Poker Satellite Strategy
Poker satellites are some of the most intriguing creations of the recent era in the history of the game, quite instrumental in the setting off of the online poker explosion of 2004. Indeed, it was through such satellites that Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer made their ways into the WSOP’s Main Event at PokerStars, in order to proceed to win the title then. It was their success that prompted thousands upon thousands of people to hit the virtual green felt, thus setting in motion a major industry, which is to this day steaming ahead, undeterred by the various legal and other obstacles that have come up since about 2006.
Is satellite strategy any different from actual tournament strategy and if so in what ways? The answer to that question is yes and no. Indeed, in certain essential aspects, regular tournament strategy lends itself well to satellite action, while in other ways, there are some rather gaping differences.
Bankroll management is one of these differences, because it comes with a mathematical side that simply doesn’t exist in “square” tournament poker. The way many players approach the issue is the following: when looking to qualify for a $100 event for instance, they set themselves limits, like three $33 buy-ins. After all, if they go past that mark, satelliting their way in will cost them more than a direct buy-in. This sort of approach however is detrimental for the large picture, because it will end up limiting players’ potentials. Giving up on something one is comfortable with and enjoys doing just because he fails to win straight away is never really a good idea.
The other major difference between “square” tournaments and satellites is about the prize-distribution. In a regular tournament, the deeper one advances, the more money he’ll make. In a satellite on the other hand, those who make the cut, make the cut…there’s nothing really left to play for afterwards.
With that different set of goals in mind, one obviously has to re-think and to refine his late game approach. Avid tournament players may have a bit of a trouble getting their foot off the gas, but that’s exactly what they’ll have to do in order to maximize their odds in a satellite.
The early stages of satellites differ from one to the other by quite a bit, depending on the size of the buy-in. Cheap satellites and freerolls will see a chaotic beginning, with lots of players aiming to chip up fast or go home. This aspect is obviously much less pronounced in satellites featuring more substantial buy-ins.
The way to navigate this early chaos is to see as many flops as possible as cheaply as possible. When one happens upon a solid hand, he shouldn’t be afraid to go for all the marbles. This strategy is basically the extreme boiling down of good TAG poker.
During the middle stages, things settle into a grind, and this is where those “regular” poker tournament skills come in handy.
As far as the end-game stage is concerned, the most crucial thing is to not turn overly passive. The biggest mistake most players commit during this stage is that they turtle up and become much less active than needed to secure them the best odds.
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