One of the most awkward spots you can find yourself in in todays no limit games is an opponent who check calls your continuation bet on the flop and then donk leads the turn when something scary appears. There are many ways to interpret this line and there is no right answer as to exactly what it means. However, especially at the lower levels, players who check call then lead are usually not capable of bet three betting a draw. Therefore, by raising, not only do you freeze your opponent but you actually get extra value from their draws as well as getting to a free showdown at the river some of the time.
Let’s look at an example. We are under the gun and raise to $20 in a $5-$5 no limit game with K♦ K♥. Two players, both in the blinds, call with $800 effective stacks. The board runs out T♥ 7♠ 2♠. It gets checked to us and we bet $40. The small blind calls and the big blind folds. The turn is the 9♥ and now our opponent leads out at us for $80. What is our play here? This can really be a tough spot when playing deep. We only have one pair and there are certainly straights and two pair combinations that beat us. However, there are a lot of draws and we still very well may have the best hand. We decide to just call. The river comes a 2♣ and our opponent checks. We think that we definitely have the best hand and bet $140 to try and get paid off by a ten. Our opponent hems and haws and talks about how lucky we are that he did not get there and folds 9♠ 6♠ face up. Obviously, he had an absolute monster on the turn—flush draw, gutshot and a pair. In fact, with one card to come against our red kings he had 17 outs. He would probably call any raise amount. So did we lose value?
That is not an easy question to answer. When playing deep stacked no limit it is important to concentrate on protecting your stack rather than protecting your hand. And that is why you will see many players just call when their opponent shows strength—so that they do not expose there stack. However, if your opponents are not big semi bluffers you can counter this donk turn line by raise-folding some of your medium strength hands. So let us say that we raise his $80 bet to $250. If he three bet ships I would be fairly comfortable folding since his range for getting it all-in here has us killed even getting 3-1 on a call. In fact 9♠ 6♠ is one of the worst hands that we can be up against here. Normally we are going to be shown two pair, a set or a straight. If we just call and our opponent does not bluff the river, like he did not here, we actually have allowed him to name his price on the turn and sort of give him a reverse free card.
Obviously you open yourself up to a world of hurt, however, if you start raise folding the best hand in these spots. However, it is so rare that anyone is going to raise the turn in position and then fold that I do not expect my opponent to ship back light after leading the turn because they don’t expect me to fold.
Another time you can implement this raise turn line is when someone leads at you and the nuts are in your range. Let us say for example we raise with J♣ J♦ to $20 in late position in a $5-$5 game with $1500 stacks. The small blind, an aggressive, good player, calls. The board comes out Q♣ T♣ 3♦ and he checks. We think we have the best hand here a lot of the time because of the late position blind dynamic and we bet $30. Our opponent check raises us to $110. We think there is a very good chance that our opponent may be making a play at the pot and that it is unlikely that he would merely check raise with a queen so we call. Turn is 8♥. He now bets $200. We raise to $550. Now usually you are not putting this type of money in with second pair to the board but I think that this is a good case where we can raise to take a free showdown at the river if unimproved. Our hand is an easy fold to a ship but we have blockers to the nuts and even if our opponent has a hand as strong as 33 he may just call. We also get a ton of value from draws and if we were planning on calling a blank river we have actually made it cheaper for ourselves.