How to Win Satellite Poker Tournaments

The World Series of Poker, 2012, is very close to kicking off, so in spirit of poker’s biggest yearly event, let’s discuss satellite tournaments. After all, a large portion of players in WSOP events, get there through a satellite tournament. Chris Moneymaker is probably the most famous poker satellite winner, getting into the WSOP 2003, via a Poker Stars satellite for $89, and we all know how he went on to win the whole enchilada to become an overnight millionaire (2.5 million to be exact!).

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Satellite tournaments are overlooked by a lot of top players and that’s one of the reasons they’re so profitable. These tournaments are usually full of people who what to take a shot at a big game when they don’t really have the bankroll or the skill. That combination can be profitable for good players.

Satellites are a different animal from other types of tournaments. There are situations come up that you rarely see in a regular tournament and that you never see in cash. Here are some tips to help you decide if satellite tournaments are right for you and how to play them if you decide to play.

Decide If It’s Worth It
Before you buy into a satellite, you have to decide if it’s worth it to buy into the satellite or if it’s better for you to buy directly into the tournament. It’s actually pretty easy to figure out for single table satellite tournaments (my favorite). Take a look at how often you money in a usual STT and what percentage of the time that you place 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Here’s an example:

Let’s say you money 40% of the time in a $20+2 single table tournament. When you make the money, you place first 36% of the time, second 34% of the time, and third 30% of the time. This is a $24+2 satellite that pays a $120 buy-in seat to first and second place. Everyone else gets nothing. Here’s how to figure out if it’s worth it:

To make things easy, let’s say you bought in to the satellite100 times. You’ll be on the bubble (top 3) 40% of the time. When you’re on the bubble, you’ll get a ticket 70% of the time. Now you need to figure out what you’re paying for each ticket.

You’ll be on the bubble 40 times out of 100 and you’ll win a ticket 28 times out of those 40 times. That means you’ll win a $120 ticket 28 times and you’ll spend $2600 doing it. That means you’ll be paying $92.86 for each ticket. That’s a savings $27.14 per ticket. You have to decide if that’s worth it for you.

Be Prepared For Variance
Satellite tournaments are just like any other form of poker. You’ll run good sometimes and bad other times. You need to realize that there will be times that you pay more in satellite buy-ins than you would for the event ticket and times that you’ll win an event ticket with a single buy-in. Expect variance and don’t get discouraged if you’re on the wrong side of it. Once you decide to make satellite tournaments part of your bankroll building strategy, you need to keep plugging away at them.

How To Play Satellites
The way you play satellites depends on the kind of satellites you play and the payout structure. You’ll play rebuys different from multi-table tournaments and you’ll play multi-table tournaments differently from the way you’ll play single table tournaments. The primary thing you need to focus on is the prize structure.

You want to play more aggressively when fewer people get paid. That means you should be more inclined to push thin edges if you’re in a winner take all tournament than you would if you’re playing a tournament that pays tickets to several places.

In the end, the secret to winning satellite tournaments is to adjust your aggression to the blind structure. Play more aggressively when few tickets are available and be more inclined to take close gambles and more conservatively when many players get a ticket.

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