AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 25.06.2021 · last updated 25.06.2021

A term that every poker fan gets used to is ‘donk’, which is a not very polite way that too many in the game used to describe a weak poker player. All too often someone will take badly to losing a hand they thought they shouldn’t, against a player they deemed not sufficiently talented to win a single chip, voicing their disgust in the Chatbox by calling their opponent a ‘donk’. It’s a very negative part of the poker dictionary, albeit a popular one. Indeed, for a long time, it was considered quite acceptable for those players who are prone to letting rip their frustration and irritation in Chat to accuse anyone in the Big Blind who bet the Flop into the pre-flop aggressor of being a donk … but times change.

This bet, known – not surprisingly – as the donk bet, does indeed go against conventional thinking and logic. ‘Donk-leading’ out of position against a player coming out fighting pre-flop invites trouble by voluntarily engineering a situation in which the practical circumstances are unfavorable. Rather than checking to at least assert a level of pot control, throwing out such a donk bet leaves us open to the original aggressor (in position, after representing a strong hand) responding to our bet by upping the stakes with a raise.

Why make a point of putting money in the middle when the opposition is the one in the driving seat? This is a good question, and we should note that, in most cases, the donk bet is what it appears to be, namely a naïve move or a sign that the player lacks understanding of common but important concepts (pre-flop aggression, continuation-betting, position…).

Having said that, poker is a game with fascinating complexity in terms of how it evolves and, however counter-intuitive it might sound, the donk bet has become an integral part of a serious player’s armory. Indeed, it can be a very effective tactic, and for numerous reasons. Moreover, given that it’s already difficult enough as it is playing out of position, being able to put the donk bet to good use to optimize our chances of actually making a profit when in a notoriously troublesome spot is a welcome ‘extra’ strategy for those players yet to incorporate it.

Note that the circumstances in which we can carry out a donk bet play crop up very often – namely where the Big Blind is the only caller of an in-position pre-flop aggressor. Rather than always acquiescing to the conventional follow-up that sees the BB inviting the raiser to remain in the driving seat by checking – which often leads to our facing a bet (and a subsequent aggressive line) that we might not be willing to call – there will be spots that justify throwing in a donk bet.

The secret to identifying such potentially profitable opportunities, and then playing them properly, is getting used to what types of Flop textures lend themselves to donk betting. More accurately, certain Flops will benefit our range more than the pre-flop aggressor’s. For example, if we called a pre-flop raise with 5 7 and the Flop connected in some way, there’s a good chance that our opponent could be getting busy with a hand at the upper end of their range, such as A K. Importantly when this happens and we choose not to make the donk bet, the positive implications for us of such an advantageous Flop tend to be rendered insignificant because we allow ourselves to be bullied out of the hand. These are opportunities missed.

Keep your eyes peeled on YPD for an example of the donk bet in practice! In the meantime, it will pay (literally) to not always automatically roll over when out of position against a sole pre-flop raiser when the Flop appears, but instead, be willing to throw a proverbial spanner in the works with an unwelcome and often difficult to meet donk bet.

Good luck at the tables!

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