A satellite is a tournament with a smaller buy-in, that instead of a traditional tournament payout structure, awards seats to the larger buy-in target event. They are a great way for players with a smaller bankroll to earn some shots at bigger buy-in events. They are also a nice avenue for players who are already appropriately rolled for the buy in to earn their way in at a lesser cost. And lastly, they can provide some great value as they are often going to be softer than the target event or regular MTT's of a similar buy-in level.
So how do you go about finding the satellite right for you? You can start by going directly to the lobby of the target event you're looking to satellite into. The tournament lobby will show all available satellites for that tournament.
You can sort this area by the start date, buy-in, etc, and can go directly to the lobby of a satellite you want to look at or play by double-clicking it, or highlighting and clicking the "Go To Satellite" button below this pane.
So what satellites should you look for? Obviously, start with buy-ins that are appropriate for your bankroll level. If you're already rolled for the target event, this will be all satellites on the offer. Next, make sure to scout satellites with a large number of seats guaranteed. These games will attract large fields of weaker players, making them quite soft. Additionally, when you do get near the seat bubble on one of these larger satellites, there will be more players that don't understand the implications of the satty bubble and will make gross ICM mistakes, to your benefit. And finally, once in a while, a satellite may overlay (for example, guarantee 50 seats to the target event, but only garner enough buy-ins to cover 38 seats). In this case, PokerStars is going to still pay out 50 seats but you'll have fewer players to get through to earn one, providing even more value.
So once you've found your satellite of choice, what strategy adjustments should you make? Let's take a brief look:
Early Stages:No adjustments what so ever. Play these stages the same as you would any regular pay structure MTT.
Middle Stages: At this point, we are not adjusting much from a regular MTT. The seat bubble is still a long way off. If we have a decently large stack, we should proceed a bit more cautiously than we might otherwise vs. other big stacks that can ruin our chip position. Still, we are largely just playing like we would in a normal MTT. One mistake I would caution against… if the satty is awarding 50 seats for example and there are 150 players remaining, don't look at the lobby and say "ok, the player in 50th has 7K chips and I have 9K so I will lock it down and play very conservative now". It is way too early for this, and locking down too early will hurt your chances to actually win a seat.
Late Stages:Now as the seat bubble approaches, our strategies change greatly from a regular MTT. In a regular tournament, the goal is to win. In a satellite that's not the case, however. If the satellite awards 50 seats to the target event, then our goal is simply to make it to the final 50 players… all of them from the chip leader to 50th place will receive the same exact prize. Players who are medium stacks will likely be folding everything trying to wait out the shortest stacks. Those shortest stacks will often be blinding all the way off in the hope that confrontations between other players will lead to eliminations that allow them to squeak through to the seat.
The big stack at your table may be raising every hand in the knowledge that everyone is just folding to wait out the short stacks. So the first principle here is if you have enough chips to win the seat without having to play another hand, don't put your position at risk. Note I did not say that you had to lock it down and play no more hands. If you're a big stack, it can be a bit fun to raise every hand and take the blinds/antes because no one wants to play with you. And you also have the luxury of calling the small stacks to try and bust them. Just remember the first principle… if another stack gets involved with you that can damage your chip position to the point of making your seat no longer assured, then just be conservative there and preserve your position.
As an example, let's say you are the 2nd biggest stack in the satty awarding 50 seats with 51 left. You get dealt AA and raise, only to have the chip leader move all in. This is a situation where you should always fold AA preflop to their all in raise. With the 2nd biggest stack you can literally fold to a seat all the time in this spot. Obviously, AA will perform very well vs. their shoving range, we are probably 85%+ here. But if we are 100% assured of a seat in the target event by just folding, then putting our seat at risk in a spot where we will lose that seat 15% of the time makes no sense at all. In short, enjoy taking liberties with your big stack, but be careful not to actually jeopardize your position of having that seat locked up.
Satellites are not only a lot of fun, but they also offer a great way to earn entry to larger buy-in events while offering the value of some of the softest fields you will find at the micro stake levels. Make sure to check the lobby often for satellites that are to your liking or offer good value, and use them to secure your seat to the Anniversary Sunday Million Event!
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