I've had some decent success at MTTs recently and it's almost entirely because of the long hours spent surfing around 2+2's different MTT subforums. MSMTT is where I spend the most time so I thought I'd post this here. I originally wrote this for Pokerstrategy.com and it's been published here
, but most of you probably haven't read it so I wanted to cross-post it on 2+2 as well. I hope this and my future articles, which I'll also post here unless you all think this is totally crap, will in turn help some of you to develop as a player.
The Scandinavian Float
If you're an experienced cash game player, you probably know what "floating" means. It's basically calling a bet on the flop (or sometimes on the turn) with not much of a hand, but with the intention of stealing the pot on the turn or the river. It's often much better than raising, because we can represent a wider range of hands by floating. Here's an extremely simple example from a $.50/$1 cash game:
A standard TAG villain with 22/18 stats and an 80% cbet frequency opens for $3 in the cutoff, you have QdJd on the button and call. Both blinds fold. Flop comes 7c7d4h, and villain makes a continuation bet of $5. You call. The ten of spades lands on the turn, and villain checks. You bet $11 and win the pot. What we did on the flop was floating. We didn't really have showdown value, and we only had 6 outs to improve (and a possible backdoor flush draw). However, our perception of villain was that his CO opening range is wide, his c-bet percentage is high and he's probably going to bet a dry flop like this almost every time. Most of the time he has absolutely nothing on the flop, since he's opening hands such as A2o, T8s and Q9o. Still, it doesn't make any sense for us to raise the flop, because even mediocre hand readers won't give us credit for much, since almost no one raises a full house or trips on a flop like this. Villain must expect us to flat any made hand on the flop, so the only way to represent those hands is to float. And when he checks the turn (which he will frequently do because he doesn't have position, and since we called the flop he thinks we probably have something) we can bet and expect to win the pot most of the time.
That's only half the story, though. In cash games you will fight with the same players all the time, and they will pick up on your floating habits quickly. They will adjust to it by firing second barrels and check-raising turns, and you will need to re-adjust by double floating and checking back turns, and so on. It's an endless battle of adjusting and re-adjusting, like a lot of things in cash games.
In MTT's it's a different story. First, due to massive player pools, you don't battle with the same opponents very often. Second, regulars don't pay as much attention as they do in cash games, because most tournaments are full ring. This simply means that regulars play more tables, and they don't have time to monitor their opponents as closely as they do in cash games. But most importantly, the stack sizes in tournaments don't leave much room for creative lines. Because usually you only have something like 4-7 times the pot behind on the flop, your opponents can't just check-raise turns or double barrel hoping you don't have a hand. All they can do is c-bet and fold. If you think about the vast majority of tournament hands where you've opened the pot but haven't made it to showdown, I'm sure you'll agree that indeed the most common course of actions has been that you've c-bet and check-folded the turn. In MTT's people over-value their precious tournament life drastically. They don't want to go broke without a good hand. Big bluffs are rare among regulars. They talk about ICM and preserving chips, when ICM hardly matters at all before the final table of close to it in most cases. A lot of regulars don't get that. They just play fit or fold apart from c-betting. And that's exactly where floating kicks in.
Think about it. Do you usually c-bet regardless if you've hit or not? I assume most of you said yes. Even the most inexperienced players have heard of the benefits of c-betting and do it habitually. But do you fire second barrels a lot? How often do you bluff the turn? If you're 15-tabling online MTT's, do you most often give up if your opponent calls your c-bet and you haven't hit the turn? Especially with shallow stacks, when you only have something like 1-4 PSB's (pot-sized bets) behind on the turn and you're out of position? After all, if you shove the turn or make a committing bet, you're doing it without having any other information about your opponent's hand except that he called your bets pre-flop and on the flop. Your opponent has actually showed significant strength throughout the hand. So do you really want to bluff into him, risking a significant portion or all of your stack? I assume most of you say no here. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. Actually, in most cases the absolute best line you can take is to raise pre-flop, bet the flop and check-fold the turn when you haven't hit. What this article is about is the flip side of things. Most people, like you and me, answer "yes" to the c-betting question and "no" to the second barreling question. Solid players, good players, winning players. People who live in baller houses in Vegas and net six-figure sums yearly from online MTTs are playing a very exploitable game. They c-bet, then check the turn and fold. We can exploit the crap out of these players by floating their c-bets and stealing the pots on the turn. It's like taking the candy away from a child. I'm calling it "The Scandinavian Float", because for some reason scandis seem to use it much more than other people.
