Donk Betting: What It Is and When To Do It in Poker 2021?

Donk Betting: What It Is and When To Do It in Poker 2021?

Poker is any of the card games in which players bet on which hand is better according to the rules of that specific game in a similar way to these rankings.

Often times when using a standard deck, poker games vary in deck configuration, the number of cards in play, the number dealt face up or face down, and the number shared by all players, but they all have rules involving one or more betting rounds.

In most modern poker games, the first betting round begins with one or more of the players making some form of force bet (blind or ante). In standard poker, each player bets according to the rank he thinks his hand is worth compared to the other players.

What is Donk Bet in Poker?

The term donk applies to both a specific poker action and a specific type of poker player. Donk bet means to place an out of position bet when you are not the last aggressor in the previous betting round.

The term donk is also used to describe very bad poker. Caution is advised as many may find the term offensive. However, for professional players, the word donk has become a standard technical term to describe a soft target at the table.

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A donk bet is a flop bet made by a player into the preflop aggressor. The term is most commonly used to refer to when the big blind player donks-leads into the preflop raiser.

Since the preflop aggressor has the betting lead, indicating they have a strong hand and therefore an advantage, not to mention position, the OOP (out-of-position) player is expected to check. The IP (in-position) player will then frequently continue the aggression with a c-bet. As straightforward as this sounds, it’s a big part of why many players still fail to correctly use the donk bet.

In the game of poker, having a range advantage in a hand is what fundamentally drives betting. It incentivizes players to want to put more money into the pot and hence make a ‘value bet’.

Many players routinely break this basic cardinal rule of betting. They mistakenly force money into the pot, putting themselves in a difficult and often costly situation.

Could it be ego or an insistence on trying to bluff someone? Perhaps fear of a bad beat or even just a sudden impulse?  A lot of the time, it’s likely the result of being misinformed about when is a good time to donk bet.

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See, despite its former reputation as a donkey play, donk betting is a really useful tactic that you can use to improve your poker game. The key is to know what flop textures can make donk-betting a sound option. Or more specifically, what flop textures help OOP’s hand range more than IP’s.

Explanation of Donk Betting

Player Profile – The “Donkey”

It is unclear when poker players began using the term “donk” to describe a weaker player at the poker table. That said, the donkey has long been a symbol of stubbornness and ignorance, traits that are not useful for success at poker.

Not surprisingly, the term is considered derogatory by many audiences and caution is advised when using it. Among professional audiences, the term is not considered derogatory and instead is a technical term used to describe an opponent’s level of competence (in this case, very low).

As such, professional players view the terms “fish” and “donkey” as different. The word “fish” could simply refer to a weak regular player, while the term “donkey” applies to very incompetent players who, in some cases, don’t even fully understand the rules.

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The Line – Donk Betting

The term “donk-bet” has a completely different meaning, although it is somehow related to the word donk. For a long time in the history of poker, good players almost always checked their opponent to see if he was the aggressor in the street above. For example, after cold calling an open raise while preflop is OOP, a good player would always check the flop to see if his opponent would fire a continuation bet.

Of course, novice players didn’t necessarily know about this unwritten rule of “always look at the aggressor”, and would often bet on the aggressor while offline. By playing this way, they would automatically identify themselves as inexperienced players (or “donkeys”). The term “donk-bet” was born, and the rest is history. Since then, it represents a line taken mainly by weaker players.

Donk bets can occur on the flop, turn, or river. As long as our opponent made the last aggressive action on the previous lane, then leading OOP on the next lane is called a donk bet. For example, a river donk-bet would normally involve a player cold calling OOP against an open preflop, check / call the flop and turn, and then lead the river OOP.

Donk example used in a sentence -> We cold-called in the big blind against an open button and then decided to bet donk on the flop.

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How to Use Donk Bet as Part of Your Poker Strategy?

Should We Ever Donk Bet?

Despite its name, donk-betting can actually be used as part of a correct poker strategy. If we never donk-bet, we are likely not following the best strategy. So, why historically did good players avoid donk-betting?

It’s worth remembering that this was also a poker era where the average player was severely over-using continuation bets, especially on the flop. Many players were c-betting in the region of 80% or more of flops. In terms of exploitative play, donk-betting doesn’t make too much sense when our opponent will always provide us with a cbet. Value hands nearly always make more money by going for the check-raise.

In the modern era, players understand the theory behind c-betting a little better and tend towards c-betting at a lower frequency. On certain flop textures, where their c-betting frequency will be especially low, incorporating a donk-betting range is often made more profitable by the defender.

Another way of thinking about this is that when flop, turn, or river cards fall which heavily favor the defender, it may make sense for him to lead OOP and take control of the action.

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Donk-betting is also important for exploitative reasons. Some opponents simply play badly against donk-bets, either folding, calling or raising too frequently. Against high folders we would certainly want to start donk-betting as a bluff. Against players who raise donk-bets hyper-aggressively it makes sense to start leading our value holdings in the hope of getting that raise. 

Donk-betting is often considered a complex area of poker strategy due to the necessity of balancing a range across multiple lines. (I.e we have the option to donk-bet, check/call, check/raise or check/fold and we need to distribute each holding within our range across the correct lines). The first step for beginners is simply to consider donk-betting as a possible option. Many players have a blind spot here and will never donk-bet, regardless if the situation calls for it.

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Reasons why Donk Betting can be good?

Deception

Contrary to mainstream poker thinking, I have always been a huge fan of leading the rise. There are a couple of different scenarios where I use it to cheat. Dropping a monster and carrying a good player or a player who is probably strong works well.

Both types of players will not expect you to have a strong hand and will raise you by value or as a bluff. Either way you get what you want. Cheating your opponent is very useful to help you win money at poker.

Build the pot

Against players that are exercising pot control and playing small ball, the donk bet strategy works well to set up bluffs or build pot for value. By leading out you build the pot and allow a bluff to work smoother. By leading out, you can put pressure on your opponent. It may take 3 streets of betting but you can get the weak to medium strength hands to fold.

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Take down small pots (cheaper bluffs)

At low and micro stakes, this bet can work well as players tend to call in and out of poker. By heading towards them, you are eliminating their gambling weapon c. It is also a cheaper bluff than check-raising.

Beginning players don’t look at the situation and realize that you are probably weak. Instead, they will look at their cards and see if they hit the flop. Caution: some beginners will flop AK hands even if they miss, so a turn bet is also required.

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