Leading Into Your Opponents; Donk-Betting
In poker it pays to think outside of the box and to make plays that your opponents are not expecting. Being able to adapt and alter your play based on your opponent type is crucial to becoming successful at poker so the sooner you start to do it the better.
Leading into opponents is often referred to as a “donk-bet”, a derogatory term as it is often seen as a weak play to make.
You will often see the term ABC poker banded around when someone is describing how to approach a poker tournament and for the most part this strategy will yield positive results. ABC poker is essentially playing fit-or-fold poker, a style of play that is very basic, easy to play but also very easy to play against as a result. Sometimes you need to think outside of the box and throw in the odd curve-ball to catch your opponents off guard or take an unusual line in order to extract more chips from them.
Leading into opponents is often referred to as a "donk-bet", a derogatory term as it is often seen as a weak play to make. The reason the donk-bet looks weak - and usually is weak - is because the standard line to take with a strong hand would be to go for the check-raise or to check-call a flop bet and ramp up the aggression on the turn. If a player had flopped two-pair, a set or a big draw such as an open-ended straight flush draw then why on Earth would they lead out into an opponent; especially an opponent who had raised or three-bet preflop. They wouldn't, would they? But sometimes it will pay for you to fire a donk-bet of your own.
Imagine you are playing against a loose-cannon of a player and you have opened with a raise with a pair of nines from early position. Our crazy opponent three-bets us and we decide to make the call and see a flop (we will leave the calling of a three-bet out of position for another day). The flop comes down 9s-2c-6d which is pretty amazing for our pair of nines as we have now improved to a set and we 100% have the best had here. A common line would be to check, let our loose-aggressive opponent make a continuation-bet and then check-raise and take the pot. The problem with this line is our check-raise looks super strong and unless our loose opponent has three-bet us with AA-QQ in this spot, he is unlikely to continue with his hand and although we pick up the chips he bet with, we probably feel we could have extracted more chips from him.
Another problem is by checking with the intention of check-raising or maybe even check-calling we run the risk of our opponent checking behind and whilst this is not so much of a worry when we have top set, the board can change dramatically or could look much worse if we had say two pair instead.
One approach you could take would be to lead into the loose player and hope they come over the top of you. Loose-aggressive players like to be in control and if your opponent has shown a willingness to throw their weight around then they could be ideal to donk-bet into when you are very strong. Put yourself back to the 9s-2c-6d flop and instead of check-raising imagine yourself leading out into your opponent. Mr Loose-Goose will almost certainly read your bet as a weak stab at the pot with a hand such as 9x-8x or maybe a pair of sevens or eights or something that cannot withstand the pressure caused by putting in a raise. He will then come over the top, creating a more substantial pot and you can either put in a raise of your own or call and get it in on the turn. This play works well if your opponent has raised the flop when facing a donk-bet and is ideal when your opponent has a big pair as you will almost certainly get his entire stack.
Like everything in poker you should use this move sparingly and try not to use it against a weak-passive player who is playing fit-or-fold poker. This player type will just look at their queen-jack on a ten-high board and muck their cards but against the right opponent, one who is prepared to make a move with the same queen-jack on a ten-high board, "donking" can be perfect.