Quiz: Flopped TPTK Facing Villain Donk Bet

Donkey Test Question #15

Question: You’re in $5/$10 NL 9-handed full-ring cash game. Everyone has about $1000. Preflop, two players limp into the pot upstream of you, one of them in EP and one in MP. You’re on the button with As-Ks. You raise to $60, the blinds fold, and you get one call from the MP player. The flop is Ad-9c-5h. The caller donks into you for $80. What should you do?

  1. Call
  2. Raise to $250
  3. Raise to $375
  4. Fold
  5. All-in
  6. Call to trap him, raise the river.

Answer: (b) Raise to $250.

Introduction & Overview: Many poker players get confused when facing a donk bet. But they shouldn’t be. Usually, donk bets on the flop from weak players simply indicate weak SDV-type hand the villain just wants to see a showdown with and/or they’re probing to find out where they are. Knowing this, our job is to deny them these things. Let’s look a little more closely at this question, using our trusty REDi method to analyze the hand, to see why raising the modest amount of $250 is the best course of action:

REDi Analysis:

  • R is for Reads
    • Game Situation: Two limps in a $5/$10 full-ring game, including a limp-fold from an EP player sounds pretty good to me; this is a fishy game and our Hero should be taking full advantage of the bad play. We’re 100bb deep, too, which means there money to be made via value betting.
    • Villain Type and Tendencies: Limp-calling in MP is indicative of weakness. Often when you see this behavior, the villain is the type that wants to see flops and make hands. I.e., loose-passive calling station.
    • Action: In general, I like our preflop raise size to $60. That said, if we’d known just how station-like the villain is, we might even want to make the raise larger–probably $80-90, or maybe even more. AK-suited is a great hand to have on the button, and against a weak calling/elastic villain, there’s no reason not to get more money into the middle when our hand is this strong. As played against unknown villains, however, our raise size is fine. 
    • Villain’s Preflop Hand Range: Usually limp-calls like this in MP from fishy players are small-middle pairs, suited connectors, small Broadway hands (suited and not), and weak Aces (suited and not). Let’s call V’s preflop range something like: JJ-22, A9s-A2s, KJs-KTs, QTs+, JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s, 54s, 43s, 32s, A9o-A2o, KJo-KTo, QTo+, JTo, T9o, 98o
    • Pot Size on Flop: $5+$10+$10+$60 +$60=$145
    • Flop Texture: This board hits our opponents range moderately well, with lots of one-pair type hands possible. There are also some possible two-pair stuff in his range, plus two possible sets he could have.
    • Villain’s Flop Hand Range: When villain leads into us with the flop donk bet, it actually narrows his hand range to moderately weak holdings. Why is this? Well, if he’d flopped a big hand (e.g., a set or two pair), and he knows we were the aggressor preflop, he would probably check to us and then either call or check-raise our c-bet. In other words, where’s the value in him leading with big hands? Further, if he completely missed the flop, the vast majority of players aren’t going to bluff donk into an aggressor on an Ace-high flop. As mentioned in the intro above, donk bets are often weak one-pair hands, where the villain either wants to find out where he is and/or try to block/blunt our aggression and get to a showdown cheaply by giving us pause. This means we can narrow his range to all the non-two-pair Aces, some random one-pair hands like JJ, TT, 88, etc.,  plus all the 9-X and 5-X hands left in his range. Said another way: one-pair hands that we currently have crushed.
  • E is for Evaluating, Estimating, and Equities:
    • Stack-to-Pot Ratio: SPR is $940/$145 = 6.5. We’re not pot committed.
    • Pot Equity: We have a lot of equity; call it 80% or more on this flop against the donk range of villain.
    • Fold Equity: There are a number of things that factor into estimating our fold equity in a hand. I’ve blogged about them before here.  Looking at these as an aggregate leads us to the conclusion that we have slightly higher than average fold equity, which is not necessarily a good thing given how much pot equity we have. We can call it something like 60-70%, based on:
      • Number of Villains. We’re heads-up. This increases our FE.
      • Board Texture: Aside from the Ace, the board texture is pretty dry from the villain’s perspective, which decreases our FE. On the other hand, we are pretty sure on this board, the villain has a middling value hand, so too much pressure from us will increase FE. Therefore, we’ll call this one a wash.
      • Type of Villain: We’ve already said that villain is a loose-passive calling station. Decreases our FE.
      • Stack & Pot Size: SPR of 6.5 means villain isn’t pot committed. Increases our FE.
      • Bet Sizing: Villain leading into us typically means they’re less likely to fold if we raise. This decreases our FE– but the bigger we bet, the more fold equity starts to increase.
      • Preflop Action: Villain just limp-called preflop, which generally increases FE– but when villain donks on the flop, this decreases fold equity (due to the aggression action theorem). Call this one a wash.
      • Our Image: n/a due to no information given about our image.
      • Our Position: We have position. Increases FE.
    • Pot Odds: Pot odds villain is offering us is around 26% if we wanted to just call the donk. Our pot equity is significantly greater than this, so calling is plus EV. In other words, folding (which is zero EV) is now off the table. The question is now whether re-raising is better than just calling. 
  • D is for Deciding:
    • PE v. FE Grid: With the large amount of pot equity we have, the last thing we want is to have the villain fold. We want to build a pot (i.e., extract value) and charge villain a price to see more cards. Looking at the PE v. FE grid, we’re solidly up in the value zone. Fold equity is a bit higher than we’d like, so we have to be careful not to blow the villain off his hand.
    • Pot Geometry: We can get stacks in easily by the river, even if we raise modestly here. Calling, however, makes getting the stacks in more difficult, as we’ll have to bet relatively large either on the turn or river. 
    • The maximum EV line is, therefore, to raise for pure value. 
  • I is for Implementing:
    • How much to raise is the remaining question. Again, to help keep the villain from folding, we should raise on the smaller side. Given our choices in the quiz, raising to $250 seems reasonable, and has a good chance of keeping the villain in the hand. Betting $375 or, worse, shoving all-in, are more likely to cause folds than build value.

Discussion/Takeaway: This wasn’t really a very difficult question to answer if you systematically work through the REDi analysis, but far too many players don’t take the time to do this. Look, the secret to poker is to first determine what range and line the villain is on, and then figure out where your own hand stacks up against that range mathematically. After that, it’s actually pretty easy to determine the best course of action (i.e., “line”)–even when we’re at first confused by a weird donk bet. 

Other Related Posts: Collection of other Donkey Test Questions & Analyses

Learn. Master. Crush.

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