Meta game

Meta game is a term that goes into describing the dynamics between poker players in relation to how they view each other and how they expect each other to play certain hands and situations.

An example of a meta game play may be to make a loose call on the river, a call you wouldn't normally make. The reason that you may make this call is to create the impression to the other player that you will make "bad calls" on the river. If this is how he now perceives you then he may be less likely to bluff you on the river in future hands.

Another situation of a potential river play could be that you bet a weak hand. You might make this play for much the same reason but in reverse, so if he calls, he might make a mental not that you bet weak hands on the river and in future hands may be much more likely to look you up light. In order to call any play a "meta game play" it must be something that you do once (or a couple of times) but then switch how you play. If you're continuously making loose calls on the river, your villain will be able to adjust to you and will simply bet his stronger hands for value, and you will lose money. The idea is to make a slightly negative EV (expected value) play and then take advantage of how you opponent adjusts to it later in the match.

Making Meta Game Work For You

So with "Meta game" it's not too important about how you play your hand, the theory is more about how you play your overall session. You might start out playing a very LAG (loose/aggressive) game which you think will help create the image of a crazy maniac type player, then change gears and nit it up. You hope that by the time your opponents catch on, it'll be too late as they found out the hard way and you've stacked them. It's a very intruiging aspect of poker. In the grand scheme of things, if you're going to successfully pull off a meta game play, there are a few table conditions you'll need on your side:

You'll need to be able to figure out when the play has had the desired effect and then switch gears. Your opponent needs to be switched on enough to adjust to you, but not smart enough to understand what you're really doing. Finally your opponent needs to make an adjustment that is bad enough and stay that way for long enough, that it will more than make up for the negative EV of making the meta game play in the first place.

The Potential Pitfalls

Being able to figure out what your opponent's thinking and knowing that "now, he thinks I'm a maniac" is tough to say the least. A lot of online players are multitabling and not always paying attention to any specific table all that much. Also, you need to trust that he will adjust to you in the way you expect him to, which can be an easy mistake to make and you can at times often "out level" yourself.

An Example May Be:

You make a bluff on a river, then your opponent looks you up. Now, you may think that you can start value betting the river a lot more because he will call you down light. So now you fire on the river with top pair, top kicker type hand, and suddenly he makes a big raise. Now if he thinks you're bluffing then he'd be calling right? But he raised, so surely he has a big hand (you think) and you fold. This is only good if you were right about the adjustments he's made to playing you. What if you bluffing him got him all fired up and now he's decided to fight back? In this instance you've now turned a reliable opponent into a player who's happy to make big bluffs on the river. So now it might take you a while to figure that out and re-adjust yourself!

Your opponents may noy be thinking on the same level as you so don't fall in to the trap of thinking that they think and play the same way you do.

What if your opponent is very switched on and acutely aware of what you're trying to do? Maybe one that has some history playing with you already and realises that what you did is not a line you'd usually take. Perhaps this kind of opponent may not fall for the trap and instead see your play for what it really is. Now he's ahead of you, expecting that the next time you're in the same situation you will actually make the opposite play and he will be able to make a perfect read. These opponents are not too common but when you do come across them, it'll really sting.

Finally and most importantly. You need to have reason to believe that your meta game play will actually be a good investment and you'll be able to make back the money that you lost earlier in the session. This won't work if your opponent is likely leave if he gets up on you or if the adjustment that you want him to make isn't bad enough that you won't be able to make the investment back even if the session lasts for a long time.

If it comes across that I recommend staying away from meta game plays, then I've written the article as I wanted to. Avoid meta game plays unless you're very sure of what you're doing. However the theory of this article can apply very well if you make a mistake whilst playing or genuinely run an ill timed bluff (which we all do from time to time). Just don't go out of your way to force meta game mistakes, rather be aware of your image and look to make adjustments that will keep your opponent off guard based on how the match is flowing.



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