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Donkhouse 2021 Review: Play Money Poker Done Right?

Donkhouse Brags and Beats

  • Accepts players around the world, including USA USA Tiny Flag
  • Broad array of poker variants supported
  • Cross-platform compatibility
  • No fees for running a group and no rake taken
  • Play money games only
  • Mobile interface a bit clunky
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Donkhouse, also known as “ze Donkhouse,” is a free-to-play online poker site that operates using a groups model. This means that you can register for the site (at donkhouse.com) and then either create a group of your own or join an existing one after receiving an invitation. There is no app-wide lobby with games accessible to all. Thus, Donkhouse is geared toward playing online poker home games amongst a small group of people rather than sitting down versus strangers as with a regular internet poker room.

Many practice chip poker providers boast the ability to host private games, but Donkhouse has several features going for it that make it more interesting than most. The breadth of game variants offered as well as non-standard game options may put this operator a cut above most competitors. Keep reading our Donkhouse review to learn more about this intriguing site.

Donkhouse Social Image

Software and Games

The Donkhouse software runs in your web browser; there's no need to download or install anything. This ensures that it's compatible with a broad range of hardware, including desktop machines, tablets, and smartphones.

Donkhouse Website Home Page of Donkhouse.com

Table View

The Donkhouse tables present a layout familiar to anyone who has ever played at online poker sites before. The table occupies the main portion of the display with action buttons below and chat to the left. In a nice touch, the chatbox occupies the entire length of the window, allowing you to easily view previous messages. Next to the chat box, near the top of the menu, is a toggle that lets you turn on night mode, which uses a different color scheme.

Donkhouse Table NL Hold'em Table at Donkhouse

Betting is accomplished by dragging a slider to the value you want and then pressing the “bet” button. Alternately, you can click on the bet size shown next to the slider and enter a value manually.

To join a table and begin to play, you must go through a rather convoluted process. Click on any empty seat, then press the “refill” button near the top-left of the table. Select the number of chips you wish to buy in for, and then click “add.” Finally, you must click the “sit in” button to indicate that you're ready to be dealt into the next hand.

Poker Gaming Variety

Donkhouse is focused solely on cash games; it's not possible to play tournaments or sit-n-gos here. Nevertheless, the number of poker variants spread is truly impressive and includes some games that are absent from virtually every other online poker room. The full list is as follows:

  • NL Hold'em
  • PLO
  • Donkem
  • PLO/8
  • PLO Hi-Lo, No Qualifier
  • 5 Card PLO/8
  • 6 Card PLO/8
  • Short Deck Hold'em
  • 5 Card PLO
  • 6 Card PLO
  • Irish Omaha Hi-Lo
  • Dealer's Choice

Most of these formats are self-explanatory and ought to be familiar to any experienced poker player, but there are a few obscure ones that warrant going into more detail.

Donkem is a game invented by Donkhouse.com itself. It's like PLO but with only three hole cards of which a player must use exactly two when composing the final five-card poker hand. The flop is truncated also, to just two cards, but the turn is expanded to two. The river is the standard one card; however, there is also a “super-river” dealt, but there's no betting action after this ultimate card.

Irish Omaha Hi-Lo is like 5 Card Omaha/8, but the player has the choice to use two hole cards and three community cards or three hole cards and two community cards to make up their entire hand.

Dealer's Choice lets all players choose their preferred game from a drop-down menu, and they can select a new game whenever they like. There's a special dealer's choice button that rotates to a new player after every hand or round of hands. Whichever game has been selected by the individual in possession of the dealer's choice button will be played.

There is no rake taken from Donkhouse's tables, nor does the site charge anything for managing or creating groups or tables. The room supports itself solely through one-time donations and via Patreon. It does not sell chips, diamonds, gold, or any other type of virtual currency.

