Donk Betting has somewhat of a bad reputation. This is likely because donk betting is commonly associated with fish. Fish do this because they don’t know any better, but a smart regular uses it as part of his arsenal. However, the donk betting bluff can be extremely effective, as is done betting to induce a raise and donking to price your own draws. Dealing with players who are frequently done betting can be tricky too, so as always, we tailor our bets/raises to the individual for maximum +EV results.
The ‘Donk’ you shall no longer associate with stupidity, idiocy or numb-headedness. The Donk will now be your ally, another string in the bow… you get the idea : )
Below is a list of key done betting statistics to keep an eye on at the poker tables.
Fold to donk bet
Raise donk bet
Donk flop-fold to raise
Donk (stab) Turn if no cbet
Donk (stab) River in no Turn cbet
*I’d put these all in the same pop-up for ease of use.
Fold to donk – remember, any bet by you only needs to work a relatively small % of the time to be successful. A good rule of thumb is ‘any bet less than full pot needs to work less than half the time’. Ex: pot 10bb, we donk 7.5bb and it needs to work approximately 43% of the time (x/x+y or 7.5/7.5+10). So if we see a ‘Fold vs donk 45%’ a 2/3 bet (needs to work 40%) is great and even better with a little pot equity to go with it should we get called.
Raise Donk – Since donking is a fishy line at heart, some regs actually find it offensive and will raise it ‘just because’. So be careful donking draws and weak hands here as it will get expensive for you. Instead, donk with big hands and TPTK if they are angry enough to get in a top pair hand! Stat % wise, I just look for extremes like ‘Raise Donk 50%’. If your opponent is getting way out of line here, you can always 3bet the raise with good draws, but be aware you will likely have odds to call it off should he ship over your 3bet.
Donk flop – Not all fish are created equal – yeah they’re all bad but some more so than others. It is not uncommon to see 40% donk-bet and that’s quite a lot considering how many flops these players can see. Notes are crucial here, but if you have none I’d start by re-raising these donk bets on dry boards.
Donk-flop fold to raise – Vs the players that are familiar with donk prowess, this is a stat I like to consult. If I see a ‘Donks – folds to raise’ at say 75% (3 out of 4), I’d definitely be raising light when I’ve missed. Again it can take a while to get a good sample here, so just look for ‘extremes’ in %.
Donk/stabbing Turns and Rivers vs missed cbets – Not a donk bet as such but it’s in the same ballpark and worth mentioning. The common scenario: we cbet – fish calls – Turns checks through – fish pots the River… you’ll find great disparities with different players. Some will never bluff a pair they can just showdown, yet some bet just for the hell of it. You can’t be calling down with Ace high vs fish that can bet 2nd or 3rd pairs on the River, you simply need tighter bluff catchers here like 2nd pair top kicker. Without info I’d make some light calls early on in small pots. When you do make a light call be sure to get that note on sizing and also timing, Ex: ‘Donks river after no 2barrell, pot sized very quickly with 3rd pair’.
Besides the stats listed above, there are other clues that can lead to a successful donk bet:
Low cbet – When someone only cbets 50% why wait for them to decide what to do? They are giving up a lot so get donking vs wide CO and BTN ranges and make their decision easier.
Low 2 barrel – Just like above, if guys don’t cbet the Turn often, stick a donk-bet in here occasionally. Sure they might be pot controlling a made hand sometimes, but they are also giving up a lot too.
Multi tablers on bad boards – Sometimes you know someone is playing more tables than they can handle, so you can steal a lot of small pots on good boards for your range. If you call in the BB with K♥T♥ vs a BTN open and the board is 8♦7♠5♠, just lead. You can represent so many Turn cards if called and a wide Button range hardly ever hits this board hard.
Donk betting to price draws – Often you’ll be playing passive fishy type players and have little fold equity, but you have a good draw. I like a donk-bet around ¼ pot in this situation. Occasionally you will get some folds as they think you are ‘sucking them in’, but if you don’t you can always bluff those later street Q,K,A scare cards.
Light value/blocking donkbets:
a) Vs fish: This line is great vs fish as they generally don’t understand what any bet size means, they’re too busy looking at their hand when deciding whether to call or raise. When the board runs out poorly for your hand, a small half pot donking-block bet will get you to show down at a price you want, get value from worse and also preventing you from being bluffed off your hand. This certainly not the case with regs.
Ex: You hold T♦9♦. You opt to call in the BB vs a 55/22 on the BTN trying to steal. Our aggro fish cbets an A♣8♣T♥ board and we call. The Turn is a 9♥ giving us 2 pair and we go for a check-raise. He quickly checks back though and the River is J♥ filling in a flush and some straights. Facing a substantial bet here would suck, but if we donk half-pot we can get Ax, 8x and other Tx to call when they would otherwise check back for showdown. There aren’t too many bluffs left on this board run-out so we can comfortably fold to a raise when he has it.
b) Vs regs: On this same board run out and action we can’t expect a competent reg to call with weaker, so a donk for thin value is fruitless. Also at 100NL+ I have found that regs recognize weakness in betsize patterns, so the half-pot blocking bet will often get raised by air that was planning on giving up after he checked the Turn!
As you can hopefully see, donking is an art; a great strategy in the right situations and should be a part of every modern player’s game. Let me know how you incorporate or interpret donk betting in your poker game! Be sure to check the newly released book by Paul Ratchford – Exploitive No Limit Holdem
Edited by (Paul Ratchford)