Strategy with Stas | Lesson #13: Top Pair vs. a Small Donk Bet

Editor’s note: This is Lesson #13 in our weekly “Strategy with Stas” series. Stas Tishkevich, founder of the Poker Fighter Training App, brings you a new lesson in article + video format. We hope you enjoy this feature from the Poker Fighter School, and would be happy for you to share these posts — as well as your feedback — on social media.


Action is folded to us and we see ace-jack offsuit in the dealer position. We will open-raise from this position at least 42% of possible starting hands, and ace-jack offsuit is at the top of our opening range, so we should always open-raise this hand in this spot.

If a player in one of the blinds were to re-raise, we would probably call vs. most player types except vs. those who use a very-tight 3-bet range (QQ+, AK for example).

Happily for us, only the small blind calls, and now our mission is to think about his possible range of hands, meaning which hands will he play like this.

If we think the opponent is a loose-passive player type, as the majority of players at low stakes are, we can assume he plays like this mostly pocket-pairs (22-TT), suited aces (A2s-AJs), broadway cards (JT-AT, QJ-AJ, KQ), and maybe suited connectors (32s-T9s). Looser players can also call with low suited kings (K2s-K9s), suited one-gappers (42s-T8s), and offsuit hands like T9o, Q9o, J9o, etc.

We should assume his range is capped, and that he won’t have hands like jacks or better or ace-king, as most players would re-raise (3-bet) with these hands vs. a player in the dealer position’s open-raise.

We are ahead of this range with our ace-jack offsuit, and feeling pretty good about this spot given our initiative and positional advantage.

Facing a Donk-Bet on the Flop?

The flop comes Ac5c3d, which is a wet flop, as it offers many flush and straight draws. We don’t have a chance to think whether we should check or bet this flop, as our opponent decides to lead with a small donk-bet!

Donk bet means that the opponent who was passive pre-flop and whose range is probably capped, takes the initiative on the flop and leads with a bet, instead of checking to the original pre-flop raiser. A small donk-bet is usually a losing move made by amateur poker players for one of two reasons:

  • With medium made hands to check what their opponents have, or
  • With medium drawing hands to see the turn for cheap

Either way, usually they will not have a strong made or drawing hand, and we can put pressure on their bet by calling or raising in position a wide range of hands.

To Call or Raise?

We’ve hit top pair with a decent kicker and now need to decide between calling and raising.

If we call it will be for pot control, meaning we think our hand is mediocre and are not sure we have value to collect by raising.

If we raise it’s for value and to protect our hand vs. potentially bad turn cards (a 2 or 4, for example).

In this case it seems like we have tons of value to be gained from any ace with weaker kicker, any pair, a gutshot, and flush or straight draw, etc.

We choose to raise 5x his bet as it is a draw-heavy flop, and the opponent folds.


The main point we need to understand here on the flop, is that when facing a small donk bet on a wet flop, we should assume that the opponent’s range is medium-weak, and that any decent hand we have should probably be raising for value and protection.

Just calling versus small donk bets on wet flops is usually not a good idea.



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Stas Tishkevich poker author
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Stas Tishkevich

Stas “Stasia42” Tishkevich is a long-time poker pro and coach. He founded the Israeli Poker Academy & Poker Fighter Training App back in 2014, and he is currently promoting the campaign to regulate the game of poker in Israel.


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