Satellite Poker Tournaments Guides

How To Play Big Money Poker Tournaments On The Cheap


Just last week, 21-year-old Polish poker player Sebastian Malec won the largest European Poker Tour event of all time, beating a huge field of 1,785 players to win €1,122,800 in Barcelona, Spain.

A European Poker Tour (EPT) Main Event carries a hefty entry fee of €5,000, which is outside the bankroll of all but the richest and most successful poker players. Malec, and many others who have enjoyed success in major poker tournaments, entered the event without paying anywhere close to the €5,000 buy-in.

In fact, Malec managed to enter the event for just €27 which he then spun up into a seven-figure prize. How? With the magic of satellite tournaments.

What are satellite tournaments?

If you’ve ever been playing poker at Bet365 and wondered what the “satellite tournament” tab meant, then wonder no longer.

Satellite tournaments are smaller tournaments that award a buy-in to larger events instead of traditional cash prizes. For example, a satellite might cost €50 to enter and award a €5,000 EPT Main Event seat for every 1,000 entries.

Satellites are a fantastic way for players with smaller bankrolls to play larger poker events. It helps boost the field sizes of major tournaments, and works well for satellite qualifiers, too: if you pay $1,000 to enter an event and mincash for $1,600, it’s not bad; if you satellite in for $50 and mincash for $1,600, that’s a tidy profit.

In fact, the main reason you’re reading an article about online poker tournaments right now is probably because of a satellite winner: Chris Moneymaker sparked “the poker boom” in 2003 when he won the World Series of Poker Main Event after qualifying to the $10,000 buy-in tournament for just $33.

Satellite strategy: don’t play to win

The main difference between a satellite tournament and a regular tournament is that winning and mincashing are the same thing.

In a regular tournament where 1,000 players buy-in for $100 (creating a $100,000 prize pool), the tenth-place finisher might only get $1,500 or so; on the other hand, the winner will take home somewhere in the region of $20,000.

Because of this, tournament players are often advised to “play to win” and never pass up an opportunity to get additional chips and build their stack with an aim of making a deep run.

Now consider a satellite tournament that awards entries to a $2,500 buy-in event, the prize for first place, tenth place, twentieth place and even fortieth place is the same regardless: $2,500.

In this tournament, it doesn’t make sense to play to win. If you have enough chips to just sneak into the money, it can even be correct to fold the nuts.

Let’s say we’re in that tournament where 40 players receive a $2,500 entry and there are 41 players remaining. You’re in the big blind with A-A and a stack of 20 big blinds; the player to your left has just two big blinds in their stack.

If a player with 30 big blinds moves all in, you have an extremely easy fold with aces. In a normal tournament you’d call to try and double up, because you shouldn’t care about making the money; you’re playing to win. Here, you can simply fold every hand until the shorter stack busts out and then you’ll get your prize.

Super satellite tournaments

Of course, for many players, even satellites can be too expensive. To win a seat in a $5,000 buy-in event, you might need to play a $200 satellite.

Fortunately, super satellites exist. These are literally satellites to satellites and can be a very profitable way for players to enter big tournaments. For example, one might play a $10 tournament and win a $50 ticket, which they can use to enter a $50 satellite and win a $250 ticket, which they can use to win a $2,000 ticket and so on.

You can find all manner of satellites to big online tournaments and even overseas live events in poker lobbies like Bet365.