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Poker Q&A: Playing Overpairs, Donk Betting and Tough Opponents


Sky Matsuhashi

on January 13, 2022

In this Q&A, I answer three listener questions about playing overpairs out of position, donk betting, playing against tough opponents and the importance of learning from showdowns.

Question 1: Playing Overpairs versus a Set

Hi Sky,

Here's a tough situation. I have QQ UTG and I opened to 3.5bb, the ABC Tag villain in the CO is the only caller.  The flop comes 2c4c8h. Pot 8.5bb.  I cbet 5.5bb and the villain calls, pot is now 19.5bb. The turn comes 6h. So the board is 2c4c8h6h, I cbet 13bb and the villain calls. The pot is now 35.5bb on the river and the Jc comes. So, the final board is 2c4c8h6hJc.

So, what now??? Should I check & call depending on how much the villain bets?  Should I cbet the river and fold after he goes all-in? This is a very hard but very common spot.  Bad regs they reraise you post flop or Turn, good regs they just calling you till river and then reraise.  Most of the time they have sets.  And in this case villain held pocket 88's. Good for him 🙂

How are you playing in situations like that? What is the quickest way to know a villain has a set?

Thanks!  Best Regards, LTUMaximus

Consider Player Type and Poker's Ultimate Question

To answer the question, “So, what now???”, let's think about the player you're up against in this hand. You said he's an ABC TAG player, which means he plays very straight-forward and only calls post-flop with good hands and strong draws.

So, what's a player calling flop and turn with on the 2c4c8h6h? Let's look at this calling range in Flopzilla Pro:

I started the above calculation by giving Villain a very tight CO calling range of only 8%: JJ-22,AQs-ATs,KQs-KJs,QJs,JTs,T9s,98s,AQo. And I gave you non-club Queens.

In order to narrow his flop and turn calling range, we have to use Poker's Ultimate Question: What's he doing this with?” Consider:

  • His player type and tendencies
  • Your bet size
  • His position
  • The board cards

As the board cards are dealt and Villain's range is narrowed, your equity in the hand steadily decreases. You go from 76% preflop to 70% on the flop to 67% on the turn to a final 37.5% on the river versus his river calling range.

The only hands you're getting value from on this river, versus your triple barrel, would be 12 combos of TT and 99. His 5 flush combos and 15 set combos are beating you, and he's just folding his 8 weaker pairs.

I think the best river play is to check and call a small bet if it smells like a weak bluff attempt, or fold to a large bet which would indicate he has a set or flush.

What's the quickest way to know a villain has a set?

Look for uncharacteristic aggression like check-calling your flop cbet then check-raising 3x on the turn.

Also, if they continue in a spot where they would normally fold (like this ABC TAG would with overcards on the 248). Always put your opponent on a range and if it doesn't interact well with the board, but he's calling your > 1/2 pot bets, he likes his hand and sets are potentially in there.



Question 2: Donk Betting Strategies

Hi Sky,
Not sure if you covered this already, but one question I have is about when is a good spot to donk bet against a raiser and when you raise and someone donk bets you, what do they usually have?
Keep up the good work on the podcast and thanks for the work you put into it.
Cheers, Danilo

Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

There are three questions I always ask myself when it comes to considering whether or not to donk lead a flop:

  • Is my hand good enough to check-call? This would be like flopping a pair and your opponent could cbet worse hands. Or, you have a solid draw, or you flopped a monster and don't want to raise.
  • Is my hand good enough to check-raise? You flopped a really strong hand and you want to charge any semi-bluffing draws on a wet board that he cbet or you think he'll give your raise value.
  • Is my hand bad enough to check-fold? You flopped absolutely nothing and there's no reason in the world for you to continue.

If the answer to these questions are all “no” then donk leading is a good idea.  This video gives a perfect example of a hand where the answer to each question is “no” and I triple-barrel:

I discuss donk betting strategies in this Newsletter Exclusive video:

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then make that play instead.

I learned these questions from an Alex Fitzgerald webinar.

Now, a donk lead is betting out of position, so in essence you’re building the pot OOP against a pre-flop raiser.  I like to donk lead when the answers to the above questions are “no” and if these favorable conditions are in place: 1) the villain is fit-or-fold and 2) there are lots of turn cards that add equity to my hand which allows me to barrel another street.

What do they have when they donk bet?  

Your opponents won't often put a lot of thought into their donk leads.  Some will bluff at scary boards like Ace high and monotone boards, or even baby boards that they assume your pre-flop raising range misses.  Other opponents only donk bet when they flop strength and they don't want you to check-behind.

It's critical that you pay attention to showdowns and take player notes when you see what they donk bet with.

In general, tiny donk bets are weak draws and pairs, and larger 1/2pot+ donk bets are for value or with great draws.


Question 3: Handling Tough Opponents

Hello Sky,

I feel like I’m getting bluffed a lot, and my opponents are putting me to very tough decisions.  Do you have any positive advice for someone getting disillusioned and feeling frustrated with tough opponents?

I play in cardrooms where the cards are dealt out of an electronic machine so no dealer and we get dealt about 50 hands an hour. Most of the player pool is grinders since recreational players don't trust the cpu, so the caliber of competition is tuff.

Should I transition to online? I've been playing LIVE poker for about four years now.

Thank you very much for your time and advice

Cheers, Sen

Utilize Table, Seat and Opponent Selection

An important aspect of profitable poker is good table, seat and opponent selection.  Card rooms full of fish are wonderful, full of sharks not so much.  Find another fishing hole, whether that's another cardroom or a bar league or casino.

If you play mostly in cash games, table and seat selection are easy. Request table changes and if strong players are on your left, try to move to their left when a seat becomes available.

If you play tourneys, you can't table and seat select. But you can select the tourneys you play in, so find ones with weaker players. The monthly $250 tourneys might have loads of good players, but the $70 nightly tourneys…?

Lastly, there's opponent selection. Before calling preflop with J9s, do you just see the hand and decide to call?

Or, are you taking into consideration who the open-raiser is, their position, their bet size and their stack size?

Are you also looking at the players left to act to see if there are 3bet squeezers still in? Your call will sweeten the pot and make it more likely you'll face the squeeze from aggressive players.

If you practice making better selections, you'll find poker to be more enjoyable and profitable.

Pay Attention to Tough Spots

Start taking note of these “tough decisions”. Record the details of the hand so you can review them and improve your strategies. Maybe you're doing things that put you in these tough spots.

And, by noticing these tough spots and learning why they're tough, you can use them against your opponents. If you find them tough, they will, too.

Transition to Online Poker

Lastly, I don't recommend making a full transition to online play, but you absolutely should play online.

Online requires a smaller bankroll. It's easier to practice your selection skills, too.

And with PokerTracker 4, you can develop a database of hands to learn from and improve your skills.


Support the Show

A huge thanks to Werner Taschner and Ian Crotty for picking up my brand new 1-Hour Poker Study Workbook this past week. This workbook with it's 7 parts is guaranteed to get your studies on the right path to success in your 2022 poker journey. Good luck and happy studies!


Sky Matsuhashi

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