Donk bet or Check to the Aggressor?

When do or would you Donk Bet?

"Donk Bet" or a lead bet originated as a label for bad play & betting into the aggressor out of possition. My understanding is most commonly RE flop action. As a general rule we should always “Check to the Aggressor.” Rules are meant to be broken and the best players know when to break them. I’ve watched a few hands were pro’s have Donk Bet, & won huge pots, still to be criticised by commentators & critics.

I don’t remember deliberately & consciously breaking this rule, mostly I guess because Checking to the Aggressor seems overall +EV & less risky. When\why break the rule & Donk Bet?

Once you’ve scared the table into listening when you call a preflop raise, a small bet from early position will often slow down or kill the action. This allows you to improve your hand for less than you would’ve had to pay if you had acted weak. Of course, for this to work you have to establish the right table image first and it helps to know your opponents. If you don’t have the right image for that, then an exploratory bet from early position, on a scary board, might close down the action or at least warn you to get away from your hand.

I play from the blinds a lot, in multi-way pots, and betting first tells everyone I have something - if the board is scary, but I bet top pair, the whole table may fold thinking I have the straight or flush (and sometimes I do). Even AA doesn’t look so good if they are the wrong color on a suited board or if a straight is likely. The preflop aggressor may have hated that flop and you just told him you loved it :slight_smile: If you get raised, then you have to evaluate how good your hand is, and use your knowledge of the player to decide whether your hand is good enough or if you should lay it down.

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You check OOP if the IP player will bet very often. In this situation you will win more EV with strong hands by either check-calling or check-raising. This is typically the case on most flops as the preflop aggressor will cbet at a high frequency as he/she generally will have stronger hands.

If the IP will not bet often, then you can start donking. This is the case when IP is a passive player or the board connects much better with OOP’s hands.

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@bahia7

Table image, & understanding it is one of the most important skills in poker especially on RP IMO. It drastically determines our ability to bluff or get paid & exploit.

So as a defensive bet. I think if implemented properly this strategy would probably work better on RP & weaker players than against very tough opponents. I find it often irritating & difficult to counter. If done poorly or without strategy as many RP players do it can be detrimental tho & very -EV.

Definitely. I think its bad otherwise & -EV, especially if done often.

Aggressive players & Donk Betting can be irritating. Maybe you also entice some bluffs too? It can be irritating to raise premium and the flop doesn’t cooperate and is all suited offsuit hole cards.

Players do use its in very early position with weak bets to some advantage with little risk.

@aoeu

This is an exploitative play then and as said used against passive & weaker players that aren’t Cbetting often enough, and folding too often? This makes sense.

I would think maybe its a good play against an overly aggressive player on favourable flops & the nuts etc. Also multi-way? I would probably only consider Donk Bets if aggro manic is very close after me in multi-way with the expectation he raises my bet adding extra value etc.

The problem with Donk Betting is it gives away hand strength in general so it needs to be strategically used effectively.

Would you use it against stronger players, defensively, as a bluff (semi-bluff), or for added value? Sizing? As said strong players will probably Cbet often enough & check raising seems much higher EV. Its a fairly unorthodox play that I struggle to see the value of. I guess I could find limited opportunities to use it & improve my game. Maybe I need to experiment more?

Unorthodox play can be confusing tho, so I can see it being an exploit, if understood & done correctly. Overall position & basic poker rules seem more reliable & +EV IMO.

I watched a few vids about Donk Betting & I don’t see a great deal of value. I’m hoping some can shed light as to some more advantages of Donk Bets.

There are times to donk bet but they are not common and require your opponents to have some understanding of ranges. If a hand doesn’t work as a x/c or a x/r, a donk lead can be viable. If the IP aggressor is likely to x-back, denying you a street of value, then a donk bet can work. An example would be HU when you are in the BB facing an EP open. Flop is A73 and you x/c. Turn is a 7. The 7 smacks your range and is a card that a good EP player will likely pot control on and x-back. With or without the 7, you can lead on this card. Same with any other card 6 or below as they would fill many of your floats on the flop and miss EP’s opening range entirely. All this assumes that you are playing with someone who understands range interactions though.

Just to clarify - there is no such thing as a donk bet in a limped pot or when action was checked through on a previous street.

