When not to Donk

Does this mean you should never “out of position float” against an opponent when you flop a hand with so many backdoor draws? No, there are specific occasions when you should not donk bet. You also should not get into the habit of constantly doing one play in a situation otherwise it will be much easier for your opponents to parse together your range.

Consider how in our previous check-calling scenario what was really problematic for us was how we had to call again on the turn. While the poker world has begun double barreling more often in general there are still a number of players who hardly ever fire the turn. You can identify them fairly quickly through a low turn-continuation-bet statistic, say 30% or lower.

Versus these players it’s often a good idea just to call them and fold a number of turns if you don’t improve. They likely have some serious firepower in their hand if they regularly check through but are now slinging in chips. If they do check the turn you will get a free shot at your considerable equity. If you miss on the river but the turn checked through, you can lead and represent a one- pair combination which check/called the flop.

Another guideline that helps many of my students is to focus their donk bets on short stacks, say 15BB or less, or larger stacks that are 30BB or more, because we want to be double and perhaps triple barrel when we have our backdoor draws, as we just proved in the previous section. If we have 20x we could easily find ourselves with too many chips to jam the turn but not enough to bet and fold. This is the no man’s land we want to avoid.

With short stacks we can put our opponents into some gross spots. Let’s imagine a scenario where we have 10BB in the big blind. We are dealt the Q-2o. The button opens to 2x the big blind with 32.25% of the hands. The small blind folds. We flat from the big blind and lead on any board for 2.66BB. Our opponent, feeling he can’t successfully float versus such a short stack, decides he needs to raise or fold. Since nobody donk leads and folds from such a short stack he assumes you have some kind of hand. Still, he knows that with such short stacks he needs to play a fair amount of the time. He resolves to get it in with any pair, any draw, and any kind of gutshot. Once he’s all-in we call off with any flush draw, open-ended straight draw, pair, or better.

We’ve reflected this exact situation in the CardRunners EV analysis shown in Figure 72.

As you can see, with blinds at 15,000/30,000 we are making 8,941 chips. We are saving 29.8BB per 100 hands on average, in a situation where we were unable to move all-in preflop, stop and go, or check-raise. This was our only option. Notice that it works because the raiser feels he has no options. Its unorthodox nature also has him second guessing whether you’d actually do this as a bluff and fold. Some guys even fold some of their small pairs and baby draws when they see such an odd bet.

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