Floating is when you call a bet with the intention to take down the pot later on in the hand. It is assumed that you have a hand with little to no showdown value when you float. The intent is to allow a player to fire a c-bet on the flop but then take the pot away if he slows down on the turn. Floating is an extremely effective method for winning hands post-flop without going to showdown. There are times where floats will be made but never develop into a situation where the pot can be taken away and there will be times where you lose more money than you would have by just raising their flop bet. The successful execution of a float relies on the ability to put your opponent on a hand and use the cards on the board to your advantage.
When is floating a bad idea?
Usually you should not float when you are out of position. Being out of position allows the other player to remain in control and makes everything more difficult than it would be if you were in position. You should not float against overly aggressive players either. If you float the flop but then they bet the turn anyway you will not be given the opportunity to take away the pot cheaply.
When is floating a good idea?
You could probably deduce through a process of elimination that floating is better when you are in position as opposed to out of position. The reason is quite simple. You can’t wait for the other player to slow up and then bet if you are out of position, but when you are in position the other player acts first. Their first action will allow you to go ahead with the float or abandon it. If they check the turn after betting the flop you are in the ideal situation for a bet. If they bet the flop and the turn you should be more hesitant, though you might still make a raise. Either way, being in position allows you to gain more information and it lets you use that information to your advantage.
What types of boards are good to float on
If you are looking to float your opponent you should feel that they have missed the flop and are betting with nothing. If they bet the flop and there is a good chance they made their hand, it is not a good time to float. The ultimate goal is to force the opponent out on a later street for a small price. The goal is not to force your opponent out at all costs. This is the key to the float and why, when done correctly, it is an extremely valuable tool.
Your hand will be XX in this example, you are not told your hand because your focus should be on what the other player might have, not what you have.
The pre-flop action consists of a raise by the villain and a call by you. They are a somewhat tight player and would open with a small range of hands. For the sake of this example we will say his open raising range is all pocket pairs and AT+.
The flop is A 8 K.
He bets the flop. Now, do you float this hand?
Yes, it is very possible that he has a pocket pair and is continuation betting.
The turn is a Q and he checks. Now you can make a ¾ pot sized bet, if not a bit smaller. If he indeed has a pocket pair he will usually fold for fear of being beaten by a Q, K, or A. If he calls or raises you can put him on an ace or better hand.
If the flop was 3 4 7 it would not be as good of a board to float on. He beats the board a large portion of the time or knows that you likely missed. He will make a turn bet regardless of his hand enough times that you won’t have the opportunity to take it away.
Summary of floating
Float against players who can put the brakes on their aggression and against players whom you can assign a reasonable range of hands to. If a player has shown relentless aggression or you have no read on their style you are better of not floating them.