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It doesn’t matter if the IP folds too little or too much. It only matters if IP is passive. When OOP, we need to check certain amount of strong hands to prevent IP from betting at a high frequency. If we don’t have enough strong hands to prevent that, we should check all of our strong hands, which is the case on most flops.

When we bet, our range will be stronger than our checking range. Adding a donking range will weaken our checking range. If we start donking without an range advantage, a strong player can run us over with large and frequent bets when we check.

Against maniacs, you generally do not want to be donking. Rather, you should look to check-raise as the maniac will bet for you. Donking your strong hands will allow the maniac to run you over when you check. The exception to this is if you think the maniac will give action vs a flop 3-bet.

Against a passive player, you need to start betting your strong hands for value. The passive player will not build a pot for you so you need to start building it yourself. Also, a passive player will not take advantage of your weak checking range. Because you are donking your strong hands, you can also add in a few bluffs. Just because you bet, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a strong hand.

Example:
You are in BB with KJo, 100bb effective.

BU raises to 3bb, SB folds, you call
Flop: KT4r

Against a aggressive player, you should check call. He will bet his draws and some weaker hands in this spot. You don’t need to bet as he will bet for you.

Against a passive player, you can donk in this spot. You want to deny equity from draws like QJ which may not bet if you check. You can also get value from weaker pairs.

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I think donk betting should be a part of any mixed strategy. It’s not something you should do a lot, but it can be very effective in certain situations.

If you flop a strong hand, you can sometimes lead (with a small-ish bet) into a high-aggro player to induce a raise. If you then call, it disguises the strength of your hand much better than a check-raise would. This can let you check the turn, and if V bets, a check-raise might have him pot committed.

Passive players don’t raise pre much anyway, so I don’t see many opportunities to lead into them. Also, this type player often has a big pair, so it would be less effective unless you have flopped a monster.

On the other hand, if your opponent is playing a fit or quit type game, you can donk bet them sometimes and take the pot right there. This can also be a good way to pot-control if you have a big draw, if they aren’t going to raise you very often.

It’s just a confusing thing to do sometimes, LOL. Warlock and aoeu have pointed out a few other places where it can be used, and, more importantly, where it should’t be used. Either way, it’s not a high frequency play. at least the way I see it.

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I agree any extra weapons we can add could be profitable in the right situation. As @bahia7 said I think it could be useful much more often against weaker players if you have the right table image & maybe too much respect as a defensive &/or value bet. Generally I’m not a fan, but if it can be done effectively & often enough, against a particular player then great.

I’m particularly interested in the psychological mind games this brings to the party. Most players are way too emotional. Good players rarely Donk Bet & if they do its pretty confusing. As @bahia7 mentioned it works more often if respected.

This is a similar to min Donk Bets. I dont ever use them but they can be effective. It’s essentially a defensive or slow play bet. Generally they don’t make sense, are confusing & can disguise hand to some degree.

Yes @1Warlock outlined Donk Bets Vs good players & HU. I would possibly consider using it against average players HU but against better players & games that are not HU feels too risky & not rewarding enough.

Yea I like @aoeu summary bc its about playing most profitably against passive or average players & that’s RP. It’s a profitable exploit. I’m not looking to extract max value all the time or even very often. I’ll only bet thin against weak POW calling stations. Most of the time I’ll check the river with a hand that is not a clear value bet. If I’m

I do like to play an aggressive psychological game & use a few exploits. Personally I think I’ll stick to Check to the Aggressor atm and maybe try & look into a Donk Betting strategy later.

I’m thinking maybe this might be a better exploit/play & have more value in MTT or SnGs IDK. I’m sure stack size too would have some relevance. Donk Betting into short stacks might be valuable?

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I see this attitude all the time, and it never fails to amuse me. “Well, that might work against weaker plaers, but it would never work against me.” Ummmm, no.

An occasional donk bet, if used across your entire range, will not get you run over when you check. What it can do, however, is give you more opportunities to check raise when you do check your strong hands.

Pluribus donk bets a lot more than most players as part of its mixed strategy. Pluribus also won consistently against the top professional players it faced. Clearly then, donk betting is not something that only applies to weak players. I also doubt that these top pros were overly passive or that they were playing fit or quit type games.

