Common Mistakes Made By Satellite Players

Many satellite players are guilty of making these mistakes. Learn from them so you don't make them yourself

Poker satellites are potentially extremely lucrative. Eric Drache is the man satellite players need to thank because he created the first known satellite tournaments.

Drache was the tournament director for the World Series of Poker when Binion’s Horseshoe was its home. The 1982 Main Event was struggling for numbers, which got Drache thinking. He saw a cash game taking place in the poker room and suggested 10 of them all put $1,000 into the kitty and whoever finished with the most profit won the $10,000 and used it to enter the WSOP Main Event.

A little tinkering later and Drache created the first satellite poker tournament.

Chris Moneymaker is the most famous of all satellite players. Moneymaker won a $38 satellite on PokerStars and turned that into the 2003 WSOP Main Event title. His impressive feat sparked the “Moneymaker Effect” poker boom and created a market for satellite players.

I’ve worked in poker for more than a decade. My various roles have afforded me the luxury to get close and personal to some of the best players in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to talk strategy with them at major events. These players often won their seats in these major events via online satellites.

Chatting with players who are much better than you opens your eyes to a different world. They think differently to us and make fewer mistakes. Some of the tips from seasoned satellite players are in the text below.

Poor Satellite Players Don’t Avoid High Variance Plays

Satellite players are almost always tournament players. This should be obvious. Winning tournament players don’t necessarily make winning satellite players, however. Some skills are transferable, but satellites require a completely different strategy to succeed in them.

Poker tournaments reward players who take risks. Take a look at any online poker tournament, or live event for that matter, and the majority of the prize money is awarded to the top three finishers. The 2019 WSOP Main Event, won by Hossein Ensan, saw the top three finishers share $20 million. Places fourth through ninth shared $10,825,000. The difference between ninth and first was $9 million, almost the same as combining second and third-place.

These payout structures mean you need to continually build your stack because they are top-heavy. Satellite players adopt this strategy hoping they can bulldoze the opposition. They need to realise it doesn’t matter if you have one chip or 20 millions chips when the bubble bursts. You win the same prize.

A tight-aggressive strategy is best for satellite players to adopt. It’s important to build a stack for the money bubble, but equally as important to conserve chips.

This means stop set mining with small plays and don’t chase draws once the blinds start becoming large. The risk-reward ratio just isn’t worth it.

Calling Too Wide Is Another Common Mistake Made By Satellite Players

Calling shoves with a range that’s too wide is another massive error. Winning satellite players reduce their exposure to variance to preserve their stacks, you should do too.

This doesn’t mean eliminate calling all-ins from your game, just be more selective with your hands. A solid strategy is to take the hands you would normally call an all-in with and apply a factor of three. If you’d usually call in a certain spot with 88+, make that JJ+ instead.

Remember that satellite players are better open-shoving than they are three-bet shoving or opening for a raise. This play is almost always best even if you have effective stacks of 20-30 big blinds. You’re going to fold a lot of hands you open to 2.5x and get shoved on, so take that problem away by moving all-in!

Preserve Your Fold Equity

Preserving your fold equity is similar to preserving your stack because you need chips to have fold equity. Satellite players are, as a rule, looking for a reason to fold so give them one with a shove!

Trapping your opponents is another handy tactic to employ. Make a strong hand and give your opponent enough rope for them to hang themselves.

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.

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