Responding to Donks

The infamous “donk bet” is one of the more confusing actions at the poker table, but you’re likely to encounter them fai...

Posted May 28, 2023



Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

The infamous “donk bet” is one of the more confusing actions at the poker table, but you’re likely to encounter them fairly often in live poker. A “donk bet” refers to when a player who was not the preflop aggressor bets on the flop, turn or river, before the preflop aggressor has had a chance to act. This is an unusual action, because typically in poker it’s commonplace to check to the aggressor to see what action they will take. Here we’ll go over both small donk bets and large donk bets, and give you a few tips on how to react to them as the preflop aggressor. Let’s dive in.

Small Donk Bets:

Small donk bets are typically ½ pot or less, and will typically signify that your opponent has a weaker top pair type of hand, or some sort of a draw. It could also signify a stronger middle pair in certain situations, but in general your opponent is not likely to have a monster hand when they donk bet for this sizing.

These bets are usually meant to set a low price to see another card, or get to a cheap showdown. We should get excited when we see these kinds of bets, because it often gives us a ton of information as to the strength of our opponent’s hand. For example, if we know that our opponent usually has a weaker made hand or draw when donk betting, we can easily exploit them with aggressive actions on future streets. Here’s an example hand with a small flop donk bet and how we take control of the hand.

1/3 $300 effective.

Hero in HJ with AK opens to $15. Both blinds call.

Flop ($45) K95

SB checks. BB donk bets for $15. Hero raises to $45. SB folds. BB calls.

Turn ($135) 4

BB checks. Hero bets $75. BB calls.

River ($285) 3

BB checks. Hero $100 (to leave some behind SS EXPLOIT #19)

BB tank calls with KJo.

Large Donk Bets:

Large donk bets are vastly different from smaller ones, because they can actually be pretty value heavy. Large donk sizings can typically range from ⅔ pot to massive overbets. Your opponent is much more likely to have a strong hand when they donk for a larger amount, since they’re clearly not trying to set a cheap price for themselves. They could have just checked and seen what the preflop aggressor wanted to do, but instead they’ve decided to lead out for a large size immediately, putting the aggressor to the test.

The strength of a large donk bet cannot be underestimated, and we need to react accordingly when choosing our defending range. Your opponent can definitely still have some draws in their donking range, but they’ll typically be very strong combo draws with a lot of equity. It’s especially strong when you see a large donk bet into a multiway pot, and you’ll want to be very careful when continuing versus this action. When we see a large donk bet we should typically just call with our entire continuing range, outside of a few exceptions. This is because the donk bettor will have to play fairly face up on the turn, and we’ll get an extra street of information that will allow us to respond almost perfectly.

One final note on large donk bets is that they can be classified as small donk bets in certain live poker situations, when it’s a single raised pot and there isn’t too much money in the middle. Even if a player leads out for ¾ pot on the flop, if it’s only a $30 donk bet into a pot of $40 at a $2/$5 game, it can still be a weak donk bet that just used a normal sizing for the game. Many players don’t think about the size of the pot, and just bet an amount that seems small or large to them.

If you’d like to learn more about how to respond to donk bets, check out CLP Podcast Episode #534 On Donk Betting.

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