To begin metagaming in poker, we first must understand thinking levels in poker. To be able to metagame with players we must be one level of thinking above them.
Thinking Levels in Poker:
Level 0: Knows nothing!
Level 1: What do I have?
Level 2: What does my opponent have?
Level 3: What does my opponent think I have?
Level 4: What does my opponent think that I think they have?
Level 5: What does my opponent think that I think they think I have?
What is metagaming in poker and how can we use it?
Metagaming is playing outside of game theory and mathematics. It is playing a hand in a certain way based on previous game play or knowledge on our opponent.
We can make certain -ev plays to increase our profitability in the future vs our opponent. Or we can turn a bad play on our part into a future meta-game spot.
We can make a lighter than normal value bet on the river which our opponent will see then in future we can change our value betting range to fit this or bet bigger with our stronger range of hands. This is in the knowledge that we will be called a lot lighter in the future as they have seen our light/maybe incorrect bet.
Also folding a strong hand face up in a live game will lead our opponent to see we are passive and easy to run over. So in the future we can win a bigger pot by calling it off in a lighter spot thank normal. Obviously folding a strong hand we should be calling with does not make sense, but if it is a close mathematical decision we can turn it into a spot for future meta-gaming.
Metagame in Modern Poker
Metagame tactics occur a lot more in today's modern game as players seek to the need to push our edges. As players improve they begin to notice everything we incorporate in our game. We become forced to mix up our usual game in order to create better spots for us in the future.
We have to be careful that we are metagaming the right players. We don't want to do it vs a fish who has no idea why we did what we did or even that it is good/bad. We should be doing it vs regs who we will play many more hands vs over the next x amount of years. This is creating another dynamic at the table and taking our level thinking up to another level. Giving opponents more to think about during a hand is invaluable. They can look at their hand, the board, our image, our stats, think of previous hands...they now need to look at if we are metagaming them. This could allow them to make big mistakes vs us and allow us to profit from them consistently.
A word we hear pretty much everyday in poker is ‘standard’. Most hands we play will be that and we can win money playing hands in standard spots.
Don't get carried away!
Try not to get carried away with constantly winning mind games with your opponents. It is hard to meta-game every player on the table. We need to develop this strategy vs select players in order to consistently turn a profit. Make sure your game theory and mathematics game is near perfect before doing this.