The donk bet is a bet made out of position into the preflop raiser, effectively preempting his cbet on any street.
It’s a play that confuses many players, myself included, and we all know that committing confused chips can be costly in poker. It seems that donk bets can be made for any reason by any opponent and for any size. So, how do we figure out what these bets mean?
Quite often, donk bets are “blocking bets” made by players who hold a draw or a weak 1 pair hand. They don’t want to check-call a large 50%-75% pot-sized bet, so they lead out for 1bb or 1/4 pot in an effort to set their own price to see the next card (or cheaply bluff you off your hand).
In this example hand, Hero opened on the BTN and Villain 15 called. Villain 15 (a tight-passive weak player) donk bets on the flop and the turn for only 2BBs each time:
That tiny sizing on two streets is a clear indication of weakness, so Hero called both streets with a bluff-catching pair of sixes.
On the river, Villain 15 checked, Hero checked behind, and we see:
You can imagine if Villain 15 had flopped something much stronger like a set of threes or turned top pair with KQ, he would’ve bet more than 2BBs on the turn to extract value from Hero.
Sometimes, donk bets can be made for value and/or for “protection” on scary boards when a player flops a strong hand but doesn’t want their opponent to check-behind and catch a winning turn card.
In this example, Villain 4 limped, Villain 5 min-raised to 2BBs, Hero called then Villain’s 3 & 4 both called making for a 4-way pot on the flop:
Villain 3 (a competent aggressive reg) comes in for a 3/4 pot-sized donk bet on a wet middle-card board from out of position versus three other players.
What do you make of this donk bet? Is this a pair of deuces trying to bluff cheaply? Probably not as many players play straight-forward in multiway pots from out of position. This big bet feels like a value bet with two pair or better from a player who is concerned with all the straight potential on the board.
Unfortunately, Hero called the flop donk bet then called again on the turn. On the river, Hero hit TP and bet for value when Villain 3 checked. Villain called with a hand that fits his large flop donk value/protection bet perfectly:
To help you make a read on a player’s donk bet, take into account:
- Player type: weak players often bluff with donk bets; competent players use them to put you off your game and confuse you.
- The donk bet size: the larger it is, the more likely they’re doing it for value.
- Their preflop range and board interaction: if they have plenty of draws and weak pairs possible, it’s likely a blocking bet.
- History: pay attention to frequent donk bettors and what they showdown to use this info against them in the future.
If you’re an online player with a database of hands in PokerTracker 4, you can learn a lot from the donk-bet facing hands in your database. Run the following flop filter in PokerTracker 4:
Review 30 hands (6/position from the BB through the BTN). What did they have when they donk bet and what was their sizing? What type of player were they and what was their Donk Flop statistic at the time?
Try to spot patterns to the donk bets you face. Take notes on your findings and the next time you face a donk bet, put them on a range, and react accordingly.