Explanation of Groups

Of course, before you can begin to play any of the games offered, you must first have access to the tables, which are all private. There are two ways to go about this. You can create a group, invite people you know to it, and create the tables. Or you can accept an invitation extended to you to join someone else's group and then take a seat at the already-existing tables within that group.

Group at Donkhouse Tables and Members in a Group

Creating a Group

To make a new club from scratch, while logged into Donkhouse, go to the top menu labeled with your screenname and select “Groups.” Then hit the “Create Group” button. The only thing you need to do is specify a group name and choose the permissions relating to creating and deleting tables and inviting new members. Then press “Go!” to create your group.

Now you can choose your group from the list of them shown on your Groups page. Go to “Invite New Members” and enter in the email address of a friend to invite him or her.

Player Invitation Form

That person will receive an email with a link to click on to accept membership.

Donkhouse Invitation Email The Email Sent From Donkhouse to Prospective Group Members

Those who accept your invite will be shown in the Members list on your group page.

Creating a Table

To create a table, click on the group that you want to host the game. Then click the “Create New Table” button. Next, you have to type in a table name and select the game type, stakes, and number of seats (between 2 and 10). There's an advanced options section that you can open up to further customize the game.

Table Creation at DonkhouseCreating a Table at Donkhouse

When you have everything adjusted to your preferences, press “Go!” Your new table will appear in the list of tables inside your group. You can click on any table to go to it. The settings icon to the right of the table listing permits you to change any of the attributes of a table or delete it altogether.

Advanced Table Options

Now's the perfect time to drill down to some of the specific table settings you can enable because these are the main differentiators between Donkhouse and its competitors. Many of these features are designed to appeal to recreational users rather than pros, and some of them promise to really enhance the fun you and your friends have.

Advanced Table Options Dozens of Advanced Settings Allow You to Customize Your Table

You can add antes to your game to grow the initial pot size thereby increasing the betting action. Straddles and bomb pots serve a similar purpose.

The 72 game lets you pick a bounty amount that the other players have to pay to whoever wins a pot with hole cards of 72. This occurs whether that hand wins at showdown or because everyone else folds. Rabbit hunting and checking in the dark are two other options that can make the game more enjoyable.

Running it twice is becoming popular these days, and it's fully supported at Donkhouse. Whenever an all-in hand is run twice, two separate instances of the remaining community cards are dealt out, and whichever hand wins on each of the boards is rewarded with half the pot.

Double boards is similar to running it twice. The difference is that it applies to all community cards and does not need to wait for anyone to be all-in before taking effect. Thus, two separate flops will be dealt, followed by two turns and two rivers. The winning hand on each board takes half the pot.

Double Boards Donkhouse Table With Double Boards Enabled

Most of these entertaining gameplay features only take effect if a majority of the players at a table agree to them. So you won't have to play with double boards or the 72 bounty game, even if they're enabled, unless more than half of the participants want to.

Apart from these entertaining options, you have more standard elements that you can configure. For example, you can set a maximum buyin amount and change the timebank length.

Group Management

Donkhouse lacks some of the sophisticated management features found in other club-based poker apps, like PPPoker and PokerBros, but what it does have should be sufficient for casual players and group managers.

Most of these functions are intended for use by the group's admins. There's a “Make Admin” button that the group owner will see next to the names of all the group members, and this is how normal members are promoted to administrators.

The advanced table options permit you to specify manual start, which means that an administrator can start and pause the game at will. Furthermore, the buy-in requests feature demands that an admin approve any buy-in or add-on before it will be processed at the table.

On each table, a download menu can be accessed by pressing a small icon below the table name. This menu has three options: Ins and Outs, Hand Histories, and Transaction Log. The Transaction Log is a text file with a log of all chip movements on to and off of the table. The Ins and Outs report presents similar information, in summary form, in an Excel file. By examining these files, club admins can maintain records of how many chips each member has won or lost.

Real Money Poker

All the chips at Donkhouse are for play money only, and the site even says on its home page: “Play secure online poker with friends using play money.” Still, you can use the platform for your own real money games.

