Concepts: The Donk Bet

 
Definition: The donk bet is an unexpected bet made by a player who is out of position

First of all we need to understand that a donk bet is like a continuation bet also a superordinate concept. The name donk bet comes from the point in time when the bet is made rather than from the donk bet's intention. The term donk bet is derived from the word donkey with the aim of expressing that this bet is usually not a smart move. Here's a classic example.

  • Example 1:

We're holding in early position and raise three times the big blind. A player in middle position calls, as do the small blind and big blind. The flop is . There are 12 BBs in the pot. The small blind checks. The big blind bets 6 BBs.


Donk bet! As we were the pre-flop aggressor, under normal circumstances we would expect everyone else to check to us and then we would bet again. However, the big blind beat us to it with this donk bet. What hand could have motivated him to do this? If he has a good hand, it would make far more sense for him to pretend to be weak in order to give us, the pre-flop aggressor, the opportunity to make a continuation bet. Depending on the other players' style of play, he may then come over the top with a raise and he could therefore collect a much bigger pot. If he has a weak hand, however, then his bet is not the best idea as well since there are three opponents in the pot and the pre-flop raiser is still left to act, meaning that he won't have much fold equity on this dangerous flop. In addition to that his bet is also implausible as most very good hands that hit this flop would have raised or re-raised pre-flop. Let's look at the reasons why people make donk bets and see how they can be rated.
 

Donk bet variations

Donk bet as a value bet

As already mentioned, if we have a good hand it usually makes more sense to check to the pre-flop aggressor in order to allow him to bet. There are however situations in which it definitely makes sense to make a donk bet as a value bet. If we are in a hand with the pre-flop aggressor who plays very aggressively pre-flop but is then less active on the flop, it may make sense to make a value bet before it's his turn to act to avoid running the risk that it gets checked around. We may also encounter a situation in which we are up against very aggressive players. A donk bet always seems somewhat strange and implausible at first and may cause one or more of our opponents to try and punish us for making this donk bet with a hefty raise. Our response should be a big value re-raise. So this situation is also suitable for a donk bet. We should try to test our opponents a bit and see whether they tend to react to donk bets with distrustful restraint or with reproachful aggression. We can then decide which situations are right when it comes to making donk value bets.

  • Example 2:

We are in the big blind with . There are three Scandinavians  at our table, in early and middle position, who are very aggressive. The player on the button is probably on tilt. The "under the gun" Scandinavian raises to double the size of the big blind, which is his standard raise. Another Scandinavian behind him calls, as does a player in middle position. The on-tilt player on the button also calls. The small blind calls and we call as well. The flop is . The small blind checks. There are twelve big blinds in the pot. Everyone knows that the Scandinavians will usually open the pot, since they do that almost every round. There is a heated atmosphere at the table and we try to use this to our advantage by unexpectedly making a donk bet of five big blinds before it's the Scandinavians turn to act. Our aim here is to provoke them by making a fairly small bet.  


Donk bet as a bluff

We should reject this idea. There are hardly any situations in which a donk bluff bet makes sense. Firstly, a donk bet always arouses suspicion, which is usually not the right basis for a bluff. It is possible to force a player or two to fold, but the problem here is that the fold equity in these cases is too low to justify a bet. As a result, we would not make a profit in the long run. If we bet half the size of the pot as a donk bluff bet, we would need to win the pot immediately in one third of all cases in order to break even in the long run. If we bet the entire pot, i.e. a bet that would return more respect, we would need to have a fold equity of at least 50% among our opponents in order to break even. The donk bluff bet would only return us a profit in the long run with higher fold equities. If we are at a table with players who are so tight and weak that we can achieve a much higher fold equity with a donk bluff bet, then we should use it. However, such tables are rare and we need to be sure that it really is such a table.

Donk bet as a probe bet

Although probe bets are often made if the pre-flop aggressor didn't bet after the flop, we can imagine situations where we can make a donk probe bet. We could beat him to it by making a probe bet as a donk bet with a mediocre hand, meaning that we are trying to prevent him from making pure continuation bluffs.

Donk bet as a block bet

Most block bets are donk bets, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the majority of all donk bets are block bets. The nature of a block bet is to beat a supposed aggressor to it by making him call our bet rather than raise it or to take the particular bet he likes to make away from him. A lot of players like to bet approximately two thirds of the pot. We will often hear the saying "if you don't know how much to bet, then you definitely make no mistake by betting two thirds of the pot". However, if we bet about half the size of the pot as a donk block bet before it's the supposed aggressor's turn, then the opponent can no longer bet two thirds of the original pot as he planned to and would have to raise at least the entire original pot. The opponent may however consider this to be too much, so he will call instead.

Donk bet in later betting rounds

A donk bet is possible in every betting round. The pre-requisite is always that somebody else was the aggressor in the previous betting round and has position on us.
 

 

Conclusion

We should always have a good reason for making a donk bet and be aware of the fact that it will usually be met with suspicion. If this is exactly what we wanted, then we can go for this option. In general a donk bet is not suitable as a bluff bet.

We should not make a donk bet if:

  • we have a weak hand,
  • we have a good hand and the pre-flop aggressor often makes continuation bets,
  • we have a strong hand but no good reason for assuming that we would get more money into the pot with a donk bet than by deploying other tactics.
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