The donk bet was introduced as a poker term in the mid 2000’s. It’s quite interesting that it has been given the negative name “donk”. This conjures up thoughts of a donkey, which is one of the worst insults a poker player can be called. But is the donk bet actually all that bad? This article will attempt to answer this question.
What is a Donk Bet?
A donk bet is where the pre flop caller of a raise leads out into the raiser from out of position.
Why is Donk Betting Bad?
The donk bet is considered poor poker strategy because it does not conform to people’s understanding of how poker should be played. The “check to the raiser” mentality is so ingrained in the poker community that to deviate from it is often considered fishy play. There are reasons a donk bet can be bad though. Here are a few:
What are you representing?
It looks weak to the raiser. If you are leading into them, you appear as though you want to take the pot now. After all, why wouldn’t you check and raise a likely c bet? What are you telling your opponents if you decide to bet into them?
Losing the c-bet
If you’re actually strong, leading out can lose you action. Let’s consider a scenario where a frequent raiser opens the button. You defend the big blind with pocket 3s and flop a set on 3-5-J. You donk bet into your opponent who quickly folds, moving on to the next hand. The flop bet loses the c bet you inevitably get from most poker players these days.
You will get 3 bet a lot
Many player’s treat a donk bet like a check anyway and will re raise you instead. Some people don’t give you credit when you lead into them and will 3 bet most flops knowing you are unlikely to be strong. This makes the donk bet a poor poker strategy if you are not super strong when leading. Additionally, as many players will 3 bet the donk bet liberally, you can’t narrow their range sufficiently.
Why might the donk bet be good?
Contrary to mainstream poker thought, I’ve always been a big fan of the leading into the raiser. There are couple of different scenarios I use it for deception. Flopping a monster and leading into an experienced player or a player who is likely to be strong works well. Both types of player will not expect you to have a strong hand and will either raise you for value or as a bluff. Either way you accomplish what you want. Deceiving your opponent goes a long way to helping 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 pots 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.
Take down small pots (cheaper bluffs)
At low and micro stakes, this bet can work well as players are prone to fit and fold poker. By leading into them you are removing their c bet weapon. It’s also a cheaper bluff than check raising. Therefore, it can be an effective stealing strategy in tournaments.
Beginner players don’t look at the situation and realise you are likely weak. Instead, they will be looking at their cards and seeing if they hit on the flop. Caution though, some beginners will call on the flop with AK type hands even if they miss so it make require a turn bet too.
When to donk bet
In the most simple terms, they work best when:
- Against strong players when you have very strong hands
- Against weak players with weak to medium strength hands
The donk bet is weapon that can be used sporadically and have success. You need to understand your opponents, have them tagged correctly so be sure to take notes and use a HUD. You will then know who it will work with and who it won’t.
The donk bet has been around a long time and can be a useful tool if exercised properly. Gus Hansen showed this many years ago by schooling all the pros in WPT events with this style, so it can work, however, it takes precision and experienced to pull it off consistently.
*This post was originally written in 2020 and has been updated.