Most of my poker success is based on doing what Ed Miller has told me to do.
One piece of advice from several of his books never really made sense to me: “Betting patterns come in and out of fashion and you must be aware of these changes.” While this is not an exact quote he has said this in several places. I have finally seen enough and misread situations enough times that I am giving up on one of my favorite betting pattern tells: the tiny donk bet. A donk bet is a lead into the aggressor on the prior street. The tiny donk bet used to be like waving a red cape in front of me.
A tiny 1/3 pot donk bet on a J53r board? It was like J9 every time. These tiny little donk bets were almost universally naive players with a weak top pair asking “Where am I at?” As soon as they get called (let alone raised), they got a sinking feeling in their stomach because they “knew” they were beat. Then it was a simple matter of when do I put in that bet that will allow them to fold. Do I raise the flop, do I wait for a check on the turn? Either way I would find my time and get the fold. It actually left me with the question of what do I do when I had an actual value hand since getting a fold was so common that getting value was the problem.
Over the last several months though, I have seen these donk bets changing. Every now and then I used to find that someone had made one of these tiny donk bets with a flush draw or a straight draw. Comrade Vape, Kat and I would discuss this. They had been seeing it too. I think we were all hoping it would go away. This donk bet was such a great bet sizing tell that I did not want it to go away. Recently not only were these players making these bets with draws (and, of course, weak top pair) but now I was seeing these players showing up with top two pair. That is a complete disaster when I run into those nuttier hands.
Last night was the last two straws. At the Wynn I found a guy leading with a set. He even bet the turn “same bet” to really confirm my read that he was weak by adding this second bet sizing tell. When I bricked whatever draw I was on and he checked the river I fired into this double bet-size-tell that had served me so well in the past. He tanks with the third nuts and finally calls. A naive player for sure. But, there he was and nicely doubled up.
The last hand of the night a limp/caller flops second nut flush with K2s and I have the misfortune of holding AKo with the nut Ace of flush. Once he donks 25% pot and I have a nutted draw it did not take too long for me to double him up also.
Yep, things are changing. While there are plenty of bad players that are completely unbalanced and still exhibit this bet sizing tell with the traditional weak top pair. Unfortunately now, this kind of betting pattern will have to be verified on an individual basis. The herd has developed immunity because enough other people are leading out with a different range that we can not just attack like we did in the past. Sigh. Poker is hard.