This concept is another important aspect of poker; indeed, it’s crucial for any game that is to be taken seriously. The nature of poker, however, gives it even more weight. Everyone interacts with the metagame to some extent, though the very best players are conciously aware of it and understand its ins and outs as well as the game of poker itself. I have said many times before, these are the things that interest me most in any competitive situation. Poker is so rife with them, that I suspect it is the reason I like it so much.
But, this is a term some people may not be familiar with. As the title of this post suggests, it is derived from the greek (yes that is the only link to the movie 300, I just thought it was a funny pic to throw up there). “Meta” can be translated as “beyond”. It is usually used in English to indicate an abstraction of some sort, or to talk “about” something on a higher level than the subject itself. So, to talk about the metagame of poker is not to make reference to chips, hand values, betting, etc…. It is intended to refer to the broader arena of the game’s play.
Some examples might make this more clear. These are some meta concerns that most people are aware of, though they may not have realized that they could be classified as such; and, therefore, better understood.
Tilts – This essentially a metagame concern since it is very possible that influences outside of the actual gameplay can cause it. See my previous post on this for more detail. Link
Headphones – a few years ago, the world series allowed players to wear headphones. Some people loved it. It made them more comfortable at the table and so they played better. Others hated it. Players were not paying attention, they had to repeat themselves constantly, it slowed down the game. The act of wearing headphones has nothing to do with poker, yet it had an unmistakable effect on the players and how they played.
ESPN and the Internet Boom – when poker exploded with popularity, people who didn’t know a thing about poker all of a sudden were privy to the tips, secrets, and lingo of the pros to an extent that had never happened before. Nobody knew what ‘the river” was before ESPN made the world series a household name. I’d venture to bet most people didnt even know Texas Hold ’em. Most amatuers I knew at the time only knew draw and maybe stud. This meant that the following year’s event was flooded with wannabes and amateurs. The seasoned pros called it a “minefeild” that most didn”t end up making it through. Unknowns took it two years straight (Moneymaker and Raymer). Again, nothing to do with the actual play of the game. Cultural, social, statistical concerns took over having a greater effect than anything else.
The players who can recognize these Metagame twists and turns is at a clear advantage to the one who is just swept up in them like a ship in a storm. Learn the see which ways the winds are blowing and adjust accordingly. Practicing that is at least as important as memorizing percentages and practicing your “pokerface”
For some more info, look up my post on Gamesmanship from a few months ago. Its funny, but deals strictly with metagame conerns. Link