Floating (also known as Float play) is a sophisticated form of bluffing which begins when a player reacts to an aggressor by calling a bet on the Flop – floating. Typically, when heads-up on the flop, the floater calls a bet with a weak hand with the intention of subsequently stealing the pot by suddenly assuming the role of aggressor.
The concept revolves around the modern convention that sees players open with a pre-flop raise and then, having wholly or partly missed the Flop, persevering nonetheless with a so-called continuation bet. Floating is aimed at exploiting these players. The floater goes along for the ride by calling the Flop bet but then pouncing on any weakness on the Turn and thus inducing a fold from the original aggressor, who has failed to connect with the board and does not have a strong enough hand to justify continuing.
Compared with a more simplistic, standard bluff where, for example, a decision is made on the River to attempt a steal, floating requires planning and an understanding and appreciation of how players think and the psychology of pre-flop aggression and continuation bets.
The most common scenario, then, is calling a bet on the Flop (floating), the opponent checking the Turn and then the floater betting, forcing a fold. Note that the actual strength of the floater’s hand is irrelevant here, as it is the target player’s NOT having made a hand that forms the foundation of the floating strategy.
It is also possible to execute the same plan with a view to stealing on the Turn even if the opponent makes a another bet. Sometimes a player, despite missing, will make a small bet rather than check, in a bid to avoid being pushed off the pot. However, this, too, can be seen as a sign of weakness, and it is an important part of Floating to be willing to adhere to the plan by responding to what feels like a half-hearted Turn bet with a big raise. Of course, such a bold move requires good reading skills and the confidence and conviction to act accordingly.
Floating can be successful against those players who are happy to show aggression in order to pick up a pot, but are also capable of stepping aside when they believe they are behind, and facing a determined opponent who has turned the tables on them.
Remember that this play is founded on your opponent having a weak or vulnerable hand. While floating brings with it an element of risk, it is nevertheless an important and potentially very profitable weapon for a player to include in their armoury, and introduces the possibility of winning pots with weak hands.