One general rule to have with donk leads is not to do it if you can’t triple barrel. This doesn’t apply to the backdoor draws, which hardly ever need to succeed to show a profit. You can check those on the river, because you were making all your money on the rivers you hit and on opponents’ turn folds. No, if you bet a value hand you should make sure you can triple barrel it. So, if you have a mediocre pair you just don’t want to check/call with you should really think twice about donk betting. Your problem in that spot is that if you bet flop, bet turn, and check the river you are essentially waving a white flag that says, “Hey I have a missed draw or weak pair! Please play accordingly!” They can put you on such a specific range because you would have likely triple barreled with anything stronger.
If you’re going to donk lead a value combination make sure it’s likely to remain a hand you want to bet with. If you’re betting with top pair it’s a good idea to pick one that remains top pair. Pairs of aces and kings are really good for this.
A good way to balance your range when you’re doing so with flush draws is to value lead out on a board with a flush draw. However, the obvious problem arises: what do you do if the flush draw hits and you don’t have it? Bet again. Do a Flopzilla readout sometime. You’re going to find your opponents don’t have the flush 80–90% of the time. I’ll take those odds, and I hope you do too. Lead out and see if your opponents will pay off another street with their mediocre pairs.
There are occasions when I donk lead just so I can get raised. When this happens I am banking on my opponent having a number of bluffs, so I’ll 3-bet back to him. It’s good to do this with stacks where your opponent’s 4-bet is going to put him all-in.
This is a very good play against egotistical players. I do it often against young men. Say the board comes A-2-2 rainbow. I’ll donk lead a small amount very quickly, and without thinking they’ll raise. Of course, it’s only after their chips are in the middle that they realize that they never have a two here, and they wouldn’t have raised an ace. Now we can safely 3-bet back. If you planned the play you will likely do it with a speed that is disconcerting.