed out some of the variables that come into play, such as table image and opponents who c-bet too much. This sort of knowledge and information gathering is crucial to making these more advanced plays in poker. Once you begin learning your opponents’ tendencies, you can start taking more interesting angles, like floating out-of-position.

There’s a great example from a hand I played during the WPT Vienna main event, towards the end of the night on Day 1A. I had an opponent who was very aggressive, loved to c-bet, and quite often bet the turn as well. A hand came up where my opponent raised in middle position and I called with K-J off-suit from the big blind. We went to the flop heads-up, which came out 10-5-2 rainbow, and I decided to float the flop since his range of hands doesn't connect well with that flop. Also, it doesn’t have many draws that either of us could have picked up. This is something we call a dry flop.

My intentions were to check-call the flop to make it seem like I had picked up some sort of value and generally check the turn as well. At this point he either has to check back the turn, which will allow me to bet the river and take down the pot, or he will bet again, in which case I can check-raise depending on the turn card to take it down.

The turn card was a four which brought all four suits on board, completely removing the possibility for any kind of flush draw and very unlikely to have given him a straight draw. I wound up check-raising my opponent on the turn and he folded. I hadn't played too many hands at the table, which likely makes my opponent think I have at tighter range of hands, like sets. 

There are situations where a turn card can very easily work against me, especially when it creates a backdoor flush and straight draws that might discourage my opponent from easily giving up the hand. Stack sizes are also very important to consider in playing hands this way.

Tags: strategy, David Vamplew, Ruben Visser, Hiren Patel