The group management functions make it possible to track buyins, wins, and losses. Therefore, the club owner can agree with the players upon a real world value for these play chips and then settle up with cash outside the Donkhouse website.

Clearly, such transactions are not endorsed by site management, and you will have no recourse if you get burned by a dishonest individual. Yet, if you and the other members of your group are friends and you trust them, then you may elect to proceed in this manner. Actually, if all transactions are routed through the club owner and everyone must pay up in advance, then you really only need to be able to trust this single individual rather than relying on the honesty of everyone in the group.

Player Profile

Within the menu designated with your screenname on the top of the window, you can choose “Profile.” Then you can adjust a few parameters that aren't related to a specific group or table but rather apply to your Donkhouse account overall.

Player Profile Player Profile Settings

You can set it up to auto-vote “Yes” for some of the extra gameplay options, like straddling and voting for bomb pots. Four-color deck, password changes, display resolution, and a bunch of miscellaneous settings are located here too.

Mobile

With its web interface, Donkhouse.com is compatible with mobile devices of whatever operating system as long as the platform in question has a relatively modern browser app. Pretty much any iOS or Android smartphone or tablet released in the past five years should work, and so should Linux machines, Windows Phone hardware, Macs, Blackberrys, and many other types of systems.

Mobile Table at Donkhouse Mobile Table at Donkhouse.com

We did encounter a few minor annoyances when playing on our phones. The graphical elements seem to be kept in the same proportion to each other regardless of screen size, which meant that some of the buttons became very tiny and hard to press. This mostly was only a concern when initially preparing for a session and buying in; once the cards were in the air, we found the UI elements to be large enough to easily handle.

Customer Support

It's possible to get in touch with Donkhouse staff by emailing donkhousepoker[at]gmail.com. Furthermore, there's a Donkhouse Discord channel where the founder is known to sometimes hang out. Finally, you can submit your wishes to the Feature Request page where other users get to vote on suggested improvements to Donkhouse.

Conclusion

Donkhouse.com is a nifty place to get together with friends for some internet poker action. Although it's a play money-only site, there are ways to engage in real money play according to private arrangements that you make amongst the other players in your group.

Though the site is a bit rough around the edges, it's constantly being upgraded, and it costs you nothing to join. Meanwhile, there are cool features like double boards, 72 bounties, and straddles that are pretty rare in the online poker world. We heartily recommend Donkhouse to anyone in search of a play money site that's not just a cookie-cutter replica of another operation.

If you'd rather play directly for real money, albeit not necessarily with a cozy group of friends, then there are other alternatives that merit your attention. We've written all about them in a USA offshore poker guide, which will give you detailed info on the sites available. Our Canadian readers might wish instead to browse through a rundown of the best Canada-friendly online poker sites while Aussies can check out trustworthy internet poker rooms for Australians.

Frequently Asked Questions

Donkhouse is a relatively new internet poker site, and so it's understandable if you don't know much about it and still have unanswered questions. Look below where we have compiled some of the most frequent queries about the room and have attempted to address them accurately and honestly.

Yes, Donkhouse employs the Fisher-Yates shuffling algorithm, which is a respected method for ensuring randomized, unbiased arrangements of elements (in this case, playing cards).

No, there's no poker for real money at Donkhouse. At least, not officially.

You can, of course, establish a conversion ratio between Donkhouse chips and real money with your friends and then transact accordingly. These would be private transactions conducted outside the Donkhouse platform.

There's no phone number you can call to reach Donkhouse personnel. Instead, you can fire off an email to donkhousepoker[at]gmail.com.

You can try adjusting the graphics settings within your profile if you are experiencing slowdowns. From the top menu (the one with your screenname), choose “Profile.”

Then in the middle of the page toward the bottom, you will see drop-down menus for Resolution and Target FPS. Lowering these values may lead to smoother performance from Donkhouse.