Tournaments Game Guide

What is a Satellite Tournament?


Poker Satellite Tournament Satellite Tournaments in Poker

Satellite tournaments offer opportunities to poker players who cannot pay the buy-in amount for a major poker tournament.

What is a Satellite Tournament?

A satellite tournament, also known as a qualifier, is a tournament whose prize is an entry ticket into another tournament. In other words, instead of the buy-in money being put towards a monetary prize pool, it will be put towards buying a ticket for the major event. Satellite tournaments may have buy-ins, but they will be much smaller than the buy-in for the major tournament. A satellite tournament may award more than one seat in the major event and the more seats that it awards per player, the higher the buy-in amount will be. Some satellite tournaments will be frequent player point (FPP) freerolls. Many different satellite tournaments may be held, both online and land-based for major poker tournaments such as the World Series of Poker.

Who Enters Buy-in Tournaments?

Players who want to participate in a major tournament, but do not want to pay the high buy-in amount can try to get in via a satellite tournament. A famous example of a player who won a major event after gaining entry via a satellite tournament is Chris Moneymaker. Moneymakers paid $40 to enter an online satellite tournament for the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP). The WSOP main event had a buy-in of $10,000. Moneymaker went on to win the main event of the WSOP to take home $2.5 million. Often experienced players snub satellite events due to the fact that you are not necessarily aiming to come first, but rather to just win a ticket to another event. This is not always the case though and since Moneymaker's big WSOP win, satellite tournaments have become more popular, especially in the online poker room industry.

Strategies for Poker Satellite Tournaments

The strategy that you use in a poker satellite tournament will vary slightly depending on the structure of the specific satellite event. The aim of a satellite tournament is not to come out the winner or to win the big money, but to win a seat in the major tournament.

If a satellite tournament only awards one seat to the winner, as in a winner-takes-all approach, you will need to play aggressively. You will have to fight for every chip in your pile to make sure that you come out the winner.

On the other hands, if a poker satellite tournament awards a number of seats, say one per hundred entrants, then you do not have to finish the tournament with the biggest stack you just have to make sure that you are within the number of players who will be awarded a ticket. You will need to play aggressively at the beginning of the game to build up your stack and then maintain it for the remainder of the game.

In a tournament that awards a large number of tickets, say one ticket per 15 to 30 entrants, you need to play more cautiously. Build up an above-average stack and maintain it for the rest of the game. Only play aggressively if you need to.

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