Satellite tournaments are smaller buy-in tournaments where you compete to win a seat in a large poker even for a much smaller cost than you would pay to buy directly into the big event. The amount of seats the satellite tournament awards is determined by the amount of players in the satellite and the difference in buy-in between the satellite tournament and the big event. The ratio difference between the buy-in of the big event and the buy-in of the satellite will be the same ratio between the amount of players who bought into the satellite tournament and the amount of seats that are awarded. For example if you are playing in a $10 satellite to a $500 event, 1 out of every 50 players wins a seat. Satellites are great opportunities for players to try to take a shot at some big games that fall without their bankroll management range.
The huge difference between satellite tournaments and regular tournaments is that there is no difference in prize between every player who cashes. All the winning players receive the same thing, that being a seat or a token to a larger tournament. This difference can change your strategy in a few ways that we have outlined below.
See a lot of flops early on
As a rule of thumb, satellite tournaments have more fish than regular tournaments. A lot of winning players don’t see satellites as a good use of their time, because you don’t actually win any money. The fact there are a lot of fish means you should see a lot of flops early on and try to make a big hand to double up with. That being said you should still only be making good calls from good positions and not wasting your chips. Success in a satellite tournament is made a lot easier if you have chips early on.
Avoid coin flip situations early
You don’t want to risk your tournament on a coin flip early on. IN most satellite tournaments your starting stack is of a greater value than half of a doubled up stack. This is because the entire goal of a satellite tournament is survival. Of course the degree of this changes depending on what percentage of the players in the tournament win a seat.
Late satellite tournament big stack play
If you were able to accumulate a large stack through the early and middle stages of the tournament you should now be playing tight and holding onto the chips that you have. Avoid confrontation with other tall stacks that can do harm to you. If you have enough chips to wait out the tournament, then do so. An example would be if you are in 5th out of 22 players in a satellite tournament that awards 18 seats and you are dealt QQ. The chip leader raised the pot from early position. This is a time when you should probably fold this hand and just try to wait out 4 more busts. Since the relative value of the extra chips you would earn by winning this hand is basically 0, there is no reason whatsoever for you to risk busting out of the tournament when you have enough chips to survive.
Late satellite tournament short stack play
If you weren’t able to accumulate many chips through the early stages and are now one of the short stacks you need to try to win chips and avoid bubbling. In satellite tournaments the best players to raise are the medium stack players who you can still do damage to and who are trying to wait out the last few busts. You should be coming over top of their blinds from late position when you get the chance. You should only go after the monster stacks and short stacks with quality hands. The huge stacks aren’t really worried about winning a seat and will likely call just to try to finish the tournament faster. Short stacks are in the same position as you and would be looking to double up with any good hand as well.