The term donk bet is derived from the word donkey, suggesting that this kind of action is a stupid or at least an odd one.
The exact meaning of the word may vary somewhat. Here are the different definitions:
- An unexpected bet (a bet out of nowhere), which is hard to interpret for opponents as it doesn't seem to follow the pattern of the previous betting sequence.
- A risky and egocentric bet that ignores the threat posed by the board in conjunction with opponents that demonstrate strength. This often indicates weak players that stubbornly (like a donkey) play their cards without paying attention to what is happening around them. Such players bet their top pair out of position, for example, although the board offers the possibility of straights and flushes or although the action at the table indicates that another player already has "2 pair or better".
A donk bet made by a strong player may also be attributed to a stop-and-go strategy.
Donk bet on the turn
A standard donk bet is usually a turn bet against the flop-raiser out of position. You might consider donk betting on the turn as part of a betting sequence in two cases:
- You have a strong hand and are heads-up against an aggressive opponent who was the flop-aggressor.
- You have a monster and are up against multiple players that you try to trap in the hand.
Heads-up against the flop-aggressor
Let's assume you are in a heads-up situation against the flop-aggressor after playing either check/call or bet/call on the flop. You might want to consider donk betting the turn against aggressive opponents if you have a very strong hand, for example a set. When making such a move you hope that your opponent will raise and offer you the opportunity to 3-bet, which will bring more profit than a check/raise.
This course of action has several advantages.
- The psychological advantage: You hope that your opponent will interpret the lead bet on the turn as a bluff and will counter with a semi-bluff.
- The financial advantage: You hope that your opponent has a second best hand, which will cost him a lot of money (AK when an A was flopped while you have a set), and will aggressively raise for value.
- The positional advantage: You prevent your opponent from receiving a free card.
- The magnetic advantage: You make it hard for your opponent to surrender his hand. A regular "check/raise turn" makes it easy for many opponents to fold.
Preflop: Hero is SB with 6. 6
UTG calls, 3 folds. Hero raises. BB 3-bets. 1 folds. Hero calls.
Flop: (7.00 SB) 6
Hero checks, BB bets, Hero calls.
Turn: (4.50 BB) 5
Hero bets, BB raises. Hero 3-bets. BB calls.
River: (10.50 BB) K
Hero bets, BB calls.
If you have a monster and are up against several opponents, the line bet/call flop - bet turn is a good option on a board that doesn't look dangerous. It is your goal to trap the other opponents between yourself and the flop-aggressor in order to extract maximum value from your hand.
Preflop: Hero is SB with 7
2 folds. MP2 calls, 1 folds. CO raises. Button calls, Hero calls, BB calls, MP2 calls.
Flop: (10.00 SB) A
Hero bets, BB calls, MP2 folds. CO calls, Button raises. Hero calls, BB calls, CO calls.
Turn: (9.00 BB) 3
Hero bets, BB calls, CO calls, Button is all-in ($1.00).
River: (12.25 BB) J
(4 players, 1 all-in)
Hero bets, BB calls, CO calls.
Donk bet on the river in heads-up
Another interesting variant of the stop-and-go strategy is the sequence check/call flop - check/call turn - bet river. You can apply it in three scenarios:
The flop comes with relatively low cards, you hit one of them and assume that the opponent holds two high cards. On the river, the opponent would of course check with an unimproved AK. If you bet the river, you will win another bet against players who think you are bluffing and therefore call with ace high.
What happens, however, if the opponent has an over pair? He will often only call the river because he is too scared to be playing against two pair or better. Therefore you will lose the same 1 big bet that you would have lost by playing check/call river. This way of playing is particularly interesting when facing a calling station. A calling station will call the river with ace high and not raise you with an over pair. However, the player should not be so passive that he would never bet the turn unimproved.
Donk bets with draws
Again the flop doesn't help two high cards. This time, however, you get a strong draw. The standard move in this situation would be check/raise flop - bet turn. If a very aggressive opponent subsequently 3-bets the flop.
- you would bet the turn if the draw arrives (this is a donk bet)
- you could make a check/raise semi-bluff if it doesn't
The semi bluff only makes sense, though, if you assume your opponent to be so aggressive that his 3-bet on the flop may very well have been a semi bluff. How about alternative sequences?
Alternative 1: check/call flop - check/raise turn
There is a problem here: The fold equity is not any bigger, since there is already 1 big bet more in the pot than if we had made our standard move. Of course this is a very powerful move, but check/raise bluffs on the turn are not uncommon anymore, which is why you cannot automatically expect your opponents to fold. Another problem is the risk of a check behind on the turn, preventing us from making our semi-bluff. If we now bet the river, it could easily be interpreted as a "bluff after the opponent displayed weakness" on the turn. Your opponent would then most likely call with a big ace (bluff-catcher).
Alternative 2: check/call flop - check/call turn - bet river
This time the donk bet serves as a river bluff should the draw not materialise. This sequence is rather unusual because the fold equity here is smaller than with a check/raise on the flop.
Wa/Wb River donk
You have an ace with a weak kicker and are out of position against a preflop raiser.
Preflop: Hero is UTG+2 with A
Hero calls, 4 folds, Button raises, 2 folds. Hero calls.
Hero checks, Button bets, Hero calls.
Hero checks, Button bets, Hero calls.
Let us take a closer look at our selected strategy check/call flop - check/call turn - bet/call river. We assume the opponent to be a TAG (tight aggressive player), which is quite common in the 10/20 limits. With the river bet you try to extract maximum value from the hand by preventing under pairs to see a free showdown. Such a bet will rarely be raised by bigger aces because they are usually afraid of 2 pair or better. If you are behind, you will in most cases lose the same big bet you would have lost with a check/call. If you are ahead, you will win an additional big bet.
How about the alternative strategy check/raise flop - bet turn. A TAG might fold his TT there, which would only win you one SB - less than if we had played the standard variant. With a big ace, however, he would raise the flop or the turn, which would be more costly for you.
Let's change two parameters now, first the player, then the board. Both changes favour the sequence check/raise flop - bet turn :
Opponent is loose passive: