Playing poker tournaments is a lot of fun. From trying to build a big stack to triumphing heads-up, it’s a hoot. But if there’s one thing better than winning big, it’s doing so having paid a fraction of the price others have to enter that tournament. From online tournaments such as the #sundaymajors flagship $150,000 Guaranteed on partypoker and Pokerfest, to live tournaments such as the Grand Prix Poker Tour and WPT UK festival, a percentage of the field will be taking their seats, virtual or physical, via satellites.
These qualifier tournaments charge a much smaller entry and award a number of tickets to the event that you’d like to play. They are some of the best value you’ll ever find in poker. Beating satellites is an achievable poker goal whether you’ve played the game for years or have recently signed up and want to know how to get the most bang for your buck! Here are some top tips on how to put a smaller investment to maximum use.
The early stages of poker tournaments can often be tentative, as players feel their way into play and adjust to each player’s strengths and weaknesses. Whilst you should maintain this approach, in the early stages, it’s worth remembering that you’re playing a feeder into the tournament that you want to play for a fraction of the price. Attacking early can allow you to build an unassailable stack that you can ride to a ticket easily if there are multiple seats up for grabs. If things go wrong for you and it’s a re-entry satellite, there will still be value in re-entering, especially at an early stage when you’ll have plenty of big blinds. Even two or three ‘bullets’ at an early stage can – if they lead to qualification – get you a seat into the $150k Gtd for example for less than half price!
Remember What You Want
A usual poker tournament teaches us to focus on the top prize, as a lot of the money is left over for the top places. This promotes attacking play, and makes a lot of players sensibly go for the win. No-one settles for second best. However, in a 20-seat guaranteed poker satellite tournament, the pay-out for 20th is the same as ending up with the most chips. Coming top of the pops wins you no more than scraping past that agonising bubble. Being aware of this at all times means that you could well need to fold some seriously big hands late in proceedings, aiming for a finish within the places awarded tickets, not eliminating another player on your route to the top position. This can turn traditional poker tactics upside down, so make sure you follow each hand closely, whether you’re personally invested or not. Knowing who is looking to gamble near the seats being awarded and who only gets involved when they have the nuts is vital.
Fold the Flips
If you do build a stack early on, then you may very well be in the enviable spot of having over fifty big blinds while latecomers and early strugglers dwindle to ten big blinds. While this is your ideal position, you must try to resist relinquishing this status by getting involved in too many ‘coinflip’ situations. Being aggressive is great, but you need to temper it with being tight in spots where you risk losing your edge. Along with your skills, range-finding abilities and tactical nous, your stack is vital your success. Protecting it from cheap losses is as important and making bold plays to win the chips in the first place – don’t undo your hard work by tossing a coin.
Although satellites can often be a tense experience at the business end of proceedings, there are plenty of times where you’ll have the chance to chip up with the minimum of fuss. We’ve already told you to go on the attack early, and you can take from that advice the usual methods of making easier profit than normal – blind-stealing, 4-betting and aggressive continuation. But towards the bubble, there will be more and more opportunities to better your chances of ending up with a golden ticket. Watch for players who are willing to open frequently with a healthy chip-stack but who don’t call off all-ins often, as they can be your path to chipping up without showing your cards. Put pressure on players who have smaller stacks than yourself but who aren’t in danger of elimination due to be super-short. Short-stacks will sometimes just chance their arm thinking they have nothing to lose, whereas middling stacks can look to preserve their current equity. Take advantage of that!
Know Your Foe
This is a piece of general advice we love to give at partypoker, but it is never more appropriate than in a short-handed satellite when you’re near the bubble. Everyone will win a ticket, except the unlucky player who just misses out. How do you make sure that you’re not that player? Well, it’s about knowing your enemy. It’s not just about how they play, but how they will behave in marginal spots when everything is at stake. You may have to throw big hands into the muck to survive, or push all-in with hands weaker than your usual range. But whatever action you choose, make sure that you’ve processed the decision.
Adjustment of your usual game in satellites is important, the main advice being that there is nothing more on offer for finishing as chip leader. Money saved is definitely money earned and satellites, when played optimally, can be one of the best ways in poker to give yourself a shot at a huge victory.