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Starting Hands Revealed
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The "Float" in No-Limit Texas Holdem
You know that calling too often with weak hands or draws is a loosing strategy in the long run. This is the realm of calling stations and you do not want to belong there. Floating reverses this concept on its head by making calling an offensive strategy.
Floating depends on your image and if it is sufficiently tight, the message from calling a flop bet is that a strong hand. If you call quickly at a poker table on the Internet, your opponent will start wondering if you are not slow playing a monster. If you are in a heads up situation and in position, you might scare your opponent who will either give you a free card, check-fold or even bet-fold at the turn.
What is Floating?
Simply call a bet at the flop from a preflop raiser with the intention of stealing the pot at the turn. Remember that 2/3 of the time, any unpaired hand will not improve at the flop. And often enough there will be an overcard to a pocket pair.
Floating is the weapon designed to catch bluff or semi-bluff continuation bets. This strategy works best against players who frequently make continuation bets and who are somehow tight-passive, as your opponent must be able to fold weak of medium strength hands. Ideally your candidate villain for floating is a player who routinely c-bets, but has a very low two-barreling frequency.
Here is an example. In a NL50 holdem game at FullTilt Poker, the hero who sits in the cutoff and holds K♦Q♦ calls a $2 raise from a middle position villain. The flop is 6♣ J♥9♠, the villain bets $3.5 into the $5.25 pot and hero calls. The turn is 3♥, the villain checks, hero bets $8 into the $12.25 pot and villain folds. This is the stereotype of a float, where both players totally missed the board but the floater had the positional advantage.
Floating works best on a relatively dry board with few draws. It is preferable to attempt floats versus players who have a pfr>10%, as this means that they must sometimes raise preflop with non-premium or drawing hands such as suited connectors which have a high chance of missing the flop.
Additionally they should have a low post flop aggression, meaning that they are less likely to second-barrel, to check-raise or to 3-bet allin at the turn if you raise them. It is reasonable to float with some kind of hand and not total air, such as a middle pair or a gut shot.
An important aspect of floating in no-limit holdem poker is to be consistent and to play like if you had a big hand, which means that such hands normally generate aggression at the turn rather than at the flop.
One elaborate strategy based on floating is to first target a below average TAG, then float him a few times until he steams, and finally complete the manoeuvre by pretending to float him one last time, but this time you hold a monster.
The best defense against a floater is to raise less preflop, to c-bet less if the floater is in the hand, and to be prepared to check-raise him at the turn. Note that floating is only an effective strategy from NL50-NL100 and higher. At lower stakes the predominant play is too loose-passive to make floating a very profitable strategy, as the general tendency is to call rather than to fold.
Aggressive players may raise you if they think you are floating, so use floating against passive opponents more likely to fold. Float preferably against one player whom you have isolated, at most against two. The more player in the hand, the more chance someone has hit the flop and will not fold to your bets.