10 More Essential Hold'em Moves: Floating the Flop

Christopher King vs John Shipley
Floating the flop is a powerful defense against the continuation bet.

There’s no simple fix for becoming a winning poker player but there are a handful of simple, easy-to-execute poker moves that can make a world of difference to your bottom line.

By fine-tuning these tactics you’ll have more tools to put to work at the poker table. You’ll be able to better understand your opponents and how to manipulate them, and that will translate directly to money in your pocket.

We already wrote the book on the 10 Essential Texas Hold’em Moves and now we’re back to bring you 10 more.

Today we’re talking about floating the flop, a move that can turn your opponent's continuation bets against him. By just calling your opponent’s bet on the flop, you’ll be in a perfect spot to take the pot away when he shows weakness on the turn.

The float is an intermediate poker move that requires a strong understanding of the players you’re up against but if you can master it you’ll be able to win more pots post-flop, regardless of the cards you’re holding.

The What: At its most basic, floating the flop refers to calling a bet on the flop with the intention of betting and taking down the pot when your opponent checks to you on the turn.

The Why: Floating the flop is a move used to defend against the continuation bet. Because players routinely continuation bet with a wide range of hands, you shouldn’t be surrendering every time someone does it. But instead of simply raising the flop, floating allows you to pick up more information on the turn before making your move.

The Who: You should only be floating the flop against tight-aggressive players who do a lot of preflop raising and continuation betting.

The When: You should only be floating the flop when you are in position.

The Where: Floating the flop is a powerful poker move that can be used in all forms of Texas Hold’em but because it requires two streets of action it lends itself more to deep-stacked games.

Floating the Flop the Right Way

Floating the flop is a bluffing technique so it’s important to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it to avoid burning money.

To make it crystal clear, you are only technically floating when you believe your cards are worse than your opponent’s. If you believe you have the best hand then you would be calling the flop and betting the turn for value.

Tom Dwan
Like most poker moves, floating works better when you're in position.
 

And because you’re bluffing, the conditions have to be just right to give yourself the biggest chance of success.

Here are the three most important factors to consider when you’re thinking about floating the flop and betting the turn.

  • Only float when you’re in position.
  • Only float when you’re in a heads-up pot.
  • Only float against tight-aggressive players who continuation bet frequently and are able to make laydowns when shown strength.

It’s important to be in position when you float the flop because you need that extra piece of information your opponent will give you on the turn.

Because your opponent will be continuation betting with good hands as well as bad hands, when he checks to you on the turn you’ll have one more clue that he’s got air. If he does bet the turn instead of checking, you need to reevaluate your plan.

It’s also only advisable to float the flop and bet the turn when you’re in a heads-up pot. More players mean more variables and a worse chance of succeeding with a bluff.

Floating is about telling your opponent a story, one that involves you calling the flop because you have a legitimate hand. In a multi-way pot your call on the flop doesn’t mean as much and your story will be less believable when you bet the turn.

Advanced Strategy Tip

If your opponent throws a wrench into your plans by betting the turn, all may not be lost. Many aggressive players won’t give up and check/fold fourth street. They’ll fire a second barrel as a bluff to try to blow you off your hand.

If you think you’re up against a tough, very aggressive player, you should consider raising the turn. Calling the flop and raising the turn is an extremely strong line and will usually force a good player to quickly lay down marginal hands.

This is an advanced move and should only be made with a very strong understanding of your opponent and his or her behavior.

Only Float Against Tight-Aggressive Players

Making sure you have position and only one opponent are important factors, but you must also consider the type of player against whom you are going to float.

Floating does not work against a player that only raises preflop and continuation bets with premium hands, for obvious reasons.

Floating also does not work against a loose/passive calling station who will frequently call your turn bet with marginal hands.

Look for tight-aggressive players who raise a lot in position preflop and follow it up with a continuation bet a high percentage of the time. These players will be showing up with air a lot, and check-folding to you when you bet the turn.

It’s much more difficult to float successfully against tough, hyper-aggressive players, however. Try to find players who fire one continuation bet but tend to shut down on the turn when they don’t have a hand.

Floating the Flop in Action

If you’re still not convinced about the efficacy of floating the flop and betting the turn, let Phil Ivey show you how it’s done like only Phil Ivey can.

In this video Ivey breaks one of our golden rules by floating in a mutli-way pot, and he does it not once but twice.

Ivey calls two big bets with seven-high and manages to take the pot away when Patrik Antonius checks on the river. This hand doesn’t even come close to following the easy-to-execute formula we presented above so consider it something to which you can aspire.


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Allen 2013-09-22 15:49:17

Hey Andy,

Isn't the float only successful when they fold to your bet on the turn though? If it's unsuccessful (they call your turn bet), then you would lose the float call and turn bet, compared to the other option of just losing the check-raise on the flop.

Andy 2013-09-18 03:59:27

Well candid,

re-raising a c-bet is one possible counter, but the problem is that in those cases where your opponent is actually strong re-raising will lose you more money than floating. However when floating is successful, you make just as much as you would have if you'd re-raised. So re-raising is higher risk than floating, but the reward is the same. Although it does happen, the risk of your opponent catching his card is quite small, compared to the amount of money you stand to lose from unsuccessful re-raising.

charlie 2013-01-25 06:12:29

This is great. :)

Just Sayin 2012-11-27 15:05:01

@candid: Because as the article says, a continuation bet can be made with a wide range of hands. A continuation bet does not mean that they are betting with nothing, they very well could have something. That's why position is also mentioned in this article as you need the extra chances at information before attempting this (as this technique is bluffing)

jim lively 2012-09-12 10:28:50

They are right, just use this against the players that always cbet then shutdown on turn when they don't have a hand. Make people pay for taking a line that was standard in 2005.

candid 2012-09-12 10:27:04

Why don't you just raise the flop if you think he's continuation betting? you give him free card on turn and he can hit his card