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Starting Hands Revealed
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The Donk Bet in Online Poker
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.
Donk Bet Definition
What is a donk bet? A donk bet is a bet made by a player before the player who has the initiative.
Here is the deal. Say 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.
Advanced Donk Bet Strategy
There are exceptions to the derogatory idea that the donk bet is only made by players who do not know better. For example if a player hits a set with a flush draw on the board, he could make a bet large enough to deny the odds to call with that draw in order to protect his hand.
In this type of situations the pot is usually multi-way and raised, so that there is already a large pot to collect when flop play starts. And it is a bad idea to give a free card if the players in later position all decide to check. These two reasons justify out of position aggression. And this situation will be quite transparent to observing regulars.
At the second level of thinking, the donk bet can be quite a potent weapon to steal pots from NIT players. For example it we see a ragged flop, or even better a paired ragged flop, the donk bet can be an effective bluff in an attempt to scare away weak-tight players.
Some solid savvy players make it their specialty to donk bet once in a while in order to increase their win rate. This advanced strategy relies on finding good timing opportunities and on understanding well board texture & opponent style.
Donk betting has the additional advantage to make their image more aggressive and unpredictable. This strategy can be effective because most players do not like to be donk bet into. Put your opponents out of their confort zone so that they make mistakes. Also donk betting works better if your table image is tight.
"Donk bet" as a statistic is available in all major poker trackers. It is the percentage of time a player makes a donk bet when given the opportunity. It can be useful to display this statistic in real-time if you use a HUD such as poker-edge. It is also available for each street, i.e. flop donk bet, turn donk & river donk bet.
Study these statistics and determine the optimal level of donk betting appropriate in the games you play. Look at the donk bet rates of the players you want to emulate and compare that to yours. Adjust your game accordingly.