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Texas Hold'em No Limit Intermediate

Metagame in Poker

8,261 Views on 28/11/16

If we limit our focus to card combos, bet sizing and ranges we can miss the bigger picture.

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Poker is a very complicated game. No limit hold'em offers so many distinctly different scenarios and so many possibilities that there's no wonder we're still ways away from solving the game. However, if we limit our focus to card combos, bet sizing and ranges we can miss the bigger picture.

Sometimes it pays to take a step back and realize that rules of the game aren't the only thing that's capable of affecting the EV of our plays.

What is Metagaming

According to Wikipedia:

Metagaming is any strategy, action or method used in a game which transcends a prescribed rule set, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game. Another definition refers to the game universe outside of the game itself."

We can trace the origin of the term to politics and military but it got popularized by the video game enthusiasts. In competitive video gaming, metagaming usually refers to the way players adjust their actions based on the dominant strategies. Video games are constantly updated in order to preserve the balance and keep the gameplay interesting. Because of that dominant strategies tend to change from time to time and some elements of the game that were considered weak before might become good in the new emerging metagame.

For example, if in a shooter game a weapon that kills you with a single headshot became the most popular one and players knew that based on the information other than the game itself (like strategy articles, tournament coverage etc.) a correct metagame call might be to buy a helmet that prevents that from happening even if it's not a cost effective purchase in a vacuum etc.

Metagaming by Exploiting Popular Poker Trends and Strategies

Going back to the world of poker, let's consider some examples of using the metagame to our advantage at the tables. The first dominant strategy every poker player learns is continuation betting.

Since we get a piece of the flop only about 33% of the time it's obviously a good idea to bet the flop with a high frequency in order to capitalize on the fact that more often than not we'll be putting our opponent in a tough situation. Knowing that, slightly more advanced players might realize that in the metagame where most people continuation bet way too often floating becomes the correct response. Even more advanced players will start double and triple barreling often in order to try to punish the floaters etc. etc.

In the good old days of poker, low-stakes and mid-stakes were filled with players who got there with a very solid, very tight and value-bettingoriented game. They lived off of their blue line and left a ton of money at the tables in spots without the showdown.

Then, around seven years ago, a little video series called "The Thin Red Line" by a Deucescracked.com coach 'grindcore' came out, and the poker world was never the same. In this series 'grindcore' exposed the flaws of the metagame where tight, value-betting style was a dominant strategy and proceeded to show other poker enthusiasts exactly how easy it is to get away with highly exploitable bluffs.

This is perhaps one of the most important examples of using metagaming in the online poker history.

Metagaming in Live Poker

No matter what's your opinion on William Kassouf he's another great example of using metagame to your advantage in the context of live poker. Just like 'grindcore' managed to expose the flaws of a showdown winnings dependent strategy, Kassouf prayed on the way average poker player carries himself at the live table. We're so used to players shuffling chips and staring at each other in complete silence and that was the reason why Kassouf's table banter caught everyone by surprise.

It's unclear how much value Kassouf was able to extract from putting the entire table on tilt but he definitely forced his opponents to act in a way they aren't used to. He also provoked a very thin call from his opponent at the end of the video linked above and his overall performance in the tournament might suggest that he was doing something right.

Metagaming by Choosing the Best Poker Rooms and Offers

When seeking value in poker outside of the game's ruleset picking a correct poker room and deal is also an important consideration. For example, throughout the years many players were able to build healthy bankrolls with relative ease by ignoring the most popular sites like PokerStars and choosing solid deals and easier fields provided by smaller sites.

One of the currently relevant examples of a small, up-and-coming site where you can find relatively weak opposition combined with a relatively good deal is Natural8 and you can sign up for it using PokerVIP link.

A few months back Party Poker was running a promotion for high volume fast forward grinders where you could win up to 1500$ by playing 250,000 hands in a span of two months. Two interesting examples of a great metagame play associated with that promotion would be to either switch from your current poker room to PartyPoker in order to receive that amazing value for the volume you were planning on putting in anyway or better yet realizing that many players would do exactly that and instead of grinding mindlessly like them in order to hit that 250,000 hands mark you could adjust your game to beat a swarm of grinders running on auto-pilot (decrease the number of tables, make a lot of notes etc. etc.).

Sometimes taking a step back from optimizing your betting patterns in order to focus on the poker metagame can be enough to separate you from other players and give you the edge necessary to beat them.

Staying aware and paying attention to metagaming opportunities can result in a much higher boost to your win rate than analyzing another set of hands or reading another poker book.


Matt VIP

Matt is predominantly a mental game and planning expert, with a terrific knowledge of science, meditation, practical methods of improvement and of course, a good level of poker skill! Look out for his strategy articles and follow him for hi ... Read More


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