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The New Poker Metagame

by Ryan Laplante |  Published: Dec 04, 2019


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Ryan Laplante at the WSOPThe poker meta has evolved a lot over the years, as wider access to better information about the game has slowly changed how most people approach their decisions.

For those of you who don’t know, metagame is defined as any aspect of strategy that involves thinking about what your opponent is thinking that you are thinking. Got it? Take a moment to re-read that and let it really sink in.

Basically, metagame is the general strategies players use, the adjustments they make against each other, and how that dictates overall play.

Poker legends like Doyle Brunson and Dan Harrington, as well as many other authors, were responsible for the shifts in the poker meta and the information available to most players. With books like SuperSystem and Harrington On Hold’em they each caused mini-revolutions in the game, and helped usher in a new era of poker. While Brunson introduced many to the idea of aggressive play, Harrington’s simplification of the M-ratio made everyone a better short stack player.

Even poker on television, with tournaments like the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour broadcast to homes around the world, gave the average person insight into the minds of the game’s top pros, thereby shifting the meta.

The modern era of the metagame was first brought on by pioneer poker training sites like DeucesCracked, BlueFire, CardRunners, FloatTheTurn, and TournamentPokerEdge, and later sites like RunItOnce, UpswingPoker, RaiseYourEdge, and my own recently launched LearnProPoker.

Playing regularly for high stakes, and working on and building a poker training site has given me direct insight into how the game has been evolving recently. Frankly, it has been astonishing to see the incredible amount of new information available and how the metagame is changing.

Of course, I’m talking mostly about the advancements made with Game Theory Optimal (GTO) solvers like MonkerSolver (Monker) and PIOSolver (PIO). Both of these solvers use Nash-Equilibrium mathematics to build strategies that are impossible to lose with. PIO has been publicly available since 2015, while Monker joined the game in 2017.

Before these programs were widely available for use, there were only a handful of elite players that had similar programs for personal use. But, with the launch of these programs for the public, learning how to approach the game with GTO strategies has become easily accessible for anyone serious about studying and playing the game at a high level.

Unfortunately, both of these programs are extremely expensive, and have incredibly steep learning curves. MonkerSolver sells for €499 and PIOSolver will set you back anywhere from $250 to $1,100 depending on which version you buy.

That being said, modern training sites can give you indirect access to the information that has been gained from these programs, in an easily digestible form so that many more players can make use of it. This has caused a shift in the overall strategies many people use, as more and more players add GTO game aspects to their overall strategy, even without having studied solvers.

Fortunately for everyone, while the information obtained from these solvers is incredibly valuable and useful, it is also currently extremely limited in what it can offer from a practical perspective. The mathematics that goes into solving situations is very complex, and these solvers only give glimpses into certain aspects of the game due to the lack of powerful processing power needed to truly get close to what GTO actually is.

Now that you understand the history of the poker metagame, where it currently stands, and how to get that information yourself, I will explain a few of the most common types of meta that are widely used today in tournaments.

1. Small Continuation Bet Sizings

This strategy has been widely used by pro players over the last few years. It came about because of how strongly solvers prefer to use small sizings in many situations. Fortunately, many players also misapply this theory.

2. Larger Preflop Opens

Many pros these days have multiple sizings they use based on a lot of different factors, and because of this you will see much larger preflop sizings used in opens by top players in tough games.

3. Open Limping

Open limping, especially off of shorter stack depths, has become a very common tool used by most pro players despite being considered a major leak by top pros as early as a decade ago.

4. Larger Three-Bet Sizings

In virtually every situation, three-bet sizings have become a lot larger. This is due to the equity given to the calling player when a size is made too small.

5. Defending Your Blinds

Everyone has gotten much better at defending the blinds as loosely as required. Being willing to play a weak hand from the blinds, and doing so well, is a required aspect of playing the game at a high level today.

The poker meta has come a long way over the years and the most recent advancements, caused by computers and solvers, have been interesting and often counter-intuitive to past ideas. That being said, I am confident that the future has many more years of growth in terms of meta and our understanding of what GTO looks like. Knowing that optimal poker strategy will never stop evolving makes me excited to continue to play this game for a living. ♠

Ryan Laplante is a WSOP Bracelet winner. He has more than $5 million in tournament cashes with eight WSOP final tables. His website is, and he is a coach for ChipLeader Coaching at