How to Play with Poker Donkeys

Posted by Charles, August 6, 2014

Whether you hope to be a card shark at your local casino or want to make a name for yourself playing online poker, you won't get far without reading your opponents. When you're learning the game, you'll likely hear players being called a lot of things, from "calling stations" to "nits," but one name you never want to be called at the table is a poker donkey.

poker donkey

Poker Donkey: A bad player (formerly known as a poker fish).

Alternate definition = a gambler. A terrible gambler.

Sometimes known as "fish" or "pigeons," donkeys are broadly defined as bad players. Though the term initially referred to weaker players who are easy to read and incapable of making informed decisions, it has since grown into a specific description of loose-aggressive players who lack skill or strategy at the table. Whether it's due to ignorance of the rules, inattentive gamesmanship or perhaps a little too much to drink at the table, these players are notoriously inconsistent - and can be a nightmare for the serious player. Especially when it comes to poker tournaments.

Though donkeys are their own worst enemy when it comes to the table, typically frittering their money away on go-nowhere draws, middling pocket pairs or ace high, they have been known to get hot at the table, something that will put almost any serious player on tilt. That these players don't know, or don't care, how to play can make them tremendously difficult to read, but fortunately there are some strategies to dealing with donkeys at the poker table.


Tighten up

It may be hard to sit out a lot of hands in a row, but the best way to deal with an aggressive donkey is to play conservatively. Donkeys will play any two cards, with the more aggressive ones coming in with ridiculous raises at the mere sight of paint. While this aggressive style will likely serve them well in the short run, it's only a matter of time until they walk into a legitimate challenge – and whether it's from you or not, watching a donkey ship their chips across the table because they couldn't recognize that they were holding rags is one of poker's small treasures.


Poker donkeys will play any 2 cards


Bet methodically

While poker is a game of skill and observation, it's also a game of math. Knowing your odds, how much money you have in the pot, and how much to bet is essential for success in the grand scale. Donkeys, however, have no concept of this, and bet with big round numbers that they think will be intimidating. This means that they will likely lead out with a pretty sizable bet whenever they come into a hand, regardless of the hole cards they may be holding. Keep this in mind when playing with donkeys, as betting below their normal level is essentially inviting a raise, and more often than not, you'll just want them out of the hand entirely.


Position is your friend

You will always want to be sitting to the left of the donkey. This allows you to watch the donkey's move before you have to make a decision of your own. This is a great strategic advantage, and will allow you to avoid being priced into a big pot with a marginal hand. This is also useful for those times when you do have a great hand, as it will allow you to…


don't be a donkey


Trap that donkey!

Loose aggressive players who may not be terribly attentive are very easy to string along with mild bets. By either checking and letting your opponent drive the action, or betting low and letting the donkey call you, you can easily string them along and add their chips to your stack. Keep in mind, however, that the cards will fall where they may, and that sometimes the best laid plans will blow up in your face.

Trap that donkey!


Beware the fish

Though it's important to be mindful of any draws on the board no matter what level of player you're dealing with, it's particularly important to watch out for suspicious draws when dealing with a donkey. Remember, there's little accounting for what two cards these inexperienced/ irrational players will bet on, so keep an eye on strong draws that one would be a fool to play - as those kinds of cards are right up the donkey's alley.


Don't bluff

Every memorable poker story seems to involve a world class bluff, and while it is an important strategy to employ against seasoned opponents, you can't bluff a donkey. Donkeys are unpredictable, it's true, but you don't want to assume that your high card will play only to be crushed by a pair of 4s.

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