The theory of donk betting

donkey in a field

Some years ago only the very smartest of poker players knew about c-betting. The strategy was simple, you raise pre-flop and when your opponent calls pre-flop then you put the onus on them by c-betting the flop. If your opponent has nothing then they simply fold and if they have a mediocre hand that will become weaker with each passing card then a further barrel will take the pot down. This betting strategy although very simple was also very effective for a good number of years. This was until the poker playing population wised up and started playing back at steal raisers in one of several ways.

The first was to 3-bet pre-flop and take the lead and thus putting the onus on their opponent to have a hand instead. Another strategy was what has become known as “donk betting”. This is to lead into the aggressor on the previous round. It goes something like this, it has been folded around to the button that makes it 3.5bb to go and the small blind folds and big blind calls. The flop is irrelevant but the big blind bets instead of checks thus forcing the button to have something.

This is a very effective strategy under one condition and this is that your opponents are not sophisticated to play back at you. This is because the underlying logic of donk betting is flawed. By betting then you are telling your opponent that you have a decent hand. However the basic mathematics of the situation dictates that your opponent will not have anything a good percentage of the time and both players know this. So it doesn’t make sense for a player to bet a better hand when their opponent will fold when just by checking they could have picked up an almost certain c-bet.

Many players raise donk bets out of principle because they are very often bluffs from non-thinking players. This is where when we get into higher stakes with players that think on many different levels then donking becomes much more interesting. This is when advanced players suddenly start donking with big hands and value hands because many of their opponents will not fold and will either call or raise.

However, against weaker opponents then this tends to not be the case and weaker multi-tabling opponents will often just get out of your way and fold. Also many opponents will simply look at their actual hand strength and deduce that they simply don’t want to get involved with a hand as “weak” as that. For example if they hold 5c-5d and the flop is Ks-Jh-6c and you hand is the As-4s and you bet then most players will fold.

So your strategy doesn’t need to be sophisticated to beat lesser opponents… just needs to be solid.  Remember though that simple opponents tend to be bluffing when they donk and many expert players raise these bets simply because their opponents’ entire game plan is geared to trying to reverse the probability of their opponent hitting the flop.