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I sometimes hear the term "final table simulation" when it comes to the WSOP Main Event.

What is it ? Why is it done ? How does it work ? Does it have the expected results ?

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A final table simulation is a special poker tournament in which a group of poker professionals take over the role of another player and play poker. The reason it's done is because of the huge sums of money involved in the payouts of the final table finishers. The reason it CAN BE done at the WSOP Main Event is because of the 3 month break of the Main Event. You have enough time in the 3 months to perform such a simulation.

A few rules to be respected during the simulation:

  • The seat positions of the future-to-be final table is/must be kept. This is because position is a crucial factor of poker
  • Stack sizes must also be the same. Just like the position, stack sizes also carry great weight in poker decisions
  • In order to remember who is who, the players that perform the simulation will often print the name and/or face of their characters on their t-shirts, especially in the first phases of the simulation
  • it would be best to have a dedicated dealer, in order to have as many similar elements as the actual final table as possible. It would be distracting otherwise
  • multiple simulations should / will be performed. It takes some time for the players to fully immerse themselves in their characters. This means that only after a few simulations (maybe 3, 4 or more) you will get actual usable results / data.
  • Don't play for more than 8 hours / day. Being tired means you're going to screw up your role.
  • If you have a poker coach, make him participate somehow in the simulation, if only as a spectator / consultant. He knows you, how you play, what your weaknesses are. So his advices are potential gold mines.
  • Use a camera to film yourself while you play in the simulation. See phase 3 for why this is useful
  • Respect player's genders a.k.a. have female players for female characters. Like it or not, male players will often underestimate the female ones. This is exploitative and important.

A final table simulation has 3 phases:

Phase 1

This is the information gathering phase. Take your professional poker friends and make them gather as much information as they can about your future-to-be opponents. Each of the players must have ONE and only one of your opponents on his agenda. What each player must then do is:

  • find video footage of his character playing poker. ESPN has been broadcasting poker tournaments for many years, it's a great source for such materials.
  • find many hours and hours of such video materials. As much as possible. Oh, and did I mention it should be many hours of this ?
  • study his character and look for STRENGHTS, WEAKNESSES and TELLS
  • turn himself into an actor and try his best to play exactly like his character. A good poker professional will know how to achieve this.

Phase 2

This is where the actual playing poker takes place. Everyone takes their seats and their specified number of chips and plays poker, obviously without forgetting to respect their roles / characters. This phase will have to be repeated a few times. Like I said above: it takes a while for the players to fully immerse themselves in their characters and have the simulation / game flow naturally.

Phase 3

This is the phase where the conclusions are drawn from the play that happened at phase 2:

  • what are the weaknesses of your play ? Correct them.
  • What are the strenghts of your play ? Amplify them.
  • Do you exhibit obvious tells ? Correct them. (FYI this is where the camera is useful)
  • If we were at this phase before (see below), did we correct / change something we shouldn't have ? Did we forget something ?

To practice the above corrections of your play, you HAVE TO go back to phase 2 and repeat the cycle again. Ideally, the cycle for a complete final table simulation should be something like 1 -> 2 -> 2 -> 2 -> 2 -> 3 -> 2 -> 2 -> 2 -> 3 -> 2 -> ....

Limitations of the simulation

While it's obvious for good poker players why something like this would be useful, it's obviously not going to result in miracles.

Poker is, at its core, a game of imperfect information. There are flaws in everyone's game, everyone's acting abilities etc. There's also the luck factor. And let's not forget that some of the players will be doing simulations of their own and change/improve their own play.

So it's virtually impossible to predict what will happen at the actual final table. But the simulation will improve your play a lot (and fairly quickly) and give you a lot of information about your opponents. This will give you a significantly better chance of climbing that huge pay ladder. If you do the simulation correctly, that is :) .

Given the huge pay jumps of the Main Event, it's irresponsible and kind of STUPID not to do such a simulation. I wouldn't call you a poker professional if you pass it. Also, do you have a good excuse not to spend your 3 months doing it ? Highly doubt it.

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