Floating in Tournament Play

Floating is a skill in poker that requires careful execution.
You’ll need to be even more precise when you are attempting to
float while playing in a tournament. Floats have one goal in
mind, getting their opponent to fold at a later stage. You
shouldn’t be floating with the hope of improving your hand.
Sure, you might get lucky on rare occasions and back into a
big hand, but this isn’t going to be the usual. A float
means that you have put your opponent on a weak hand, but that
you don’t think a raise is the best plan of attack. It’s a
mixture of passive play with restrained aggression that allows a
float to be successful.

Floating isn’t the type of move that just any player should
be making. There’s a high degree of skill which is involved
when attempting a float. There’s also a lot of risk associated
with this move as well. A big problem that a lot of players have
is that they will get sucked into floating. They will plan on
giving up if their opponent bets again on the turn, but they
then decide to make the call anyway. Not only do you need to
have a somewhat solidified game plan in place if you want to
float, but you need to be self-disciplined to stick to it.

How to Float in Tournaments

If you are thinking about floating one of your opponents,
there are a handful of different areas of concern. If you can
effectively check each one off, you may be in prime position for
a float. In this section we are going to analyze the various
dynamics that are the most vital in the success of any attempted
float. Your opponent in the hand, your own table image, and the
board itself are arguably the three most important factors in a
hand when you are thinking about floating. Though there’s
definitely much more that goes into it than this, these are
going to be recurring themes that serve as positive indicators
of whether a float is a good or bad idea.

Your opponent. You need to know how someone tends to play
before you can pick apart their weaknesses. You wouldn’t try to win a
football game by passing if you knew that the opposition had an
exceptionally weak run defense. Likewise, you don’t want to float
a player who is notorious for their tight play. Floats are going
to have a much higher rate of success against aggressive
opponents than they will against any old random person. You need
to be picking off mistakes that others are making, not trying to
artificially create a move out of nowhere.

Your image. Your image at the table will allow you to play
the part of a strong hand. If you have shown a propensity for
calling down light and/or making moves, the chances of someone
backing down to your float are much decreased. So, what you
should take away from this is that there are definitely
situations where a float won’t be practical no matter what. Even
if you have an overly aggressive player firing away and you
really think that they are weak, a float still won’t work if
said player knows that you are likely making a move.

With that said, there are also going to be hands where a float couldn’t be
set up more perfectly. If you have only shown big hands at
showdown and/or have been very tight during your time at the
game, floating will be much easier to do. Your image can be
controlled, but you still need to consider how everyone else
views you. Yes, you may know that you are actually very
loose and aggressive, but if your opponents have only seen
otherwise, there’s no reason not to use this to your advantage.

Turn card. The board itself seems to be one of the most
underrated facets of the float. A lot of players will coordinate
a plan to float the flop and then bet on the turn if their
opponent slows down, but you should consider what cards are good
for a bet. If a card completes a draw, for example, you would be
in a position where your opponent could reasonably conclude that
you have now made your hand. If the turn is a total blank,
however, it will be hard to convince someone that you have
suddenly improved so much that you can now make a bet.

The easiest way to look at the board and how it affects your chance
to float is to analyze whether or not it is intimidating. Define the
range of hands that you had someone on after the flop, and look
to see how they would have been impacted after the turn. This
culmination of information will ultimately tell you both which
cards are good to bet and how much you need to bet. And yes,
sometimes you may be better off just backing down altogether. Is
that fun or exciting? No, but it can save you a lot of money in
the long run.

How Floats Vary in Tournaments vs. Cash Games

There is little arguing that, as a whole, players tend to be
more nervous and apprehensive when they are in a tournament than
when they are in a cash game. This is the type of thing that you
can use to your advantage. Since players are going to be more
nervous about how they manage their chips, they are going to be
prone to slowing down in tournaments. In cash games, a lost pot
means a chance to re-buy, but in tournaments you don’t have
that luxury. Applying pressure is so much more valuable in a
tournament than it is in a cash game.

Tournaments are also good because they’ll make your play
much more defined. If you float the flop and get a call after
you bet the turn, you will almost always know that it’s time to
give up. In tournaments, players who put a significant amount of
their chips in the middle over the course of a hand become less
and less likely to fold as the hand continues. This isn’t the
same as in cash games where a bricked draw is more likely to be
in the hand to the river and can fold to any bet.

Basically, the turn is, and pardon the pun, the turning point in tournament
poker. If a player is still committed at this point, the odds of
them giving up on the river are quite small. Use the turn as
your cut off point for float attempts. There may be some random
hands where you are inclined to fire a third barrel on the
river, but you are definitely going to be in some awfully
dangerous territory.