Floating in Poker – Can It Help You Win More Often?

min read
People sitting around a poker table, engaging in a game of poker.
BetMGM Sep 29, 2023, 1:31 PM

Once you’ve mastered the basics of poker, the learning shouldn’t stop. There are always new strategies to pick up if you want to keep improving in online poker tournaments and cash games. As you develop more advanced skills, the result will be a clearer understanding of the game and, hopefully, a better win rate.

Floating is one such strategy that has a big impact on how you play. While it can be difficult to pull off, it’s extremely effective. This technique is essentially a bluffing move, and it’s one that’s particularly strong against opponents who fire a lot of continuation bets. Get ready to learn all about the art of the float.

What is Floating in Poker?

In poker slang, “floating” is when you call at least once with nothing, preparing to fire a bluff on a later street. The goal of this advanced technique, also known as a “float play,” is to tell the story that you have some sort of hand. You’ll sow enough seeds of doubt that you’re in a position to steal the pot by the turn or river.

This strategy uses two stages:

  1. Call an opponent’s bet on the flop.
  2. After your opponent checks the turn, you bet and force them to fold.

Floating with any two cards is possible, so it’s highly effective in many different situations. Unlike most other online casino games, poker strategy involves reading your opponents. As such, you can effectively target certain types of players with this tactic. It also works well when you have backdoor draw opportunities. 

What Makes a Float Effective?

This play is incredibly useful because advanced players often make continuation bets on the flop, even if they didn’t connect. They usually expect their aggression to cause opponents to fold, but you can flip this around on them.

When you call their c-bet, they are likely to think you’re slow-playing a strong hand. If your opponent doesn’t have a good hand themselves, they’ll often check the turn. This allows you to make a good-sized bet, causing them to fold. 

When To Float in Poker

While it’s possible to use the float play with any two cards, it’s definitely better deployed in specific situations. You’ll primarily deploy this strategy defensively against a frequent continuation bettor. But it’s a fairly universal tactic that works equally well in an online poker tournament as a live cash game.

Whether playing live or online poker, there are a few things that affect when you can float and how successful the play will be. You should ideally:

  • Be facing a bet in position against an opponent who isn’t overly aggressive
  • Be heads up with your opponent
  • Play the hand as if you have a draw 
  • Have opportunities for a backdoor draw 

Position

While it’s possible to successfully float out of position, it’s much harder. You have a better chance of spotting weakness when you’re in position and playing after your opponent has acted.

If you’re in position and your opponent bets strongly again on the turn, it’s easy to fold without any issues. If they check, you can use the float play against them. 

One on One

Bluffing is always harder to pull off against multiple opponents, and floating is no exception. With more players in the pot, there’s just a higher chance that someone will have a strong enough hand to call your bluff. 

As such, look to float more often in heads-up games or when you’ve isolated a single opponent at your table.

Backdoor Possibilities

If you have opportunities to bink a backdoor draw, you’re more likely to get away with a float. Not only does it mean your hand is stronger since you have additional equity, but if your opponents are astute, they will be aware of this possibility and factor it into their own decisions. 

Representing Draws

If you play the hand as if you have a draw, your bluff is far more likely to work. However, if your opponent is too aggressive, there’s a good chance they’ll call you or raise your bet. Bear this in mind, and ensure you have a solid read on all the players at your table. 

Successful Float Play Example

Here’s an example of a successful float play to help illustrate the concept.

You’re holding ace-queen, and a player makes a $5 bet from middle position. You call, and the two blinds fold, leaving you heads up going to the flop. 

The flop comes 7 of spades, king of hearts, 4 of diamonds. This doesn’t connect with your hand at all, and the opponent now bets $10 into a $13 pot. 

Normally, this is about as obvious a fold as you’ll ever see. However, you’ve noticed this opponent often making continuation bets with air. This represents a good chance to float and pick up a healthy pot, so you call.

When the turn reveals 3 of clubs, the villain checks, revealing weakness. At this point, you elect to fire $25 into the $33 pot, prompting your opponent to fold. They naturally believe that you have a stronger hand than you really do. 

In some poker online games, where players are more aggressive, your opponent may bet again on the turn. If you know they’re a hyper-aggressive player or suspect they’re betting light, you could still successfully float again. However, it’s obviously much more risky, and you should normally fold unless you know their behavior extremely well. 

When To Avoid Floats

Although there are many situations where a float works out, there are far more instances where things go wrong. It’s an advanced technique, and knowing when to avoid it is crucial, too.

Before floating in poker, you first need to look at the board. Some are just completely unsuitable for floating due to your opponent’s range. For instance, a flop of ace-king-10 connects far too well with a pre-flop raising range to risk a float. 

Consider the range of other players in the pot, and make sure you’re not floating recklessly against strong ranges. If your opponent continues their aggression on the turn, it’s also best advised to fold. The float play is unsuitable here, even if you suspect a forthcoming triple barrel bluff

Float Like a Butterfly Sting Like a Bee

Floating is an advanced technique that’s normally only used by stronger players in higher-stakes games. However, if you play poker online frequently, you’ll definitely encounter players deploying this tactic at lower stakes, too.

Before floating, be sure you understand how to pull it off effectively. Put the contents of this guide into practice when you register at BetMGM. You’ll find tournaments and cash games to suit all bankrolls. What’s more, there are plenty of live dealer casino games and video slots to enjoy, too.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
About the Author

BetMGM

Read More

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.