Here are a couple of real-life examples from recent tournaments I've played:
a) Pokerstars $55 freezeout.
Stacks: 12k effective. Blinds and antes: 200/400/25. Villain raises to 950 from the hijack, CO folds and I flat on the button with K
. The blinds fold.
Villain bets 1675, I call.
Villain checks, I bet 3025, villain folds.
Analysis: I think I usually 3-bet here, but I had a really good grip on my opponent and both blinds were nitty, so I thought this was a good spot to flat. I also knew he's very active pre-flop but not so much post-flop, so I knew I was ahead of his opening range and could happily stack off on Kxx and Qxx textures, and if I missed I'd have a good chance of winning the pot by floating. On the flop I make a standard float; I have 6 direct outs and 13 additional outs to form a good draw (ten spades and three jacks). Most of the cards that don't improve my hand also won't improve my opponent's, so if he hasn't hit anything either he'll likely check a brick turn card and I'll be able to win the pot by betting, which is exactly what happens.
b) Full Tilt Poker $109 freezeout.
Stacks: 7k effective. Blinds and antes: 100/200/25. Villain raises to 500 from MP2, folded to me on the button, I call with 8
, blinds fold.
Villain bets 950, I call.
Villain checks, I bet 2025, Villain folds.
Analysis: I think pre-flop is a close decision between 3-betting and flatting. I had been 3-betting somewhat actively and I was a bit worried my opponent, who is a seasoned pro, may 4-bet shove light on me, so I chose to just flat. On the flop I flat with 8 high. There are not a lot of turn cards that will improve my opponent's hand if he's missed the flop, so I except him to check-fold the turn most of the time if he hasn't hit. When I call on a flop like this, I'm representing strength as it's pretty hard for him to expect me to have a float, so I don't think he'll bluff me often. I could very well have a set of 5's or 2's or a hand like AJ or AT. And I still have some equity, as I have great backdoor draws. On the turn I hit a gutshot which is totally irrelevant; when my opponent checks as planned, my only mission is to bet and win the pot.
c) This is a really extreme example: Microgaming 25€ rebuy.
We're in the final table bubble with 11 players left. Stacks: 210k (average stack is only 85k). Blinds and antes: 1500/3000/300. I raise to 6500 on the button with 4
having a really active image. Villain raises to 23500 from the big blind after the small blind has folded. I call.
Flop: (50300) 9
Villain bets 31200, I call.
Villain checks, I bet 53700, Villain folds.
Analysis: We are the two monster chipleaders in the tournament. The pre-flop spot, in general, is a really bad spot to flat as his raise is very big. However, I had played with this opponent before, and knew he used big sizings like this with AQ-AK type hands, and smaller raises with big pairs. I was almost certain his 3-bet wasn't a bluff, because he didn't seem capable of 3-bet bluffing at all, and I was also almost certain he didn't have a big pair. I knew I could easily tell based on the texture whether he's hit the flop or not. Therefore I thought I could win a huge pot by floating, because on most textures he'll have to give up on the turn if he hasn't hit. Furthermore, because he had so much to lose given his massive stack, I felt confident he wouldn't try any multi-street bluffs against the only player who could hurt him, especially against a crazy Finn like myself. The flop isn't ideal for floating in general, because in most cases this kind of semi-wet texture is going to hit your opponent in some way, but here I was pretty sure he hadn't hit. If he had an overpair anyway, he'd definitely bet the turn, and if he'd missed he'd just check. Plus, I had a gutshot. Four outs isn't that much, but it's still an additional bonus. When he checks the turn, I bet an amount designed to be large enough to make him fold (his options are basically fold or shove given how little we have behind on the turn, and if he shoves I can still fold having a good stack). The trick is that he has to make a decision for his whole stack right here. Given the enormous pressure of the final table bubble and me being the only player who can knock him out, I felt there was almost no chance he would get fancy and try to outplay me if he didn't have it.
