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Poker Metagame

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You are probably reading this article because you want to find out what the poker metagame concept means in order to expand your knowledge of the game, so let's start explaining it.

What is the metagame?

When we talk about metagame, we are referring to what is known as "the game within the game", which means that you made a decision based on external knowledge instead of fundamental strategy. In other words, whenever you make a play that ignores the principles of mathematical strategy in poker, you are probably using the meta game strategy.

In poker metagame, you focus on information different to cards, chips and the size of bets.

In poker metagame, you don't care about the size of the bets, the cards or the size of the stacks. Poker metagame has to do with "thinking man's poker", where you make profitable decisions by considering the possible results of your actions and the gameplay in general.

An example of poker metagame

Suppose you have been playing poker hold'em in the same table for a short time and you are in the middle of a hand you know little about. You find yourself at the river with a poor holding and you face a fairly sized bet. You know that according poker mathematics, calling would not be profitable in the long run.

In this situation, you should trying going beyond the principles of mathematics and consider other possible results of calling. Even though in the long run this play could turn out to be a poor mathematical play, you'll have two unique advantages:

  • You'll have the chance to see our opponent's cards.
  • You'll give yourself a loose table image.

You'll see that seeing your opponent's cards may turn out to be really useful because you'll find out what kind of player you are playing with. Having a better knowledge of their play style will allow you to make better decisions in future hands.

Besides, you may look like a poor player if you make such a weak player who tends to call down river bets with marginal hands. As a result, your opponent may choose to show less respect to your hands in the future, which will be good for you because it will allow you to take down larger pots in the future on down the line.

So although you made an unprofitable play based just on the mathematics of the situation, the consequences of that play may compensate for this minimum loss by allowing you to win big in future hands. This is what poker metadata is about and you probably have thought about it before.

The metagame may allow you to enjoy great wins in later hands after you have suffered a minor loss in an unprofitable play.

Important metagame points

  • Metagame is not an excuse to make bad plays.
  • The Poker Metagame varies with time.
  • Metagame plays should be more frequently used against familiar poker players.

In the previous example we saw how a "less profitable" play could be profitable in the future but it does not mean you should use it as an excuse to make poor decisions in poker. Also, you shouldn't make unprofitable plays on purpose with the expectation that you can create an image that will be profitable in future hands. Don't look for metagame-style situations; they will come to you every now and then.

Meta game in poker changes regularly. When professional poker player Doyle Brunson wrote the "Super System" book, you could find there the best strategy for NL Poker Texas Hold'em for the time in which it was published. As years have gone by, however, players have become more aggressive and the style of play depicted in the book is no longer so profitable.

Poker metagame evaluation

Metagame in poker is generally more effective when you play against players you are familiar with and with whom you play regularly. This happens because you already understand how they play and you know "What makes them tick" and how to handle their style of play.

You can use the metagame style to play against poker players you don't know (for example, bet against players who hold mediocre to strong hands at lower limits since they usually call often with weak hands), however, it will be more relevant in games in which you have opponents you have already played with.

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