Floating The Flop

Jack Wilcox (Hoodlincs) Profile Photo

By Jack Wilcox

14 Apr, 2011

What does floating mean?

Calling a bet on the flop with a marginal hand in order to try and win the pot on a later street.

Why float the flop?

Everyone learns that continuation betting after raising preflop is the way to play NL. They also learn that at micro stakes, once someone indicates that they have a piece of the board, you shouldn't try to bluff them off it.

Therefore, people continuation bet with a weak range, and shut down on almost every turn unless they improve.

Who should you float against?

When deciding whether to float, it's important to think about:

  1. Our opponent's image.
  2. Our own image.
  3. How various turn cards can change the board.

You want to have a tight image so that you get credit for calling the flop bet.

You want your opponent to be as straightforward as possible, meaning they're the type of player who continuation bets once then gives up. Typically they will have a low W$WSF, and a very low turn continuation bet % (if you have a HUD to look at).

Which flops should you float?

You don't want to float on on wet boards like:

8s 6s 5h

Your opponent will not continuation bet with air as much, because there are far more hands in your range that can play back at them. This is a bad flop to float because:

  • They would expect you to raise all your strong hands on the flop. So when you just call, they can assume your range is weak – such as weak showdownable hands, or weak draws.
  • Any 9-A is an overcard, and is better for their range than yours. When someone raises preflop they mostly have high cards (AQ/KJ etc). And when someone just calls a preflop raise, they mostly have middling cards or pairs (78, 99 etc).
  • They are more likely to fire a second barrel. Cards like an A or a K will help their range way more than yours.
  • Their initial continuation betting range is stronger, and they can hit a lot of turn cards if they are bluffing. They can also keep bluffing on a lot of turn cards since they are often better for their range than yours.

Instead, you do want to float dry boards with one high card like:

As 8c 3h

Your opponent will automatically continuation bet almost 100% on this type of flop.

This is because they can credibly rep the A, and there are very few hands in your range which hit this type of flop. And even though the flop contains an A, their continuation betting range is still likely to be weak.

Other examples of good dry flops to float are:

Qs 7c 4h and Jh 8d 2c

Here your flop calling range will rarely be weakened by any turn cards, so it makes it hard for your opponent to bluff turn cards effectively.

People continuation bet the most often on dry boards, and therefore their range is weakest.

How do you float?

Let's see an example of a float spot, and check some math along the way:

Assume villain is opening 15% of hands and we call. The flop is:

As 8c 3h

Villain continuation bets.

We think their range is any pair, any suited broadway, QJo, KJo, AJo, and 78s+. The combos of hands which are top pair or better are:

  • AT x 3
  • AJ x 12
  • AQ x 12
  • AK x 12
  • 88 x 3
  • 33 x 3
  • AA x 3

Total: 48 combos.

Now, 15% of hands is 1326 * 0.15 = 198 combos. If they are continuation betting 100% of the time, they will only hit top pair or better on the flop 48/198 = 24% (1/4th) of the time.

Assuming our opponent bets about 3/4ths of the pot as a continuation bet, we need to be able to win the pot on the turn 0.75/(1+0.75) = 43% of the time, where 0.75 represents what we risk, and 1 represents the pot.

The flop.

Lets think about our range for calling the flop.

When we call the flop bet, they have to assume we will fold 77 and worse. They also have to assume that we call all our Ax hands that we flat called with preflop. Additionally, we can call with 99+ that didn't 3bet preflop. We can also slowplay 88 and 33 a good amount, as we don't have to be scared of any turns.

Basically, our perceived range when we call is both:

  1. Strong.
  2. Not affected by any turn cards. If we have the best hand now, we will also have the best hand on most turns.

The turn.

Lets also think about the likely turns.

There can be no overcards to the board, so unless they hit a 2-outer to make a set, they cannot improve to a hand that beats top pair. Therefore, they are not going to be able to double barrel the turn for value very often without Ax or better, which they only have 1/4th of the time.

Lastly, it's a bad board to multi-barrel bluff on, because our flop calling range is strong and wont be scared of any turns. This makes it the perfect type of board to float against standard regulars, because they will often just have to check-fold the turn.

What hands should you float with?

If your opponent is weak and straightforward, you can justify floating your entire preflop range on dry boards.

This is because their range is too weak to continue often enough on the turn.

The only time you should float less often is against players who fire two barrels with air, or fire again if they pick up gutshots on the turn. You will not be able to win the pot often with a simple float against these players.

Frequently, micro stakes regulars will have a double barrel frequency of less than 50%, and when you think about the mathematics, if they continuation bet less than pot, you only need to win the pot on the turn 1/3rd of the time to show a profit by floating.

Lastly, if you can, it's always better to have some equity. On boards like:

As 8c 3h

It's better to have a hand like:

10s 9s

Because you can pick up a flush draw or straight draw on the turn.

It's better to have some equity when floating (i.e. bluffing), because you can still improve to the best hand if called, and potentially get paid if you hit.