So, how exactly do you execute a succesful Scandinavian float? Here's how to do it, street by street.
Pre-flop: Here are a few things you need to consider before even doing anything.
1) Your perception of villain.
Don't float against people who don't seem to have a fold button in their software. A lot of players like to bluff too much, and they just bet and bet and bet. Remember, the point in floating is to make him stop betting at some point to steal the pot. If he likes to run two and three barrel bluffs, you're going to cost yourself a ton of money floating. You have to be sure that your opponent is raising wide enough, as it's much harder to float succesfully against a range of 77+ AJ+ as opposed to 54s+,76o+,QTo+,Ax,22+. Then you have to have some idea about his post-flop tendencies. If you have a HUD, check his c-bet percentage. A vast majority of regs will c-bet more than 70 per cent of the time (and they should be, as people don't float enough). Then see how aggressive he is on later streets. Most people's aggression frequencies drop significantly on the turn. These kinds of players are your ideal opponents. Lastly, it'd be a good idea to find out if your opponent is a regular or not. Believe it or not, it's actually much better if he is. The more tables he plays, the better. There are a ton of 12-tabling regs that I float against all day, and they never adjust to it because they're too busy clicking buttons on other tables. Of course you don't want your opponent to be a world-class player, because the best MTTers in the world play post-flop so well it's hard to make any moves profitable against them. But even many highly respected regulars have the leak of not adjusting to floats, and when you see a winning regular with an ROI of 70% with a $30 average stake over a large sample, he might very well be an ideal candidate.
2) Position and tendencies of the players behind you.
You need to have position on your opponent, and preferably your opponent must be opening from middle or late position (so that his opening range is wider). Second, you need to be as close to the button as possible. If you're not on the button exactly, make sure the players behind you are tight and don't 3-bet bluff much. If it's likely that someone behind you will call or 3-bet, your floating attempt is ruined before it even began and you're just leaking chips calling with speculative hands pre-flop. Also make sure there aren't any short stacks in the blinds (so that you won't get 3-bet shoved on).
3) Stack sizes.
You typically need to have at least 30BBs behind you. There are some cases where you could argue you can flat with as little as 25BBs behind, but I'd only do this against the most straightforward opponents under perfect conditions. With 20-25BBs you should almost always just shove preflop rather than flat if your opponent is opening wide. Remember to think about the hand in advance. How big will the pot be on the flop? For example, if your opponent opens for 2,5BB and you call and everyone else folds, with blinds and antes the pot is going to be approximately 7,5BBs on the flop. If you had just 20BB stacks to begin with, you have no room to operate as a c-bet almost commits your opponent and it'll be much harder for him to get rid of middle pair or something like that.
4) Your hand.
Your actual holding is not as important as the previous three parts, but obviously you'd rather have a hand that can hit the flop well such as a suited connector or a small pair than a junk hand. Also try to avoid hands that have terrible reverse implied odds such as A2o. What you want to avoid is going broke with a weak top pair in the rare scenario you both flop something.
So: If you're not at least 30BBs deep, don't flat call. If you're unsure if your opponent is raising wide, don't flat. If you have no clue how he plays post-flop, don't flat. If you think he might be on tilt, or might be a habitual bluffer who will often fire multiple streets, or may be a VERY good regular capable of soul-reading, don't flat. If your opponent is a terrible fish who's not going to lay down ace high on any board ever, don't flat. If your hand is 72o, don't flat (in most cases). If there are people behind who are likely to squeeze of flat call, don't flat. But if you're facing a multi-tabling regular and the circumstances seem correct, go ahead and do it. You'll be amazed how often it works.
1) The texture of the flop.
