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Post-flop 'Donk Bets'

Off-tempo bets

by Todd Arnold |  Published: Jan 17, 2007


First, I'd like to say that I am happy to be writing for Card Player. I have received some great feedback on my columns in Card Player College and it is much appreciated, as I am always happy to help. Topics have included short-stack play, ace-rag, big slick, decision-making, backing, chip accumulation, heads-up play, reading players, and the effects of poker on your personal life. All of my columns and strategies have focused heavily on the psychological side of the game, and, for the most part, they will continue to do so. I have written a few trip and event reports, and may do a few more of those in the future, as well. All of those columns can be found online at In this column, I will discuss a little post-flop action, specifically, gaining information through betting, and more specifically, the "donk bet" and how to recognize it, understand it, and use it.

Donk betting is a recently coined term to describe off-tempo bets. They are unexpected bets made by a player other than the one you anticipate the bet to come from.

Usually in a raised pot, we expect the preflop raiser to be the one who bets at the pot on the flop, or at least someone in position. When someone then bets into the preflop raiser, that is an off-tempo bet, a donk bet. I'm not so sure that I like this term, because I do it a lot (laughing)! Am I a donkey? Sometimes my hooves slip when playing online and click the mouse, but I don't think I am a donkey. So maybe these bets are not always as bad a play as their name suggests. What information can be gained by betting into the preflop raiser? Why would a player choose to bet into him, rather than check and see what he will do? Often, if and how much the preflop raiser bets post-flop is indicative of the strength of his hand. So why not wait and try to collect that information?

Well, different players make these bets for different reasons. Determining a player's level of creativity is important when understanding what the bets mean. It is very important to do in all aspects of reading players. Table image is one thing, personalities and capabilities are another. Don't ignore them.

I like to bet into the preflop raiser to truly find out the strength of his hand. Just checking and waiting for a continuation bet tells me nothing. Of course, your chip stack, level of the blinds, image, and so on all play a role in making this decision. By betting into him, you leave him with the decision to raise, call, or fold. Depending on the texture of the board, you can then determine how confident he is about his hand. I like to lead right out at a ragged flop from the blinds with absolutely nothing if I am heads up with the preflop raiser, and I oftentimes take down the pot right there. If you caught a piece of the flop, this is a good way to find out whether it's any good or not. In addition to the texture of the board, your image and your opponent's image play a big part in reading the situation, but for now, we are just talking about betting.

The weakest players (and the ones who earned the bet its popular moniker) often make the donk bet when they flop top pair. These are the "Oh, I hit my hand, so I'll bet" players. Such a player tends to be fairly easy to read, so you can usually tell where you are against him. In these situations, you need to evaluate your holding against his probable hand and go from there. Also decide whether he can lay down his hand before you go ahead and make any creative play on him. Also, remember to consider the possible actions of the players behind you in your decisions.

Tricky or creative players sometimes bet into the raiser to disguise the strength of their hands. They can bet into you with nothing, or with monsters like a flopped set or straight. They often bet out, as well, with a variety of draws. These are, of course, the hardest opponents to play well against. Remember, the more people there are in the pot, the less the chance such a bet is a bluff. One thing I like to do (and this works so often online) is make a single poke bet with the nuts. The preflop raiser, or anyone else in the hand, for that matter, just can't help themselves but raise you, because you look weak. Players today are so into "power poker" that they are easy to exploit and trap. Don't fall into this egotistical, power-poker mindset.

In multiway pots, it is rare for the donk bettor not to have a hand, and if he has any hand, it's often the nuts. As I have discussed in other columns and in my videos on my website, weakness often reads exactly like the nuts. It's up to you to decide which it is, based on observations of a player's personality and capability. Weaker players usually go for the check-raise with a made hand rather than lead into a multiway pot. Most poorer players believe that is the way to get the most amount of money into the pot, and hence build their stack. However, a stronger, more creative player may bet right into it to help disguise his strength, and that's what can truly build a big pot. So, if it's a creative, strong player, look out for the nuts. Also, pay attention to where the donk bettor and the raiser are in relation to each other and to any other players in the pot. Look at the bet and the situation, and analyze what he is trying to do. Are there several players in between who will be caught calling the bet, only to potentially face a raise from the initial raiser? If so, there is a real chance that he has a monster, and is hoping the preflop raiser will raise, thus building a very big pot. He also might do this with a strong draw, but it might be a pretty bad play, as he might just bet himself out of the draw. On the other hand, if he is immediately to the preflop raiser's right and there are others in the pot after them, a donk bet might indicate a made but weak (or vulnerable) hand. He's trying to slow down the initial raiser by betting, figuring that if the preflop raiser still raises, the raise will push out the other players, who may be on draws. This increases the chances that his hand will hold up at showdown.

Things can be different in heads-up pots. Pay attention to the aggression level of your opponent. The more aggressive you think he is, the more likely it is that the bet means little. Here, a donk bet could be any pair - or a bluff if he thinks you'll lay down missed overcards. Very tight or conservative players, on the other hand, don't often bluff. These players rarely bet draws, preferring to check-call with them instead. A donk bet by them usually indicates that they hit the flop, and it's usually top pair, and only rarely middle pair, depending on the texture of the board.

So, those are a few examples of off-tempo or donk bets. Recognizing when to use them and understanding how to play against them is an important part of post-flop play. Remember, like all decisions in poker, to take into account as many variables as possible in each decision. They include hand, flop, position, action before you and expected action behind you, table image, opponents' personalities, structure, level of the blinds, chip stacks of your opponents as well as your own, and so on. I'm still taking offense to this new name, though. I can be an ass, but I'm no donkey. spade

Todd Arnold is the trainer and co-creator of and a private coach for online and live players. For private coaching information, visit his site or contact him at