It seems like an unwritten rule sometimes that the player who raised preflop is always the first one to decide whether or not to bet on the turn and how much to bet. This player can also decide to check and see a free turn card (if he is in position) or, if he has players to act behind him, allow them to bet. The idea of the preflop raiser having all the initiative after the flop is a made up "rule," that doesn't have to be followed in practice.
In this article we will also talk about donkbetting in No Limit Hold'em. There are different definitions of a donkbet. In this article we will assume that a donkbet is a bet placed on the next street against the initial bettor or raiser, by a player who is out of position relative to the initial bettor or raiser. On the flop this would mean that a player out of position bets into the initial preflop raiser. But this can also happen on the turn or river. A turn donkbet implies that a player made a bet on the flop that was called by a player out of position relative to the bettor. The player will then fire out a bet on the turn, betting into the initial bettor.
In the situations that we will talk about in this article, we will assume that the donkbet is placed on the flop.
You get donkbets in all kinds of variations. The term donkbet makes you think of bad, fishy players betting out of position into the initial raiser. When these players make a small bet it's called a mini-donkbet. This often only happens when you see a flop heads-up. These sorts of bets, often the size of a BB, are very small in relation to the pot size. For example, the button raises to 4BB preflop and the BB calls, then on the flop the BB bets 1BB into an 8.5BB pot. Experience teaches us that these bets are almost always weak and are often a desperate attempt to pick up the pot there and then. Players who do this often call preflop raises with a wide range of hands and will seldom re-raise preflop. Their game is usually very passive and this is how they often try to pick up a pot with a weak hand, or even a hand that completely missed the flop. Big bets are to risky for these players and calling a large C-bet is too expensive, so a small bet seems best.
On all boards where you would usually make a C-bet, you now do the same against the players with the mini-donkbets. Mini-donkbets can almost always be seen as a simple check, with one big difference; a check is often stronger. Until a player mini-donkbets and then re-raise you, which is essentially just a check-raise, you can assume that it's a weak play. Therefore there is not much point in making an especially large C-bet in these situations. Just make the standard C-bet, or maybe 1 BB bigger than usual, and 95% of the time you will pick up the pot.
If you, however, decide to increase your C-bets in these situations, who will more often get re-raised by a monster, because players will be anticipating your big bets. If a player then calls or raises your C-bet after his mini-donkbet, you're often up against a very strong hand.
Donkbetting with air or a weak made hand.
As we all know there are countless disadvantages of playing a hand out of position, but there is one advantage: You can be the first to bluff. By doing this, you immediately attack the positional advantage from the preflop raiser. If a standard TAG player raises and steals a lot, he will only hit a flop like K-8-2 with a small percentage if his range. To check-raise here could end up being very expensive if we assume that you called a 4BB raise from the BB. That means there is 8,5BB I the pot preflop + a standard C-bet of 7BB by the preflop raiser on the flop, so you're now looking at a pot of 15,5BB. A raise to 22BB can be pretty expensive, especially because you might get called every now and then. You can make some adjustments by immediately betting into the initial raiser.
Obviously you can't be doing this too often, and how often you can do it depends on a number of factors. If your opponent is tight, bluff more. Also look at the flop. A paired J-7-7 flop or a rainbow K-8-2 will have hit your opponent fart less often than a flop showing 10-J-Q suited. So you look to see if the chance is big that your opponent hit and if there are many draws out there which might make him call a bet. Also important of course is your own image. If you donkbet every flop, you are an easy target for bluffraises and valueraises.
The idea behind donkbetting is also to take over the initiative in the hand. Playing a hand out of position is often hard enough, but by taking over the initiative you make the situation a lot easier for you.
Donkbet with an acceptable made hand.
Because, in No Limit Hold'em, the bet sizes can often quickly skyrocket, it's always a good idea to get as much information about your opponents as soon as possible. The advantage is that you usually pay relatively little for information on early streets. This way you can sometimes avoid paying too much, just to find out that your hand is beat. One way of finding this out is by donkbetting. A donkbet in a multi-way pot will often result in the other players playing a bit more straightforward, thereby giving you more information than you would usually get in this early stage. When raising a C-bet with top pair, you often have no idea whether the flop hit your opponent or not, and if it did, how strong his or her hand is. This information can help you save money on the later streets by folding to big bets or make money by placing a valuebet on the river when you have a pretty good idea about the range(s) of your opponent(s).