This is very very crucial. If you've totally missed the flop and the texture is very drawy, such as KJ8 with a flush draw, it's often best to abandon your plan and just fold. The problem with wet flops is that your opponent will very often have a piece or a draw. When people have a draw with stacks this shallow, they almost always get it in on the turn regardless if they've hit or not. The last thing you want to happen is someone check-shoving on you on the turn, because you end up costing yourself the absolute maximum and not even getting a showdown. And if they have a made hand on drawy boards, they will often put you on a draw and shove the turn anyway. And usually, if you have a hand you want to go broke with on a wet texture, you're going to shove the flop yourself, so a flat will be seen as weak and your opponent might even barrel the turn with something as weak as a gutshot and an overcard. Ideal flops for floating are low rainbow flops such as 642 or 843, flops with one high card and two small ones such as Q52 or A64, and paired flops such as 833. Note that on dry textures it doesn't matter at all if you've hit the flop or not. For example, if the board comes A22 and you call your opponent's c-bet, what can he do with most of his range? He'll pretty much have to check-fold the turn with hands as strong as 99 or KQs, as you're saying you have an ace and you're probably not going to fold it. I float stuff like 87s on Axx boards all day for this exact reason. So, regarding the texture of the flop, the question you want to ask yourself is "is it likely my opponent has hit?".
2) The people behind you.
Did everyone else fold pre-flop? If there's a third person in the pot, raise your floating standards. You can still float every now and then, but the texture must be very favourable and you need to have a good grip on both of your opponents. A great spot to float 3-way is when a regular has called from the blinds and the board runs Axx. This is because regulars usually don't flat weak aces OOP because of the bad reverse implied odds, and they 3-bet strong aces, so it's almost impossible for them to have an ace here. So when the opener c-bets and you flat on a board of A82 rainbow, the person in the blind will basically always fold unless he has 22 or 88, and your float is seen much stronger in the eyes of the c-bettor because you're calling with one player still behind to act on a dry board.
3) How your hand connected with the flop.
For example, if you floated with 87s and the flop came 652 with your flush draw, you now have an equity monster that's a favourite over anything, but your made hand is only 8 high. It's best to maximize folding equity by just shoving or raise/calling. Also, sometimes you'll flop a strong top pair such as Q65 with a flush draw with KQ. Depending on stack sizes, raising and getting it in on the flop might be better for hand protection, because there are a load of bad turn cards for you.
The turn is much simpler than the previous streets, as it all comes down to whether your opponent checks or not. If he makes a committing turn bet and you don't have a hand, you of course have to fold. If you followed my instructions on previous streets and your opponent profiling is correct, it's likely you just got unlucky - two thirds of the time he would've missed the board and just check-folded, but this time he happened to have a hand. If he checks (as he's supposed to do most of the time or you've done something wrong in the first place), you need to bet almost every time. As always, there are exceptions to everything, though. Here are the most common scenarios where you need to condider deviating from the original plan:
1) The turn card is an overcard to the flop, especially and ace and he bets an amount that doesn't commit him.
Even the most straighforward regulars will usually fire a turned ace regardless if they have it or not. For example, if the flop comes Q42 and they have 87o, the usually just c-bet and fold, but on an ace turn they bet again trying to represent an ace, knowing you'll likely fold a queen and will definitely fold something like pocket eights. So, if your stacks are deep enough so that you can bet the river if he checks, you should consider floating the turn as well even if you had no outs. Again, it helps if you have outs like a gutshot, but it's not necessary. Do not do this if you don't have enough behind to fire a close to a pot-sized bet on the river if he checks.
2) Your opponent checks, you have great showdown value and the board isn't dangerous
. Say that you have 88 and the board is 9422 rainbow. Your hand is almost always best, and he usually only has 2-6 outs to improve. You could bet this to balance your range, but you don't really need to. Especially consider checking if you still have more than three pot-sized bets behind you (so that a check-raise from your opponent would make you fold the best hand every now and then). Against people you play against a lot I would still always bet for balancing purposes, because you don't want them to see you show down a hand that strong without betting the turn. It'll make them realise that your turn betting range is very polarized between monsters and floats in spots like this, and they may start punishing you for floating.