In fact, many less experienced players don’t even know what a donk bet is. This type of play is far less effective against weaker players.

Throwing in the occasional unconventional play makes you harder to exploit, not easier. If this makes your opponents deviate from their “standard” games, you have already gained an edge. Donk betting, if employed properly, is an effective tool… period.

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Donking with a range disadvantage is almost always a bad idea unless you only have nuts or air. Anytime you are OOP with a range disadvantage, it is almost always better to check-raise then lead.

Solvers like donking only when the range advantage shifts to OOP. At least on the flop, the EV of a donking strategy and 100% checking strategy is almost the same. Only against a passive player will a donking strategy generate any substantial EV over checking. It is usually less experienced players who call too much and don’t bet enough.

Donking is actually very necessary in certain spots, in particular when draws come in that IP likely doesn’t have. It is also a good way to take your opponent into unfamiliar territory without opening yourself to exploits. However, developing a donking range is quite complicated, and it is usually more worthwhile to study other spots as a beginner or intermediate player.

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Solvers are great, but they don’t tell the whole story. I’m not playing a single hand against a single opponent in isolation, I’m playing at a table full of people who are trying to figure out my approach to the game. Anything I can do to make that more difficult works to my benefit, even if it can’t easily be quantified.

Thinking otherwise is like saying, “We can’t weigh love, so we should pretend it has no effect on our lives.”

The effects of making the occasional unconventional play extend to the entire table and persist beyond any one hand.

Yes and yes. Unconventional plays in general are both disruptive and difficult to employ. They can also be a lot of fun, and I am playing to have fun. :slight_smile:

You can’t check-raise unless your opponent agrees. Leading is proactive. A small lead into someone who will almost certainly raise can look like a weak blocking bet. I see several reasons why this can be better than trying to check-raise.

Anyway, we do seem to be in general agreement. It’s an interesting topic, thanks!

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As with everything in poker, without understanding the why, there is no way to assess the how. Donk bets, aggression, passivity, … are neither good nor bad in toto. All decisions need to be looked through the lens of expected value, either immediate or in the meta game. Whatever you can do to gain the most expected value is the proper play, no matter what the term for it might be. If you can manipulate someone into making a bad decision by bringing them to a part of the game tree they aren’t familiar with, that’s great. Doing anything haphazardly is not great.

IMO, players should become fluent in the fundamentals before straying into these waters. Knowing ranges, range interactions, the reasons we choose certain bet sizes and so on are far more important than the addition of unconventional plays. The game is complex and strategies are built in layers. Anything added on top of a less than solid foundation is not going to work out well. The fundamentals are more complex than many people wish to acknowledge. Wring out all the edges you can from these concepts before moving on.

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@SunPowerGuru

I had to look up what Pluribus was. I would presume that a rule of strategy for the AI Pluribus would be “Check to the Aggressor” (C2A) as understanding this and obeying it most of the time is essential to being at the worst “good at poker.” I’m surprised that Donk Betting (DB) or the ability to break the C2A rule was added to its AI strategy as it seems rather unnecessary to program a very competitive AI poker bot IMO. The fact that the strategy team decided to include it as part of Pluribus strategy IMO adds a lot of weight to the fact that Donk Bets are a lot more valuable than most of us probably realise. Having said that I don’t think it would be a significant strategic weakness if 98% of us RP players never Donk Bet.

It would be good if these DB hands were published & discussed, or available for discussion against these top pros. From what little research I’ve done about DB there seems to be little support for it as a good strategy. Maybe Donk Betting has more value as an overall strategy?

I saw TonyG DB the flop with 45 trips flop against Jungleman & the solver not only didn’t like it but would never do it in that situation. I got the feeling that solvers just don’t like Donk Betting. As @1Warlock outlined a few situations were occasional DB could be effective & so I would guess that solvers too would include a small % of DB and TBF TonyGs hand was a great hand to either x/c or x/r & hence not Donk.

Solvers are great to try & learn a very advanced strategy & are balanced too. Great for deeply analysing a particular hand for EV & optimal play. As valuable as they undeniably are, even the best professional players either don’t like\use them or are particular about using them as an assistant to improve their overall game and not completely revolutionising it.