Preflop we have an acceptable hand and call out of position. There is already a lot of money in the pot and we have a good relative position on the initial raiser. We hit top pair on the flop, but with a weak kicker and quite a draw heavy board. By leading out with a bet here, a re-raise would indicate that somebody flopped a monster or a very strong draw. You almost always get a lot of respect for your bet here. If you get raised it's not that bad, as you immediately know that your hand is not good enough. What happens now is that the initial raiser has to give away information about his hand straight away, by folding, calling or raising. The chance of one of the other two callers having a strong hand isn't very big as they only called preflop. Of course there is always the possibility that they did hit the flop. By as a result of your bet you will soon find out if they have a hand they want to continue with in this pot.
Apart from the flushdraw on the flop there aren't that many more draws out there. There aren't many combo draws possible on this flop, which means you're likely not to get raised by a strong draw. By leading out here you seem very strong, as you are representing a hand that seems stronger than it actually is. As a result of this, and also the fact that you're in a multi way pot, you won't often have to deal with players trying to bluff you out. If you get called here it will often mean that your opponent is on a draw or has a weak made hand.
The initial raiser folds and 1 player calls. As said before, these players will either have a weak made hand, but more often they will be on a draw, especially on this type of board. The turn shows a , which gives us a backdoor flush draw, and our top pair is still good. If we get raised here, a fold is probably still the best thing to do. An unlikely straightdraw hit (6-4), but it is more likely that our opponent slowplayed a flopped set or called a flop bet with 77.The greatest part of his range is still a flush draw, so you want to get value out of your hand.
The river is the , actually a very good card. Almost every draw missed and the only thing you're really scared off is a missed flush draw with a 7. A stronger hand would have probably raised on the flop or the turn, so there is little reason to believe that you are not holding the bets hand here. The best line here is probably a check-call. For many villains a donkbet is still a sign of weakness, and some players think it always indicates a draw. Our opponent will almost never valuebet his top pair here + these hands are only a small portion of his range. It is much more likely that the villain will try and bluff his missed draw on the river, which is exactly what he did here.
The advantage of donkbetting here is that you take over the initiative in the hand and hold on to it. If you would've checked here and everybody else checks to the player on the button, this player would've always bet his KQs. Often you will still call, but you already feel uncomfortable. You only have a marginal hand and you still have 2 players behind you left to act. Let's say you call the flop bet, you will often be faced with another bet on the turn. And then the river. Are you going to call another big bet here with a weak top pair while the villain could be holding a monster, but also just air? By donkbetting you get a lot of information early in the hand which you can use during the rest of the hand.
Donkbet with a marginal hand + draw
In this hand we have a middle pair with a marginal flush draw against two very loose and aggressive opponents. By donkbetting here we take over the initiative in the hand, just like before, and we can decide on the bet sizes. First of all this gives us a chance to pick up the pot there and then. This isn't too bad, but you can expect a loose opponent here to call at least 1 bet on one street. By calling here we can narrow down their possible range. A strong hand will usually raise here, but a draw and a weak made hand will often just call. What you will see often is that villains will cal a bet on the flop very easily, but will fold once you fire a second barrel on the turn.
On the turn we hit 2 pair. If villain has a hand then the size of the bet won't make much of a difference. But we now want to play the hand for value, as most of the time, we will have the best hand here. A hand like 7-9 is very unlikely, but there are numerous other draws on the table, and we don't want anybody to see a cheap river card. Furthermore, a big bet sometimes looks like you want to pick up the pot there and then and that you are trying to bluff a villain out of the pot.
So you bet close to pot here. Players with draws will often fold here, strong hands such as slowplayed sets and straights will raise and hands like overpairs will often still call. The river completes our full house, we value-shove all-in and get called by Queens.
The question is whether or not we would've gotten all the money into the middle if we would've just check-called or check-raised. An advantage of donkbetting is that players don't believe you and almost always put you on a weak hand. Furthermore you can determine the size of the bets.
Especially aggressive players will often play back at donkbets or call down 3 streets. As a result, you can even donkbet your set or 2-pair in heads-up situations every now and then, wait for your opponent to raise and pick up the pot with a 3-bet, rather than just winning the continuation bet. Experience teaches us that you will get a light call on at least 1 street from loose players. Take advantage of this and add the donkbet to your poker arsenal.