3) The board texture has changed dramatically and your opponent checks with ideal check-raising stacks.
Imagine the flop is a very nice-looking T22 rainbow and you float with 87o. The turn is a J that brings a flush draw, and your opponent checks with something like 4xPSB behind you. On the flop he didn't necessarily have much, as it's very difficult for him to hit a T22 flop. But a turn card like this brings a lot of outs for a hand like KQ or he might have picked up a flush draw. When people have a perfect check-shoving stack (3-4 PSB), they often like to check-shove turns instead of second barreling. After all, what can you really have on a turn card like this that you want to bet and call a shove with? You probably don't have JJ or TT as most people 3-bet them pre-flop. You probably don't have a deuce as most people would fold any hand with a deuce pre-flop. Decent hand-readers will realise that pretty much all you're repping is a float, and if they have outs for those cases they're wrong and you have a hand, such as overcards and a gutshot with AQ or a flush draw, they'll check-shove on you. Note that check-shoving is much better from them than barreling both for deception and to get value from your floats.
If you double floated, your mission is simply to bet if he checks and fold if he shoves if you didn't improve. If he check-called the turn, though, is where it gets interesting. Usually in this scenario you only have about a PSB behind. What you need to do depends entirely on your reads and the river card. It's impossible to give exact advice what to do in the rare cases this happens. Try to think about if most of his range can stand a river bet or not. I'd say I probably bet about 65 percent of rivers and give up about 35 percent of them. Here are some guidelines, anyway:
When to bet:
-If the river card is an overcard to the board and he's unlikely to have hit it.
For example, if you floated a flop of 922, bet the 4 turn and he called, and the river is a ten, jack, queen or a king, you need to bet almost always. If the river is an ace it depends on your reads, and this is probably the hardest possible scenario. He may very well have a stubborn AK or something like that, but he may also have a hand like 33 that he'll certainly fold. In general, the scarier the river card is, the more inclined you should be to bet.
-If the river completes a draw and he checks.
Say the flop was a harmless 822, and the turn was a 7 that brought a flush draw (and your opponent check-called). The river is a jack that completes the flush draw. If your opponent checks, a shove will be succesful the vast majority of the time. It's hard for your opponent to have hit the draw, because almost everyone second barrels the draw on the turn, and even if they elected to check-call (which is the nut worst line) they'll usually just donkbet shove the river.
When not to bet:
-If the river is a blank, especially if it pairs the board.
Usually, your opponent will check-fold the turn if he doesn't have anything. If he check-calls the turn, it's unlikely he'll fold when the river changes absolutely nothing.
-If your opponent timebanks for an extraordinarily long time before checking.
This is a universal timing tell; usually when people aren't that interested in their hand anymore (say they called the turn with something like overcards and a straight draw and missed, and are now intending to just check-fold), they tend to hit the check button rather quickly. I think it's a psychological thing, partially they just want to move on to the next hand as fast as possible so they can see new cards and accumulate chips, and partially because they're in a socially awkward situation where they've leaked chips and are now feeling ashamed, and they just want to make the situation end as soon as possible. So when someone thinks for a long time and checks, it's often a sign that they were contemplating between shoving themselves and checking, or at least that they're still interested in the hand. This is not as imporant as the other guidelines in this article, and I recommend you still always shove scary river cards if you don't think it's hit your opponent, but it's something to watch for.
In MTT's most of the late-game play circulates around stack-size rules; most of the time you want to 3-bet/call or 3-bet shove or just fold pre-flop. Calling with a stack of 30BBs or similar is bad unless you're a very good post-flop player, because by calling too much pre-flop and playing fit-or-fold post-flop you're just spewing away chips. But if you know how to make moves post-flop, you can call much wider pre-flop and make things difficult for your opponents. I'd say that floating is probably the single most imporant post-flop weapon in the arsenal of an MTT'er, yet it's not discussed anywhere near enough. I hope this article gave you some insight so that you can start owning weak-tight regulars on your own. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me!
PS. I'm not saying scandis only know how to float. I just wanted to come up with an interesting headline.