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QuickFact #22: Take note of what makes you uncomfortable, and then use it!
QuickFact #22: You should rarely float without equity.
The majority of floating opportunities occur in heads-up pots in position, although that doesn’t necessarily mean you should float every time. When considering a float, there are several factors to look for.
The primary factor to consider is the tendencies of your opponents. Ideally the majority of floats should come against weaker players, simply because they make more mistakes on the turn and river, and are less likely to put pressure on you.
Board texture also plays a key role in determining the profitably of a float. Under certain dynamics (or against weaker opponents), an argument can be made for floating on almost any board texture. There are a few board textures you should float on more frequently that will be addressed momentarily.
Hand strength, and the number of turn and rivers you improve on markedly affects which line yields the most EV. As we’ll discover later, it rarely makes sense to float with no equity in PLO. Now that we’ve defined the three factors to look for, let’s take a closer look at each one individually.
Floating: Opponent Tendencies
In previous chapters, we discussed a variety of scenarios where understanding opponent tendencies is crucial for making the best decision available, and floating is no exception.
The first item to analyze is c-betting frequencies. Generally most players display the percentages for how often their opponents c-bet and fold to c-bets on their HUD. This makes sense, because it’s fairly reliable, and offers valuable insight into their post-flop habits. That being said, the c-bet stat is heavily dependent on sample size. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a player is c-betting 100% of boards when you only have 25 hands on him.
I won’t spend the entire time talking about c-betting HUD stats, but since we’re on the topic already, there are a few things to point out. First, only paying attention to how often someone is c-betting can get you into much trouble if you don’t interpret the frequency correctly. It’s important to account for other pieces of information available in the hand than solely relying on the c-bet stat. As mentioned in a previous lesson, HUDs are an amazing tool when used correctly, but they can also be costly when the information is misinterpreted.
For example, most players c-bet more in heads-up pots than in multi-way pots. Likewise, c-betting tendencies vary a lot depending on the board texture. Some players c-bet dry boards more than they c-bet wet boards, while other players might only be c-betting every hand against you because you have been folding to a high percentage of c-bets. A HUD may indicate that a player is c-betting 85% of flops, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will c-bet into three other players on a JT9 board without a very strong hand. Simply put, HUDs will never be a substitute for human observation, and you won’t improve at poker if you rely on them to play poker for you.
Another tendency to keep an eye out for that should encourage you to float opponents lighter are the players that c-bet the flop, and then check-fold the turn with a high frequency. Players like this are great to float, because they create a bunch of dead money for us to take away on later streets. These are the guys you want to take a note on that says, “doesn’t barrel the turn light”, or “shuts down on later streets with air”. Moreover, forcing opponents to play multiple streets OOP definitely makes you tougher to play against, and anything you can do to make the other players at the table uncomfortable is definitely +EV.
Last, weak bets from weak opponents generally means… You guessed it! A weak hand. Depending on the board texture and your hand value, bluff-raising might be the best option, but no matter what line you choose, make sure the fish doesn’t get off the hook with a weak flop c-bet. Make them earn it from you!
Floating: Board Textures
As we learned in Chapter 8, board texture plays a key role in defining what the optimal post-flop strategy is. Although I said earlier that an argument can be made for floating on almost any board texture under the right circumstances, there are a few board textures where floating is more effective against a standard or unknown opponent.
Floating on dynamic boards works well for many reasons. As we know, one of the primary benefits of being in position is being able to represent a wide range of hands. Floating on static boards can be difficult because the value of your hand is basically fixed onward from the flop, whereas on dynamic boards, the goal is to represent whatever draw comes in that they don’t have. In layman’s terms, the range of value hands we can credibly represent is much higher on dynamic boards than it is on static boards. There are few things that make an opponent more uncomfortable OOP than forcing him to bluff-catch on the turn and river when the nuts are constantly changing, which means our main goal is to force them to make a hand that beats us.
Floating: Hand Value
One of the golden rules of floating in PLO is that it’s rarely +EV to float without any equity. In NLHE, it’s more common to see floats without any equity, because there are many more way ahead/way behind situations post-flop. Regardless of the game, it is always better when you have some equity. Luckily for us, in PLO we will more often than not have at least a small chunk of equity. We flop equity so often in PLO that it usually doesn’t make sense to float unless we have some equity to fall back on.
What else do we need to know about hand values when considering whether to float? Pairing hand values with opponent tendencies provides an infinite amount of situations to go over, so what I can give you is an easy rule of thumb, which is that instead of floating, you generally want to semi-bluff raise strong draws on the flop.
On the other hand, you should either float or toss weaker draws into the muck on the flop. This depends somewhat on the actual strength of the draw, and the number and type of opponents in the hand. Generally, the weaker your draw is, the more opponent dependent your decisions become. This means you should usually semi-bluff raise your strong draws. After all, draws have no showdown value, so there is no guarantee you’ll win the hand on the river. Given that the majority of hands on any flop can have up to 40% equity even on scary boards, getting someone to fold their equity is a good result. Furthermore, if you do have a very strong draw, like a pair plus a wrap, or a pair and the nut flush draw, slowing down by smooth calling in position can get an opponent to check-fold scary turns with hands they otherwise would’ve stuck their stack in with on the flop.
Floating with weak draws makes sense because we gain more information on later streets by smooth-calling the flop. If they continue to barrel then we can fold, as playing big pots on later streets on scary boards can be very awkward, even in position, if we don’t have any equity to fall back on. However, if they check, we might get an opportunity to take the pot away by betting.
Remember, the presence of backdoor equity can turn an otherwise unprofitable spot to float into a very profitable one. For example, say we hold A♣K♥Q♠5♣ on a T♦5♠2♣ board. At first glance, it looks like all we have is middle pair with some sidecards, which by itself might not be enough to justify a float. However, upon closer examination, the combination of overcards, a backdoor flush draw, and backdoor straight draws provides us with more than enough turn cards to make an informed decision on. If the turn brings a monster draw and our opponent fires pot, we can call with some implied odds and see if we get there. If the turn is a brick and he checks, we can stab at the pot and try to take it away. If we pick up some equity and he takes a weak stab, we can semi-bluff raise and take it down that way as well.
The last piece of the floating puzzle involves spots where floating OOP makes sense. For the most part, good opportunities to float OOP arise naturally. In other words, avoid falling in the habit of doing it just for the sake of looking cool, which I’ve seen many students guilty of in the past.
The best OOP floating opportunities arise when you have a strong read on the opponent. Without a strong read, it’s generally a bad idea because if you call a pot-sized flop bet with the intention of betting pot on the turn, you’re risking four bets to win two, which means the out of position float has to work 66% of the time to be profitable. In practice, it’s hard to reach this number.
Last, floating OOP with equity is infinitely better than doing so without any equity. To be successful without equity requires a strong read on your opponents. If you have equity, at least there’s an escape hatch to save your ass when you make a bad read. After putting in some volume, you’ll quickly realize being OOP with no equity on later streets is definitely -EV.