AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 15.07.2021 · last updated 15.07.2021

Poker evolution saw the Continuation Bet become one of those trendy strategies that then found itself as part of conventional wisdom. Over time the tactic found its place as a universal weapon that saw everyone and their proverbial dog raising pre-flop on the Button and throwing in C-Bets automatically. Eventually, what started out as a crafty way to keep stealing chips was even considered an over-used, even unsubtle course of action, and players started to find ways to combat it…

… Particularly among more experienced players and those serious enough to study the game’s many strategies, ‘Floating’ is a common way to try to exploit aggression. The simple concept involves calling bets with a view to turning the tables on a later street and taking the pot away from an opponent whose hand strength doesn’t justify their betting. It can be a very effective game-plan.

However, poker isn’t that simple. It’s not just a case of Strategy A being conveniently addressed by Counter-Strategy B – this is a rich game full of possibility, and there are ways of fighting back against the floaters.

Strong Hands Not Required

If we consider the fundamentals of Floating, the point is to steal the pot from the original thief, or from someone not in a position to defend when faced with aggression themselves. It’s not important for the floater that they have a strong hand because the concept revolves around assuming control with an effective bluff. Consequently, if we’re going to fight back and give them a taste of their own medicine, we don’t necessarily need a strong hand to be successful. Second pair, for example, could well be ahead. And if that were the case, there’s an argument for maintaining the C-Betting strategy and betting again for value. Floating is considered a pretty advanced strategy, and many players mishandle it. One such erroneous way to mess up is to take the idea too far with air and be unable to determine that the original bettor actually has a decent hand, and that they’re not going to be scared away. Note that to beat these players in this fashion requires us to read opponents quite well, and to be willing to engage in hand-to-hand combat.

Make Big Flop Bets

This is easy to appreciate. As we know, floaters call Flop bets with weak(er), vulnerable ranges, so it makes sense to bet bigger than we normally would in order to make them pay a premium for having the cheek to mess with us! Incidentally, this can be a particularly profitable play because, given how often our opponents will be floating with nothing, we can even pull it off when we have nothing as well as when we actually hold something concrete.

Double Barrel

Psychology is a massive part of poker, and Floating is one of those tactics that relies heavily on how players think and what they perceive this or that to mean. With that in mind, it’s a perfect opportunity to throw a proverbial spanner in the works. Instead of obligingly rolling over as if we were offering to be on the losing side of a ‘how to successfully float’ example, we should stubbornly do the opposite. Scare cards that help our cause because they worry the floater, genuine, worthwhile equity – whatever adds to the case for double barreling we should embrace, and bet accordingly. And to push home the fact that not only will we not be intimidated, but we intend to take the pot, we should keep up the pressure on the next street, too. Such a level of aggression is very often going to force our opponent – who so much of the time is holding nothing – into submission.

Induce the Bluff on the Turn

This is perhaps the most fun tactic to combat floaters. Ego, of course, should play no part in poker, but this is the kind of play that annoys players and dents their pride. And, again, it’s not rocket science. We check the River, thus ‘confirming’ that we have a weak hand to a player who’s waiting for precisely this invitation to make their move. They do so, with nothing, because this is the only way they can win the pot in which they’ve invested, and we happily call and scoop the pot.

Easy game…

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