Facing A River Donk (Hand Analysis)

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Many players get confused when facing “odd” actions, such as donk bets.  So I wanted to analyze a spot where I faced a river donk bet and had to make a decision.   A donk bet is a bet made into the previous street aggressor.  Since I had bet the turn and he bets into me on the river, his river bet is called a “donk bet”.  In this hand the BB was an unknown player, so I have no info on him and subsequently he had no info on me.  Here is the hand history:

50NL – 9 players

Hero (CO): $92.15

BB: $64.35

Pre Flop: ($0.75) Hero is CO with Q of diamonds K of clubs

5 folds, Hero raises to $1.50, 2 folds, BB calls $1

Flop: ($3.25) K of hearts 2 of clubs T of hearts

BB checks, Hero bets $1.90, BB calls $1.90

Turn: ($7.05) 7 of diamonds

BB checks, Hero bets $4.85, BB calls $4.85

River: ($16.75) 4 of diamonds 

BB bets $10, Hero ???

The play up to the river is pretty common against an unknown player.  I personally think that my value bet sizing could have been a bit better ($2.25 on the flop and then $5.75 on the turn), but I did what I did and now I am where I am.  When he bets $10 on the river we are getting 2.7:1 on a call and need to be good at least 37% of the time.  Now, on the river we have our 3 options: fold, call, or raise.  Against an unknown I’m not thrilled that I faced a donk, but I’m also not going to be folding getting this kind of price when he takes a line like that.  So because one of my options has been removed, my line is between calling or raising.

Just Don't Fold!

You may wonder why I was so quick to dismiss folding here.  Well I look at it a few ways:

  1. We didn’t face a 3bet preflop so I discount hands like AK, KK, AA, etc.
  2. He didn’t raise anywhere in the hand
  3. The river card was a brick to the board
  4. There are many draws that missed
  5. I can’t put him primarily on 2pr+ given his line

Will he occasionally show up with a random hand that beats me or a super slow-played set?  Sure.  Does 2pr+ make up a very large density of his river donking range here?  I would assume not, and thus why I am not folding here.

So back to the primary discussion: do we raise or call on the river?  Well that all depends on the answer to the next question I ask myself:

“If I raise, will he continue with at least 3 worse hands?”

Once I answer that question it can help me see if a raise is actually for value or if it would just turn my hand into a bluff.  I would say that turning our hand into a bluff here isn’t great as you can’t expect an unknown to fold 2pr+, and again I doubt AK is in his range very often.  So my only focus when raising the river would be to get value from worse hands. The only worse hand that might logically make a call mistake would be KJ.  But if he’s really bad could he donk/call a hand like AT, JT, or JJ?  Being that he’s an unknown it’s tough to assume he’d take this line with those hands enough (would he have 3bet JJ preflop?) and if he would take this line AND call a raise with them…

Value versus SDV

Now the question of “if I raise, would he continue with at least 3 worse hands?” isn’t perfect, but it points me in the right direction.  If I can easily name worse hands that would take this line AND would continue against a raise, my hand shifts closer to value and I can make a value raise on the river.  If I can’t name worse hands that would take this line AND continue against a raise, my hand shifts closer to SDV (showdown value).  And if he would take this with a hand like A of hearts 9 of hearts or Q of hearts J of diamonds would raising really accomplish anything?

Too many players react to donk bets incorrectly, but mostly because they don’t classify their hand correctly.  The reason why I ask myself if he’d continue with at least 3 worse hands is because it helps me see if my hand shifts closer to value or SDV.  If I would raise and nothing worse would continue, my raise isn’t for value.  If I would raise and a lot of worse hands would continue, then my raise is certainly for value.  And of course value and SDV can shift per player type.  Against a fish we could consider raising the river more because they are more likely to have hands like K5 and JT that can’t fold.  But against a TAG it becomes tougher to raise the river for value barring some history/dynamic.  Against an unknown it can be tough because we are working with default assumptions, but as a default I would tend to call this more than raise it against an unknown player.

And for those that are curious, I called and was shown J of clubs 9 of clubs.  I obviously took a note on his callvsteal OOP, his flop/turn line, and his river donk line/size.

Want to do some extra work?  See if you can answer these questions:

What is the worst hand you would value raise on the river?

What’s the worst hand you would call his donk bet with?

How do you react if he donks for $14 on the river?

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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