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The donk bet stands for “donkey” bet, where the term donkey designates the worse poker players. Like anything else in poker, it can be a very good move or a very bad one.
It depends on who is doing it and at what limits you are playing. It is true that fish would not know better, but sharks can use it as well. And the donk bet can be a scare technique if well timed
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For example a player that we shall call player2 raises preflop and gets two callers, player1 before him & player3 after him. In this case player2 has the initiative as he is representing the strongest hand. Therefore he is expected to automatically bet at the flop, and the standard play is to check to him.
In our example, player1 will check and then player2 who has the initiative will bet. This is called a continuation bet. From there, the rest of the hand can unfold in many different ways. If instead player1 who is first to act bets, this is unexpected and this is called a donk bet.
At the first level of thinking, let us say that player1 really has a good hand, and player2 & player3 either missed the flop or just have average hands. Given the strength displayed by player1 who is out of position, they both fold. The end result is the worse for player1 who got no extra chips in the pot to pay off his monster hand.
This is why if player1 hits the flop with a big hand, the standard move is to check, so that he can either check-call or check-raise when player2 bets. But novice players do not know all that; they simply bet because they have a big hand, ruining its potential in the process. Hence the name donk bet.
Donk betting in no limit Texas Hold’em game
A donk bet is simply a bet into the pre-flop raiser. For example let us say that it was folded around to the button that raised to 3.5bb and the big blind called. The flop came J-10-4 and the big blind bet into the raiser…….this bet is called donking.
The reason for the donk
A “donk” in no limit Texas hold’em is often a name for a weak player or fish but in this instance it means something else. Here it means leading into the pre-flop raiser. The reasons behind why this move is popular are obvious. Firstly the big blind in this instance knows or at least strongly suspects that the raiser is stealing. So they look to take the pot away from them by placing the onus back on them to connect with the board. So instead of three betting pre-flop they elect to call with the intention of betting the flop.
Why stronger players defeat the strategy
When done at a very basic level in no limit Texas hold’em then donking doesn’t really make any sense. It is a bet that is designed to represent a hand but it seems counter-productive to make such a move with either a strong holding or a fair holding. If you check then your opponent will almost certainly bet and so you capture at least one bet with the best hand. If you donk then your opponent could simply fold. So you would at least check-call or check-raise with a powerful holding.
Reasons for the check-call line
Many poker players in no limit Texas hold’em will go into what is called pot control. Players tend to do this with mediocre or marginal hands that may be best but may well not be. Mediocre made hands serve as very good bluff catchers and so once again it is better to check-call with marginal hands. So in both cases then the donk lead makes little sense.
The response to the donk lead
The simple response to the donk lead is to simply raise. This is especially the case if your poker hand has any sort of equity. The combination of pot equity and fold equity will prove profitable over the long term. Some players even go as far as to raise 100% of donk bets. However even against moderately thinking opponents then these players will play back in no limit Texas hold’em eventually.
The exception to the rule
As your opponents reach a higher level of sophistication then so do their strategies to defeat you in no limit Texas hold’em. So if your opponent believes that you would raise donks then some of them will adjust by leading out with their value hands or three betting you with their lesser holdings. So in no way should donking be automatically labelled as weak. However if you encounter this tactic at low stakes games then it is a weak move to wrestle the initiative more often than not. If you can figure out why your opponents are donking in no limit hold’em then you will find more profitable spots.
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Poker Dictionary: Donk bet