Tournament Tactics - Float Play (Long)
That ET guy is so lucky, can you believe it ? That bugger final tabled both of the Online Forum Challenge tournies last weekend. He must run like God. I bet you wish you had that kind of luck.
Maybe. Maybe not. I have to admit that I do seem to be in a spell of positive variance right now, and my good hands are mostly holding up, 80/20s winning 80 per cent of the time, and so forth. I am no more proof against suckouts and beats than any other player.
But, if I do have something that some of our less experienced MTT players would also like to have, you won`t find it in the stars or the tea leaves. My edge comes from reading, from studying the game and from thinking about strategies and tactics. Let me share one of my thoughts with you:-
Tournament Tactics – Float Play
You have mastered the fundamentals of the game and arrived at a sufficient standard that you can routinely survive in tournaments. No longer are you out in the first hour (barring the occasional bad beat).
The next frustration comes when trying to amass chips in the middle game. Will you get to the money with an average or above-average stack and be a serious final-table contender, or will you scrape past the bubble and just about manage to make your buyin back ?
Maybe you can get there occasionally, when the deck hits you in the face, but that will rarely be enough to make you a consistent money earner. To do that, you need to make your own luck by using advanced tactics to wring extra value from marginal situations. One of those advanced tactics is the float play.
In outline, the float play is a multi-street bluff which involves calling an opponent`s pre-flop raise, calling his continuation bet on the flop, then betting to steal the pot from him, should he check the turn.
It isn`t as complicated as it sounds. An example may help make the principles clearer:
Full Tilt No-Limit Hold'em Tournament, 20/40 Blinds (9 handed)
MP1 (t1960) MP2 (t1880) MP3 (t1760) CO (t3610) Hero (Button) (t1525) SB (t1690) BB (t1940) UTG (t2040) UTG+1 (t1725)
Hero's M: 25.42
Preflop: Hero is Button with 3 folds, MP2 bets t120, 2 folds, Hero calls t120, 2 folds
With a solid hand in position, calling the raise is standard
Flop: (t300) (2 players), MP2 bets t170, Hero calls t170
Missed the flop, but Villain`s bet of just over half the pot looks suspiciously like a standard continuation bet, lacking in conviction, so this is an ideal spot to float.
Turn: (t640) (2 players), MP2 checks, Hero bets t440, 1 fold
Total pot: t640
Sure enough, Villain checks the turn. My bet is tough for him to call unless he has a ten and scares him out of the pot.
The purpose of the exercise is to take advantage of a common leak found in the games of very many MTT players. These days, many players understand the importance of making a continuation bet following a pre-flop raise, but few are sufficiently aggressive to fire the second barrel. (In other words, to make a second attempt at the pot with a weak hand after the first has failed.) They are therefore exploitable. Here is another example:
Merge Network No-Limit Hold'em Tournament, 75/150 Blinds (9 handed)
UTG+1 (t3289) MP1 (t8730) MP2 (t3513) Hero (MP3) (t5005) CO (t4113) Button (t4026) SB (t9853) BB (t4225) UTG (t3984)
Hero's M: 22.24
Preflop: Hero is MP3 with 2 folds, MP1 bets t450, 1 fold, Hero calls t450, 4 folds
Flop: (t1125) (2 players), MP1 bets t563, Hero calls t563
Turn: (t2251) (2 players), MP1 checks, Hero bets t1126, 1 fold
Total pot: t2251
Notice that, even though this is a different game on a different network with different players, the pattern of play is very similar indeed to the first example.
Float play works most effectively when you have position on your opponent. It is possible to float out of position, but much more risky. When in position, your opponent`s check on the turn is your cue to claim the pot. Without that information, you do not know whether the turn card may have improved your opponent`s hand and, if it has, betting into him may be a costly mistake.
You will normally want to be heads-up against a single opponent in order to make this play. The presence of a second opponent in the hand would be risky, because it would double the likelihood that one of them will catch a piece of the board and will not fold to your bet.
Beware of making this play too often at the same table. As shown in the examples above, the pattern of betting is quite distinctive. An opponent who is familiar with this play may spot that you are floating and may trap you by checking the turn to induce your bluff when he does, in fact, have a genuine hand. Obviously, this could result in the loss of a considerable part of your stack.
In order to help counter the above difficulty and to keep opponents guessing, there is much to be said for sometimes (possibly one time in three or thereabouts) following the same betting pattern when you have in reality hit the flop. For instance, in the second example above, imagine that your hand were a pair of tens, so that the flop gave you top set, the current nuts. Your natural inclination might be to raise Villain`s flop bet in order to get more chips in the middle and maximise the value of your hand. If you flat-call instead, and then bet the turn, you may turn the tables on an opponent who puts you on a float and will not lay down his overpair. A single hand of this kind, particularly if it goes to showdown so that all can see your hole cards, will help greatly to give you the table image of a solid player and to dispel any suspicion that you are making deceptive plays.
Always bear in mind, however, that (as it says in my signature) there is little point in trying sophisticated tactics on weak or unobservant opponents. These examples all come from mid-stakes tournaments and similar moves may not succeed in (for example) freerolls or where the standard of play is poor.
Your target, in order to give your float play the maximum chance of success, should be a player who has a high c-bet percentage, but who has shown sufficient awareness to be able to fold a hand. As is the case with any kind of bluff, you cannot expect to succeed with this play against a calling station.
Also, do not attempt to float a player who is weak-tight. His c-bet will almost certainly indicate that he has genuinely hit the flop, and you will not succeed. To be successful in MTTs beyond the first hour or two, you must carefully monitor and make notes on your opponents and play the players, not just the cards.
When you identify a likely target, you can make the float play with any two cards. Since you plan to take the pot on the turn and do not intend to go to a showdown, the strength of your hand is not particularly relevant. However, my personal preference (as shown in the examples here) is usually to play with something that has outs, such as two high cards, a small pair, or connectors. That way, I have chances to make a genuine hand, should the opponent play back at me.
I will close with a final example. Here, I call a raise in position with a small pair and miss the flop, but I take the pot anyway by floating (this is a not uncommon scenario, and can help to make set-mining a more profitable tactic):
Full Tilt No-Limit Hold'em Tournament, 25/50 Blinds (8 handed)
MP1 (t2740) MP2 (t1540) Hero (CO) (t2610) Button (t1990) SB (t2125) BB (t4554) UTG (t1296) UTG+1 (t1875)
Hero's M: 34.80
Preflop: Hero is CO with 2 folds, MP1 bets t150, 1 fold, Hero calls t150, 3 folds
Flop: (t375) (2 players), MP1 bets t175, Hero calls t175
Turn: (t725) (2 players), MP1 checks, Hero bets t500, 1 fold
Total pot: t725
I am aware that this is a complex topic and, in my efforts to be reasonably brief, I may not have explained well. Please feel free to comment/question or post your own examples for discussion.
See you at the Final Table.