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the importance of the metegame in poker

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What is the metagame in poker?

The more the GTO makes its way into the study of poker, the less we hear about the metagame in poker, but this concept still has great value and importance.
Have you never heard of metagame or have you now discovered this term and want to learn more about it? You are in the right place.

What is the metagame in poker?

The metagame in poker is defined as “the game within the game,” and refers to the psychological component, understood as the “clash” of thoughts between players.
It has nothing to do with math, rules or frequencies, indeed often a move made for “metagame” is anything but optimal at the strategic level.
The metagame relies on all outside information from the fundamental strategy, and occasionally it does not even want to have an instant monetary reward in return. It can be aimed at other purposes, such as psychological pressure, information about the opponent, image, and so on.
To give an inadvisable example, the “spite call” is pure metagame. It literally translates as “call out of spite or spitefulness,” and is a call that should be avoided mathematically but is made to annoy or eliminate an opponent who is going all in a little too often.
In the old days of Sit & Go it was much more common, because you faced the same players often, and as a matter of structure, all in was very common. When someone went too far, sometimes another would come along to “spit,” then call him with marginal hands. The effect was that next time the all-in prone player would think twice before pushing on that opponent’s blind, knowing that he would raise the probability of being eliminated.

The metagame in modern poker

Even in this day and age, the metagame has its value. For example, if an opponent bets on the river in a cash game, we may decide to call with a mediocre hand even though we know we are likely to lose.
It is a move that can serve, for example, to see his cards and add an item to our portfolio of information about him, or to create a loose image so that from that point on, his plays are not optimal, but exploitative in the wrong direction. Or if we pinch him on a bluff, it can have a strong impact on the psychological game, triggering questions such as “But how does he know what I have? What hero call was that?”

A further concept of metagame and leveling

Metagame can also mean “the current game trend.” Those who have been in poker for a few years will remember that there have been several strategic fashions.
There was the small ball strategy of Daniel Negreanu, then the cult of tight aggressive, which then became more and more open to the point of saying that loose aggressive was the most dangerous strategy.
Each of these phases was the current “meta” of the period. And each of these “meta” generated circles of thought that resulted in the famous leveling.

the levels of thinking in poker

Any style of play has an impact on those who face us. When we were tight and called with value we were singled out as “solid players” and there was fear of getting a call, when we were loose everyone feared our bets, not being able to know what we had in our hands.
And then he would trigger the famous level, the play of levels of thinking, the “I know that he knows that I know…” that can lead to making particular plays, built ad hoc on the person.
A very dangerous and difficult field to cross, because it is abstract and you cannot base the foundation on something solid.
To understand it, it is a thought in this style, “He will always call here, so I can’t bluff. But if he knows this, then he will understand that if I bet I am basically nuts! Then if I bluff here I can have a good chance of success, I will make him fold really hard.”
The problem is that the thinking can continue with “But if he knew all this, then he might call because he knows I might bluff. At this point I can let it go and only bet when I have value, so he will call and I will win”–and so on.
Leveling wins only when you are one and only one level of thinking above your opponent.

How do you use the metagame?

In most cases online, it is no longer easy to take advantage of the metagame, because the opponents are increasingly anonymous and the tables too many to pay real attention, but there are still cases where the game within the game can be fielded without problems.
Live, on the other hand, the metagame still makes all the difference in the world, especially when the stakes are not very high.
And in that case there are other factors that come into the metagame, including physical tells, word phrases and comments.
There is no guide on how to exploit the metagame, because it is always a separate and different aspect from person to person.

trash talking in poker

The idea, however, is that you are clear about what you want to achieve and then how to achieve it. Make absolutely sure to reevaluate this strategy to verify that it can really work, otherwise you risk getting an own goal for no reason.
For example, if we want an opponent to start thinking twice before raising when we are in the big blind, we can put him in crisis with a 3-bet preflop, or a call to check-raise on certain boards, and similar strategies. But we don’t plan things like shooting all in with 7-2 and then showing him, or calling a 3-barrel with third pair to bring him down.
Another hidden gem in the metagame is the ability to give others the wrong info so that when they adapt strategy to us they do so in the completely wrong direction.
We can give reverse tells for example, or take advantage of a period of favorable spots to look like maniacs. We can also comment on every hand we fold by saying that we are bluffing, or conversely that we have always had the nuts, to convince an opponent that we have a certain style of play, more or less loose.
The possibilities are endless, and a fine strategy can have great results even if there are no numbers to prove it. But always remember that mistakes in these cases pay dearly, also it is crucial to have strong nerves and not take advantage of “metagame motivation” to motivate some mistakes actually dictated by emotions.

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