Floating In Poker Tournaments And Sit n Goes

Floating Describes Calling A Bet With The Intention Of Taking The Pot On A Later Street. This Powerful Move Is Often Mis-Used – Become A Successful Floater With This Guide!

As different poker strategies become established, new and creative ways are needed to counteract them. For example, later position players routinely ‘raise light’ to steal blinds – leading to an increase in re-raising from the button or shoving from the blinds to counteract this (restealing).

Floating is an answer to the habit of today’s players to routinely bet on the flop after raising pre-flop – whether or not the flop improved their hand. Continuation betting continues to be effective, however many players will bet once, then give up on the turn if they meet resistance. This makes calling that continuation bet with no hope of winning a showdown, and taking the bigger pot away on the turn or river and effective move. This is called ‘floating’.

Floating is not new. This move was included in Dan Harrington’s ‘Harrington on Holdem’ books from the mid-2000’s, it was then labeled as the ‘Call Bluff’.

There are several factors which you should take into account before you start routinely calling those continuation bets. These include stack sizes, the texture of the flop, the number of players in the hand, your position, the known tendencies of players involved and whether your hand has any possibility of improving. After going through these factors, I will add some thoughts specific to Sit N Goes – where floating can be both more effective and dangerous.

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Floating – Factors To Take Into Account

#1 – Stack Sizes: You’ll need to be reasonably deep stacked when considering the float. Enough chips to call the bet pre-flop, then the continuation bet of anywhere between half-pot and full-pot. If this would leave you short when things do not work out (the turn is unfavorable or your opponent fires another big bet) then you should fold instead. You should also consider whether you might feel ‘committed’ to the pot (by the odds on offer) with a mid-strength hand if you call those early bets. The deeper stacked you are, the better.

#2 – The Texture Of The Flop: Pre-flop raises tend to be with pairs or high cards – how the flop looks can make a big difference to whether your opponent is likely to give up after trying a continuation bet. If the flop comes with an ace, and another high card then this is more likely to have hit someone who raises pre than a low or ragged flop. If you called before the flop then you might well be able to ‘represent’ a flush or straight on a lower and more connected flop. Before you consider floating, it can pay to work out what are the ‘bad’ cards which could come on the turn, and which are the ‘good’ cards (blanks) which might give you the opportunity to take the pot away.

#3 – How Many Players In The Hand: You really want to be heads-up against a single opponent when making this move. If there are players still to act the risk that someone has a hand strong enough to get to showdown goes way up – especially if they are calling bets on multiple streets.

#4 – Your Position In The Betting: Classic floating is done in position, that is when you are last to act after the flop. You can float out of position, checking the flop, then calling a bet. This is more tricky to get right, since an opponent who gives up on the turn will check behind you – leaving you to try and take the pot on the river by betting first. Once you make that bet, calling with close the action. This can tempt many players to call, knowing that the number of chips lost will be limited, since they raised pre-flop they likely have some kind of equity. When you act last you get to bet the turn, your opponent will not know whether they will face a big bet on the river as well as one on the turn.

#5 – Known Tendencies Of Your Opponent: An opponent who raises a lot pre-flop and regularly continuation bets is an ideal target for the float play. They are less likely to ‘have the goods’, increasing the probability of them folding to your turn bet. The big caveat here is that some opponents will hardly ever fold when they have some sort of hand (calling stations). Some will be good enough to spot your tendency to float and will adapt their play to respond, sometimes by check raising the turn, other times by calling your bet and leading the river. Still other opponents will continuation bet only when they have a strong hand, negating one key premise of making this move.

#6 – Your Hand / Equity: Classic floating is with ‘no hand, no hope’, it is a pure bluff play. In reality you will often have some kind of equity. This might be 3rd pair, a gutshot straight draw, overcards, or even a combo of pair / backdoor draws. Floating with a little equity adds a ‘semi-bluff’ angle to your play, you might be able to take the pot away unimproved, if a good card comes you might end up strong, or if a ‘scare card’ hits the turn you could give up on the play and try and get to showdown cheaply.

Danger – Floating Is Not An Excuse For Calling!

I notice that many players ‘go to town’ with this move when they first learn about it. A little like when people first learn to check-raise or slowplay. If you start floating too often, or when the factors are not favorable for this move, then you are simply chasing and will be putting chips in the pot with the worst of it far too often. One good way of getting used to the factors being in place is to watch others in these scenarios when not involved in the hand. You can start to get a feel of how many of the key factors are in place.

Sit N Goes – More Reward, More Risk

In one table tournaments, the float can be a great way of accumulating chips – and it is a powerful move against multi-tablers who are not focused on each game. Above the lowest buy-ins you need to be aware that players are often raising tighter in the early stages, making them more likely to have a hand. If they are good players then they will be aware that chips lost are worth more than chips gained in these games (see my course,  Planet Mark's SNG Blueprint for more on this) and will tend to fold to resistance.

To float you do need to risk chips, so you need to succeed more often than in a Multi-Table Tournament where you have more time to build back your stack if the move goes awry. If you play 1-table tournaments then make sure all of the factors are in place, and don’t over-do it – even the biggest multitablers will figure what you are doing eventually.

Of course, the best people to float are those recreational players who have never heard of this move. Stick to poker sites associated with the big betting brands, and your profits will explode. Check out my Fish-o-Meter widget, which finds the softest poker sites based on your personal requirements!

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