Donkey: Poker Term Definition

A poker player's cards

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If a poker player is called a donkey, he's a bad player who makes blatantly bad poker plays. This term is used for a weak or inexperienced player, especially one who plays his hand against the odds and doesn't fold poor hands. Donkey is also shortened to donk.

An experienced player might announce that he's playing badly or planning to, as in "I'm going to donk it up tonight" or "I donked." A poker tournament that has a high percentage of donkey players is called a "donkament."

Before the term donkey came into common usage, these poor players were known as fish, pigeons, or underdogs. Another slang term used by some is "ATM," as in a cash-dispensing machine. An experienced player can be frustrated when playing against donkeys, or he can enjoy the benefits of playing well against them.


The donkey has long been a symbol of stubbornness and ignorance or limited intelligence. In the world of poker, these traits can easily play out at the poker table. Typical plays that can attract the label as donkey moves are calling every hand, continuing to call while holding poor cards, and going all-in on a poor hand. Stubbornness would be seen in continuing to bet on a hand despite a poor flop and with other players showing strength by raising the bet.

The term is often applied to a player that beats another player who has a strong hand. An example would be a player holding A-A who is beaten by a player holding 7-2, who continues to bet and makes two pairs, a set or a flush, especially when he makes the winning hand on the river after one or more raises. Sometimes a player will be incorrectly called a donkey by the players he beats, even when he's playing wisely and losing was simply due to skill or luck.

Weak players who are playing tightly are rarely called donkeys, as they are likely to fold hands they should have continued to play. They don't show the stubbornness and brashness that are the hallmarks of a donkey. However, they might be likely to call other players donkeys.

Signs of a Donkey

  • Overplaying hands that have low odds of winning. A donkey might play a 7-2 rather than folding as any experienced player would wisely do.
  • Talking too much at the table, discussing their previous hands with the other players, or giving away information about their style of play.
  • Showing their cards after a successful bluff and crowing about their success.
  • Calling most hands, no matter what cards they are dealt and which position they are in at the table.
  • Going all-in frequently, either as a bluff or when they have only a moderately good hand.
  • Making raises when they are not in the best position to benefit from doing so.
  • Overusing bluffs.
  • Goes on tilt after a beat.

Experienced players can love or hate donkeys. When a donkey has a run of good luck, he will be a source of exasperation. It's up to the experienced player not to go on tilt.