Part of the reason I started this thread is:
1) I would guess 98% of Donk Bets on RP are done without understanding or respect/consideration for the rule “Check to the Aggressor” and also not done so for any particularly strategic reason.
2) Despite the fact “Donk Bet” is frowned upon generally there is some support by good pro players, recognising its a play that is no longer just a “bad play” & hence must have some strategic value.

Summary:

A good player would ask 2 questions:

1. Why is this good player playing like a Donkey?
2. Why should/could I play like a Donkey?

A large portion of the answer is psychological IMO, but they too need to be viable risk wise. The more we learn about poker & develop rules & basic strategy, the more we can break them & learn to exploit in the right situation especially against a particular player & gamble.

Many players have made good strategic arguments for using Donk Bets. Seemingly needs to be, with the right defending range, on the right board.

bahia7: as a defensive bet, feeler bet, bluff bet, value bet. If you know the players & what your doing, with the right table image, Im sure it would work well on RP if strategically done occasionally. Good exploit. Maybe my understanding was a bit off, but hopefully not too far off.

aoeu: I feel like the point aoeu has made is good & relates to RP a lot, similarly to bahia7. Exploiting and +EV is important against the RP player base. DBs can probably be used more often & probably more profitably overall against passive RP type players. I relate it to betting thin for value, something I probably don’t do enough. I feel aoeu point is its most effect, most often against weak & passive players, and this certainly isn’t to say it cannot be used against stronger players.

As a starting point learning to DB IMO against more passive & weaker players is a good learning point. Learning it against strong players seems way too risky & experimental IMO, especially considering the many disadvantages.

SunPowerGuru: As your argument suggest there are two different player types this can be used exploitatively against - both passive & strong players. This vaguely/ambiguously validates its value.

Presumably Pluribus needs to be designed to beat average skilled poker players foremost. I’m unsure its possible to exploit both player bases equally with the same strategy etc?

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Pluribus was not programmed to donk bet. It was taught the basic rules, but no strategy. It then played itself for many millions of hands and developed it’s own strategies. Pluribus donk bets way more than most pros because it found this to be effective.

In one trial, Pluribus played 10,000 hands, 6 max against 5 top pros, and used donk bets as part of its miced strategy. It managed to win a statistically significant amount from these players.

Probably not. I don’t think there is a “one size fits all strategy,” and am not a fan of static strategies at all.

I’m a tournament player, and divide a tourney into 7 distinct phases. I play a different baseline strategy for each phase. These strategies are then modified for various “environmental” factors, then modified again for individual players and specific situations.

I don’t think I could explain all the nuances of my system if I wanted to, which I don’t. It’s complicated, and has evolved over the course of millions of hands of tournament poker, most of them for real money. And my play is still evolving.

I’m not the best player in the world, not the best on this site… far from it.

On Replay, I play experimental poker. I’m not afraid to lose a few million chips to test out one of my crazy ideas. I usually try something for 100 tournaments or 200 SnGs to see what happens. This gives me a chance to internalize it, to see where it works and where it doesn’t, and why. There’s no fear in play money poker!

It probably would help your winrate if you never donk-bet or 4! bluffed here (except vs a very few players). I talked to someone who had just finished playing an entire series online. He had a solid ROI and never once 4! bluffed, despite having spots where it was theoretically EV+. We play vs the opponents we have, not GTO bots. As this player told me, “anyone who tries to play pure GTO, especially vs low and mid stakes populations, is a fish.”

I also reviewed 2 hands from a $1000 online MTT that a good pro played where he donk bet from the BB. They were both highly favorable flops for him but that alone isn’t a reason to make the play. In both hands he had a very clear plan for what he was going to do on every possible turn and river. You can’t just fire off blindly with all your draws when the board changes. You can’t always give up if you don’t hit your draw but the turn still helps your range. You can’t always fire off madly with the nuts. Bottom line is you shouldn’t do anything without a well thought out reason and plan.

Looking at hands that Pluribus plays is great as a means to understand deeper strategies. We neither play the level of opponents that Pluribus does nor we will never be able to execute the strategy Pluribus does. For these reasons, IMO reviewing its hands are mostly for academic purposes.

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