Although it was previously considered a bad play in general (hence the name), donk betting has earned its place in modern poker strategy.
People will no longer look at you as if you had lost your mind when you bet into the original raiser on the flop. Nowadays, it is considered legitimate in both live play and on online poker sites.
However, even if donk betting has found its way out of poker’s doghouse, it’s still not a standard play by any stretch of the imagination. It is – and will always likely be – more of an unusual line that you’ll want to take now and again. So, with that in mind, here are the top 3 things to consider when looking to utilize the donk betting tactic.
Donk betting can be fine when you have a range advantage
When you find yourself in a scenario where you have a clear range advantage over the pre-flop aggressor, donk betting can be a valid strategy. On certain board textures, your range of hands will simply be ahead of your opponent’s by a fair margin. When this happens, you might want to consider a donk bet.
The reason for this is that your opponent probably knows they’re behind your range. If you check to them, they will frequently check behind and take the free card to try and improve. By using donk bet, you deny them the opportunity and make it harder for them to continue in these spots.
This isn’t to say that you should always donk bet in these situations as that will make you very exploitable. Instead, pick your spots with some strong hands and a few bluffs and use them as donk bets instead of check-folds or check-raises.
Good balance is the hardest part of donk betting
The biggest reason why donk betting isn’t more popular among players isn’t that it’s inherently bad, but rather because it’s very hard to build your donk betting range in a balanced way. It takes a lot of studying and memorizing things to learn an effective donk betting strategy.
If you can’t have a well-balanced range, you’re probably better off not having one at all. You can’t simply “decide to donk bet strong hands” (strategically speaking) since this will change how you need to play your entire range. I have even heard players saying that they face more poker coolers in such situations, but I doubt it can have anything to do with donk betting.
If you feel like other aspects of your game are very strong, and there isn’t much room for improvement, focusing on donk betting can be valuable. However, if you feel like there are still other areas where your game is lacking, you should definitely focus on those first (be it c-betting, playing in 3-bet pots, or whatever else which comes more often and is more important).
This is because even with the perfectly balanced donk betting strategy, you still won’t gain that much of an edge over your opponents, especially at the higher stakes. There is simply a limit to the effectiveness of the donk bet that you won’t be able to break, which brings me to my final point.
You can be a great player without the donk bet
Even if donk betting is no longer seen as something that only bad players do, it’s not something you absolutely must-have in your playbook, just because it is hard to execute correctly.
Firing a donk bet every now and then to surprise your opponents and get them out of their comfort zone can be a good thing, but it’s not required for your success.
You could spend your entire poker career playing “standard” without integrating donk betting into your overall strategy and still have great results. So, you shouldn’t obsess over learning the optimal donk betting strategy or try to force it into your game. If you don’t have time to study it properly or don’t feel comfortable using it, just don’t. You won’t be leaving heaps of money on the table, and that’s a promise.
Experimenting with different plays can be good for your development as a poker player, so don’t be afraid to give this advice a try. But don’t let anyone tell you that donk betting is something you have to, because it’s probably not.