Floating (Maximizing EV vs. a floater) by John Anhalt
As the games today get much tougher, you’re likely to see a lot more people “floating” flops against you. Floating the flop is when someone calls your flop bet, with the intention of stealing the pot away from you on the turn or river. Some people will do this with some kind of draw/over card(s), and some people do it constantly with only 5 high. The important point though is to first recognize when someone is likely floating you quite a bit.
There are some opponents who believe they can outplay anyone after the flop in position, and will consequently call most pre-flop raises in position with a wide range of hands. Against these opponents, you need to make a few subtle adjustments in order to maximize the value of your hands.
1) Make your pre-flop raises slightly larger. You don’t have to overdo this, but the object of poker is to get the most money into the pot, when you likely have the best hand. If you make it more expensive for a habitual floater to call your raises, this will cut down his implied odds slightly, but it will also make him pay more for his draws since the size of the pot will proportionally be larger on each street.
2) If you connect with the flop, make your standard continuation bet. When a habitual floater calls, check the turn with the intention of check-raising. Bare in mind that if the turn doesn’t look good for your hand, you may do better by check/calling. You’ll have to make that determination based on the texture of the board. The math is simple here though, so let’s take a look at what it costs to continuation bet and check/fold the turn, versus betting and check-raising the turn.
Ex: If the pot is say 9 BB’s (big bets) on the flop, and you bet 6 BB’s, and your floater calls, and you give up on the hand by check/folding the turn, you lose 6BB’s on that hand. Now let’s say the pot is 9 BB’s on the flop again, and you connect with the flop this time. You bet 6 BB’s, the floater calls. the pot is now 21 BB’s. If you check, usually someone that floats habitually will bet 3/4 of the pot or more on the turn. If they bet ~3/4 of the pot for 15BB’s, you can check/raise the turn or call. You’ve now won an additional 21BB’s (6BB’s on flop, and 15BB’s on turn) after the flop versus losing 6 BB’s to continuation betting and folding. So that means you can afford to continuation bet fold 3 times, and only have to catch your floating player one time to show a 3 big bet profit. Keep this in mind when facing habitual floaters because they will eventually pick the wrong spots as it’s very difficult to make this play profitably.
3) Occasionally re-float out of position. This is much more difficult, and not as profitable of a play, so I don’t recommend doing it unless you feel comfortable in your reads. In essence, the play is designed to keep your habitual floater off balance. If you raise before the flop, get called, you check/call the flop instead of continuation betting, you then lead the turn for a 3/4 size pot bet. This way your opponent knows that when you check/call, it doesn’t mean you’re weak, and it keeps them guessing, which is an important part of poker. If you do make this play, I’d suggest doing it when you have a hand like AK/AQ and have some over card outs, or perhaps a gut-shot, etc.. some kind of hand that has a chance to improve if you are called on the turn. And again, keep in mind, don’t do this unless you feel comfortable with your post flop play and reads.
Poker can sometimes be like fighting a war. The better you understand your opponents strategies and tendencies, the more effectively you can maximize the expected value of your session against them. And as always, when you are adding new concepts to your game, make sure you test them in several different situations, and ask your poker coach if you’ve applied the concepts correctly.
John Anhalt is a poker coach and owner of www.pokerzion.com