Explanation of Donk Bet

Player Profile – The “Donkey”

It’s unclear when poker players first began to use the term “donk” to describe a weaker player at the poker table. That said, the donkey has long been a symbol for stubbornness and ignorance, traits which are not useful for succeeding at poker.

Read this article about how to master ranging your opponent.

Not surprisingly, the term is considered derogatory by many audiences and caution when using the term is advised. Amongst professional audiences the term is not considered derogatory and is instead a technical term used to describe an opponent’s competency level (in this case, very low). 

As such, professional players see the terms “fish” and “donk” as different. The word“fish” might simply refer to a weak regular, whereas the term “donk” applies to highly incompetent players who may not even have a full grasp of the rules, in some cases. 

The Line – Donk Betting

The term “donk-bet” carries an entirely different meaning, although it is related somewhat to the word donk. For a long time in poker history, good players would nearly always check to their opponent if he was the aggressor on the previous street. For example, after cold-calling an open raise while OOP preflop, a good player would always check the flop to see if his opponent would fire a continuation bet. 

Of course, novice players didn’t necessarily know about this unwritten rule of “always checking to the aggressor”, and they would frequently bet into the aggressor while OOP. By playing this way, they would be automatically identifying themselves as inexperienced players (or “donks”). The term “donk-bet” was born - and the rest is history. Since then, it represents a line taken primarily by weaker players.

Donk bets can happen on the flop, turn or river. So long as our opponent took the last aggressive action on the previous street, then leading OOP on the next street is referred to as a donk bet. For example, a river donk-bet would typically involve a player cold-calling OOP against an open preflop, check/calling the flop and turn, then leading the river OOP.

Example of Donk used in a sentence -> We cold called in the big blind against a button open then decided to donk bet the flop.

How to Use Donk Bet as Part of Your Poker Strategy

Should We Ever Donk Bet?

Despite its name, donk-betting can actually be used as part of a correct poker strategy. If we never donk-bet, we are likely not following the best strategy. So, why historically did good players avoid donk-betting?

It’s worth remembering that this was also a poker era where the average player was severely over-using continuation bets, especially on the flop. Many players were c-betting in the region of 80% or more of flops. In terms of exploitative play, donk-betting doesn’t make too much sense when our opponent will always provide us with a cbet. Value hands nearly always make more money by going for the check-raise.

In the modern era players understand the theory behind c-betting a little better and tend towards c-betting at a lower frequency. On certain flop textures, where their c-betting frequency will be especially low, incorporating a donk-betting range is often made more profitable by the defender. Another way of thinking about this is that when flop, turn, or river cards fall which heavily favour the defender, it may make sense for him to lead OOP and take control of the action.

Donk-betting is also important for exploitative reasons. Some opponents simply play badly against donk-bets, either folding, calling or raising too frequently. Against high folders we would certainly want to start donk-betting as a bluff. Against players who raise donk-bets hyper-aggressively it makes sense to start leading our value holdings in the hope of getting that raise. 

Donk-betting is often considered a complex area of poker strategy due to the necessity of balancing a range across multiple lines. (I.e we have the option to donk-bet, check/call, check/raise or check/fold and we need to distribute each holding within our range across the correct lines). The first step for beginners is simply to consider donk-betting as a possible option. Many players have a blind spot here and will never donk-bet, regardless if the situation calls for it.

See Also 

Check, Fold, Continuation bet, Range, LAG, TAG, Nit, Action

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