Poker as Psychological Warfare

The moves you make in poker are as much about the cards you hold, as the ways you can manipulate your opponents. ‘Meta game’ is the term that poker players use to describe the psychological influence that certain moves can have on another player.

For example, a player may decide that, during the first the first hour of a cash game session, they are going to play extremely loose. As soon as they sit down at the poker table, they raise as many pots as possible, bluffing at any opportunity, and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

After the initial hour, they decide that there are going to play much tighter, and only make bets when they’ve got a strong hand. Because of their previous antics, their bets now get much less respect, and they make more money when they have the goods.

The reason for this is in the meta game; they’ve created a certain image with the intention of exploiting it at a later time. Thus, in this scenario, the player has made a conscious decision to be aggressive because they know that, later in the session, they are going to play tight.

Meta game can also translate into a longer-term concept. Top poker professionals will often mould an image over a long period, in order to dupe their opponents.

Gus Hansen, a poker pro from Denmark, is a classic example of this. Early in his career, he became known as a wild player. Over time, however, he became much more selective about the hands he played. His opponents could not escape their initial impressions of him though and, thus, he started to make even more money.

At its core, poker is psychological warfare where you must use every weapon at your disposal to deceive your opponent. Understanding the implications of meta game will greatly improve your chances of success.

Sceptical? See meta-game in action; the Betfair WSOP 2012 Qualifiers website has all the latest news, odds, and tips on the annual contest.

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