My name is Barry Carter and I am the co-author of Poker Satellite Strategy and a few months ago I wrote about Sunday Million satellites. Today I wanted to look at the main EPT Barcelona satellites to showcase how qualifying for a big live event may differ slightly strategically to an online event like the Sunday Million. I can't go into detail for how to approach every satellite you play, we have a whole book for that, but live qualifiers do have some interesting nuances to them.
As a baseline example, the direct qualifiers so far in the PokerStars lobby are €530 to enter and you win a €9,210 package which includes Main Event buy-in and travel expenses. On Sunday the direct qualifier guarantees five packages.
The first thing to note is that all PokerStars live qualifiers are 'must play' satellites, meaning if you win you are forced to play in EPT Barcelona. You also cannot win multiple packages and take the second one as cash. This is important to recognise for two reasons. First of all they make the satellites softer than ones with a degree of flexibility, as they tend to attract tough satellite regulars who don't want to travel to play poker. Secondly this makes the later direct qualifiers softer. The closer you can play to the target event on August 26, the softer the satellite will be because you can safely assume the better satellite players have already qualified and thus cannot play again.
One in 17 players will win a package, assuming no overlay. You may already know that the name of the game in satellites is to play tight, because all the prizes are of equal value so there are no extra prizes for ending with the most chips. However, as only 6% of the field win a prize you can open your game up a little more than the conventional wisdom in satellites suggest, as you will need to accumulate a stack to get to that all-important bubble. Still avoid speculative calls and avoid calling all-ins where possible, but until you get a survivable stack for the bubble play similar to a normal MTT.
How much of a stack I hear you ask? You start with 5,000 chips and if one in 17 win a seat, the average stack after the bubble will be 85,000. However, in practice because the stacks tend to be widely dispersed in satellites, about 60,000 will often get you over the line on the bubble. In Poker Satellite Strategy we provide a number of heuristics on how to estimate how safe your stack is at any stage of the tournament, but until you read it a safe guideline here will be to slow down and avoid any needless risks when you get close to 60,000 chips.
The late registration period is two hours with 10 minute levels. It is always profitable to register late in satellites, you get an instant ICM boost. Practically speaking the goal in satellites is outlasting enough players to get beyond the bubble, so if you register on the two hour mark you have already managed to outlast everyone who bust early from the tournament. However, the two hour mark is the 300/600 level, meaning you will come in with less than ten big blinds. So be aware it is a high variance option to late register and probably best to do only if you are comfortable with your short stack game. Having said that, EPT Barcelona is a 'bucket list' event for a lot of players. As such you will see a lot of amateur players in the field and it might make more sense to register at the start to make the most of a softer than usual deep stack period. Normally we would advocate the late registration option in satellites, but because this is a special event we lean towards registering early because it might be softer than most big buy-in satellites.
Maybe the best reason to play the satellite is precisely because of what a fun event EPT Barcelona promises to be. It's still summer time in one of the coolest cities in Europe, meaning at an absolute minimum you get a free holiday and the VIP service that PokerStars puts on for their players. That's the beauty of satellites, they really reduce the downside of busting big tournaments when you want to explore the country the target event takes place in.
Barry Carter is the editor of PokerStrategy.com and the co-author of Poker Satellite Strategy, which he cowrote with satellite specialist Dara O'Kearney.
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