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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Interviews

The Round Table – Annie Duke’s Take on The November Final Table Move

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It’s a new year of poker, new players and a whole new final table setup. Annie Duke is on the Players Advisory Council for the WSOP and she had a strong voice in the decision to move the final table back. If you had any doubts as to whether this was a good decision or not Annie makes a convincing argument.

KL: How did this idea come about from the players advisory?

They brought it up to us as an idea before they made the final decision because they wanted to make sure that the people who are representing the players agree with it. We discussed a lot of issues about it. There were people who thought there were negatives from it, there were people who thought there were a lot of positives from it and it was just a matter of weighing the positives with the negatives. Everyone was very gung ho with the idea and realized there were definitely more positives that come from doing the final table in November.

KL: What do you think about the idea that there is a disadvantage to pros because the amateurs can get lessons and practice?

It makes it kind of a different game but there isn’t any other game where people don’t get coached during the game, by the way. Think about it, when people are playing basketball are they being coached during the game? When people are playing football are they being coached during the game? Absolutely. When people are playing golf they are not only being coached, but their caddy acts as a coach for them. Poker was always kind of unique and it doesn’t make it any less of an individual sport that you are being coached if you look at something like golf or tennis where they are being coached while playing and it’s still an individual sport. Amateurs are going to have a leg up because they can get coaching now but that fact is that what goes between the amateurs and the pros is still going to exist. If I am a better player than you I am going to use the information I’m seeing on TV better than you are, I am going to use the coaching better than you are.

You are going to see that the pros are still going to be better than the amateurs. Does it help the amateurs out? Probably because they can now go get coaching and they can improve their game in that 3 months in between when they make the final table and when they play. At the same time I would argue that anyone who has made the final table of the World Series of Poker is probably a pretty good poker player. So it adds a different dimension to it. Who is best at using the coaching that is available? Who is best at using the information that is available? I don’t think that that’s a bad thing.

I think it is very interesting, one of the points that my brother made that I think was so good was that when people start talking about purity of the game and things like that, if we were really purists, we would have never allowed the hole cards cameras in the game because that completely changed the face of the game, much more so than anything happening with this final table does. At the time the pros were very nervous about it, I don’t want people to know my secrets, I don’t want people to know my hole cards, this is a game where you have to guess about that kind of information and now we are going to reveal it to the public and people were very iffy about it. I think in retrospect that no one would go back and undo that decision. Nobody, not even the people who really didn’t want it, would ever go back and undo that decision. That decision alone created, along with online poker, the poker economy that we have today.

Without the hole card cameras you don’t end up with Chris Moneymaker. That completely changes the course of history. I think that we all need to realize that sports evolve and this is an evolution of the sport that is going to be good for the game. It is going to create more interest in the game, it is going to create more interest in that final table, it’s going to create more poker viewers and all of that ends up being good for every individual in the poker industry. Everybody. I think that we need to realize and stop and take a breath before you talk about purity and if it’s going to change things, you need to go back and look at that one big decision to allow hole card cameras and think about if you would undo that decision. If the answer is no, I wouldn’t undo it then you have to be open to changes to the game.

KL: Do you think that if this had been in place the last couple of years there would have been a different winner?

It’s very hard for me to predict that. We’ve had certain winners in the past couple years that have definitely shown amazing results since then. You would like to think they would have won regardless because one would suspect that they were very good and qualified players. There are other winners that didn’t have the results after winning the Main Event that we might hope for a Main Event Champion. It’s not clear, everything changes. You wait 3 months and the cards get shuffled differently, people get different hands. There is that random element to the game that would have changed had you dealt that final table on a different day. I think it’s hard to say but that fact is if you have a table of nine players and you are talking about poker, in order to pick the best player out, how often do they have to win? Obviously it would have to be more than 1 in 9 times or their chip equity, but how much more than their chip equity do they have to win in order to determine they are the best player if you play that final table a thousand times. You could go back and play that final table on the same day and it’s not clear that the same person would have won. I think that those kinds of what ifs are a relative waste of time. You could play that final table over again on the same day and it’s not clear you would have the same winner because there is a random element that has to do with the deal of the cards.

KL: What about players running hot?

Every hand is an independent event. There is no such thing as a rush except in retrospect. Just because you have been winning hands in the past is not predictive of you winning hands in the future, now there is a table image issue. Where the running hot thing helps is you have a certain confidence and you have a certain table image that would be beneficial to you. It might increase the likelihood of winning hands going forward, but you running hot is not predictive of the probability of you winning your hands in absence of those other issues. Is the person going to be able to maintain that table image? There might be some erosion on that in the 3 months leading up to it, other people might be able to get their confidence back, they might be coming to the table fresher, others have more pressure than they would have it were just a 24 hour delay, but it’s hard to know what the effect of that would be. I think it kinda depends how people view what they see on TV if they are watching leading up to that. That whole idea of being on a rush and you can’t continue that rush anymore is mathematically ridiculous.

KL: It doesn’t affect the game of poker as a whole moving it?

I think that it definitely affects some things about the way the final table will play. People are going to be able to get better coaches; they are going to make better adjustments to their opponents. They are going to be able to spot tells that they might not have spotted had they not had that three months break watching on TV.

Now this is where it becomes very interesting, at the same time the players themselves can watch themselves and see what kinds of patterns they have been doing, they can see what kind of tells they have been giving off and they can counteract that by changing that behavior as well. As much as an advantage it is for me to study you, it is also an advantage for you to study yourself.

Is there going to be all this strategizing leading up to it? Absolutely. Is it going to change the fundamental game of poker, no, because poker has to do with using information to figure out people’s patterns, figure out people’s tells, figure out the best strategy to counteract what you are seeing and leverage what you are seeing. In this case they are going to have more information to be able to do that but this has always been a fundamental part of poker, using what you see to develop a strategy to best deal with an opponent.

The point is where the big thing with poker, the hole card camera, the final table being pushed back, is going to boost the profile of poker and boosting the profile of poker is worth whatever it is that you are giving up a little bit in terms of what it does for the game. Whatever I gave up for people being able to see my whole cards I gained in return from the World Series going from 839 players to 6000 players and I would make that trade every day.

*Like a wheel, the Round Table is a circle of adventures and victories, beats and stories, and life as it unfolds with a cast of characters that may, or may not, have joined you in your home on a local TV program. There's so much more to poker than what you see on TV. Although I won't use canvas, I will paint the full picture for you as I follow the lives of some of your favorite (and some unknown) players. The Round Table is an ongoing series of life, viewed full circle.*

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