Donk bet may seem like a derogatory name, but you need to understand when to deploy this play, and how to play against it.
What is donk betting?
When someone opens the betting into someone with the initiative from the previous street, it’s called a donk bet.
For example, let’s imagine the player on the button raises pre-flop, the player in the big blind calls, everyone else folds, and when the flop comes down, the big blind bets, rather than checking. This player is leading into the pre-flop raiser, and is said to be donk betting.
A donk in poker is a poor player – short for ‘donkey’. The reason this maneuver has such a bad name is that in games where most players have a basically profitable set of skills, continuation betting can be so common that there is almost never a reason to lead into the player with the initiative from the previous street, and so anyone doing so is “probably a donk“.
If a player has a good hand, and wishes to build the pot, they can count on the initiative player to continuation bet, and therefore get even more money into the pot. Conversely, if a player wishes to bluff, and take the pot down by having their opponent fold, they may as well let their opponent continuation bet, in order to steal a larger pot.
So goes the theory.
When should I donk bet?
In reality, there are plenty of opportunities to correctly donk bet.
On the river, for example, it can sometimes be profitable idea to lead in to the turn aggressor. For example, let’s imagine a card falls which completes a flush, and you have check-called two streets. Here you can “donk” into the turn bettor if you think he has a hand he doesn’t want to fold, but would like to check with. Perhaps he has top pair, and fears the flush. Given this, you also need to bet this as a bluff a good amount of the time, or at least you need against opponents who are paying attention.
A similar principle applies on the flop, though perhaps not against skilled aggressive players as often. Some players play very passively post flop, and when you make a hand against these players, and you are out of position, you can’t afford to give up opportunities to have them call you.
Other weak tight players can be moved off flops quite easily with a bluff donk-bet, though you need to analyze flop texture to pick your spots. Look for situations that don’t favor big pre-flop hands, like particularly draw heavy flops, with mid to low cards. In situations like this against weak tight players – who tend to be thinking about the game a little more than a loose passive player – you can represent something that has them drawing dead, or may even get them to cheaply lay down an over-pair, if not immediately, but on the next street.
As with any bluff, genuinely having some sort of draw strengthens your equity.