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Floating the flop is a really effective (and relatively cheap and safe) way to pull off a bluff
It involves calling a bet on the flop in position with a weak hand in order to take it away with a bet on the turn or the river.
It works best against players who aren’t too passive or aggressive, but play their hands in a pretty straightforward manner, and open with a narrow range of hands. These players will often c-bet the flop, as they know that’s what they’re supposed to do, and then give up if they’ve missed.
Take the following hand from a tournament, with blinds at 100/200. You’re on the button and call a mid-position raise with 8♥-9♥. You’ve noticed that your opponent will often fire the flop but he doesn’t double barrel unless he’s got a hand that he wants to take to showdown. You’ve got a hand that could connect well with a flop, but you’ve got another plan if you miss…
The flop comes down K♦-2♠-7♣ and your opponent bets 600 into the pot of 1,200. You call. The turn brings the 4♥. Your opponent now checks and you bet 1,000 into the pot of 2,400. Your opponent folds what is probably the best hand.
It’s a really effective move against predictable players as, once they’ve shown weakness on the turn, they’ve generally given up on the pot. By calling on the flop you’ve convinced them that you’ve got something and you’ll win a lot of pots with a simple turn bet that you can make with more information than if you just raised on the flop.
Keep it simple
It’s also an extremely simple move. Your only job is to work out the right and wrong times to attempt it. We’ve said it works on straightforward players with high c-bet frequencies, but it also works well against bad aggressive players who will always bet the flop regardless, without thinking much beyond that. Here you’ll also have to take their wider opening range into account.
Floating won’t work against good aggressive players, who will sniff out floats, and maniacs who typically c-bet and barrel the turn and even river with made hands or air. You won’t even get the chance to execute your bluff.
You should also avoid trying to float complete beginners, calling stations and passive players who will check-call with top pair-like hands.
The ideal flops to float on are dry ones, such as J♠-2♣-2♥ or K♣-8♦-4♥. There’s more chance they’ve missed your opponent and a flat call from you looks stronger. Flops like T-Q-A are much more dangerous to float.
You also need to take your image into account. If you’ve been caught bluffing it could be trickier to pull off. Conversely, if you’ve shown that you’re capable of calling preflop with a wide range of hands, you can represent a lot more on the dry flops that are perfect for floating.
You should be in position and against a single opponent – floating is possible in multi-way pots, but it becomes a much trickier move. It also helps if your hand has some equity, as you will get called some of the time. If you’ve got the chance to improve on the river (ideally to some disguised straight or similar), it gives you a second way to win the pot. And it’s always good to have a back-up plan when you’re playing no-limit hold’em. Finally, use it sparingly. You can fool most people some of the time, but vigilant players will wise up to your floats very quickly.
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