Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Metagame and "Tapping the glass"

Thanks to the Sexy Jess Welman for the following post.  Because Intelligence is Very Sexy indeed!

     I have heard many players talk about "tapping the glass", from varying viewpoints.  Jess Welman wrote a very nice grad school paper on the subject as it relates to the metagame.  I posted it in its entirety just before this blog post, for those who are interested in reading the full paper, especially those new to the idea of the "metagame".  If someone were to write a book on the metagame of poker, specifically, I think it would be a great Foreword!
     I have been asked often by players who think I play a lot better than I do (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!) what factors a poker player thinks about most in their decision making.  Based on the level of the player, this answer varies.  But it very often boils down to "he who adjusts first, and most, usually wins".  Whether you are playing the smallest or largest game in town, if any of the players know each other, there is very likely going to be elements of a metagame involved.  Once you get beyond the the ABC's of poker, which are often enough to make profit in a soft game or tournament, what are some good things to focus on?  This is going to vary for many types of players.  Some will prefer to keep it simple, and just play by the numbers.  You've got your math based guys, Game Theory guys, and your old school "play the players" artistic types.  Those whom are the best (or have a reputation as one of the best) typically are able to apply each of these styles at key times when needed.  Your reputation can work for you, or against you, depending on the situation, and what your "perceived" reputation is to that individual you are involved in a hand with, AT THAT TIME.  
     The players with a great reputation, may not be the most profitable.  Is success measured in profit, tournament bracelets, or by the decisions you make regardless of the results?  Well, that depends on YOU.  Like many things in life, you get to set your own goals, and decide what rewards work best for you.  Tournament wins, and the notoriety that go with it, would be nice, but for me, personally, I would have to go with the profit, because of what I am able to do with the money to make the world a better place.  Being able to pay for my kids education, buy a house, invest in smart businesses, go on vacation, help friends and others out who need it, etc. are the kinds of things that I am currently motivated by.  Why do I bring this up when talking about "metagame"?  Well, what's important to a person, will have an influence on whether they "mind" someone tapping the glass, giving free advice to someone that is not paying attention, or similar stuff at or near the tables, or poker training site, or even on a blog!  So how can I discuss my thoughts on metagame, without giving away too much info on my game?  It would seem a lot of players worry about this often. 
     Personally, I never minded anyone giving anyone else advice at the table.  As long as I can hear the conversation, I am getting some info, from the person speaking and the way they speak, but also the person listening and the way they listen.  The main point here is to pay attention.  Just because someone has better info today than they had yesterday, does not mean that they have learned where and when to apply it.  Indeed, sometimes the worst players, are those in the middle ground of learning, trying to apply what they've learned before with what they are learning now, and often overthinking everything.  Or a good player tilting, having a bad day.  Or a fish having a good day and getting overconfident  Or a world class player having a good time socializing and not caring about the level they are playing at the moment.  The thing about playing poker, especially in Las Vegas, is that you could be sitting at a table with 9 completely different level of players in the same game.  Is that person acting like a fish, getting the free advice, REALLY a fish, or just acting like one?  Does the person giving the advice REALLY play that well, or do their bad habits override the logic they are sharing?  Who is paying attention to the conversation that you didn't expect?  Who is annoyed by the talking that you think shouldn't be?  I could go on and on, but the point is, no matter how good the advice is, you want people playing at a lower level to come back to the tables, so the games don't dry up!
     Let's return to the point about the players with a great reputation.  I've heard more players complain about their reputation and it's effect on their profit, than I can shake a stick at!  I've seen quite a few profitable people fly under the radar, avoiding the limelight, quietly making money, and happily doing so while others take the limelight.  How do you win when you get famous enough to have thousands of hands online, and on TV?  How do you know someone isn't adjusting just because they want to win a hand against you now that you are famous?  How much harder is it to keep tilt at bay when the whole world knows you're on the worst downswing you've ever had?  Welcome back to the Metagame.  
     Whether you think about the metagame or not, you cannot deny it's existence, and the possibility of it being present in your hands.  The more you grind, or the more grinders you encounter, the more likely it is to be present and affecting the current game.  And that is something everyone would do well to remember when seeing something out of the ordinary at your table.  Do you have anyone you trust enough to believe the metagame info they share with you?  Or is the info they share part of their metagame?
     So, on that point, do I worry about the metagame like a good mystery book, and a likable challenge?  Do I completely ignore it, going with game theory instead, especially at $1/$2 games, or micro limits online?  Am I able to be as profitable if I share this info?  Maybe.  Is there any advantage to me sharing that info with the world?  The only answer I can leave you with is "It depends."
     Good luck at the tables, whether real or virtual!
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