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Satellite Qualifier Poker Tournament Tips

Adjusting Your Play for Event Qualifier Poker Tournaments

Satellite tournaments to events can be one of the most interesting and profitable forms of the game. These tournaments have a particular strategy which is very different to what you will find in a standard tournament, and fortunately, not everybody knows that strategy. This will lead to many players making basic errors and every time an error is made by another player, it’s profitable for you.

In this guide to satellite tournaments, both the early and mid-stage strategy are briefly discussed, while the bulk of the guide will concentrate on the end game, where the most mistakes are made. The strategy tips here apply to qualifiers for live events, online events and also for sub-qualifiers – which give you a shot at the big prizes in a later satellite tournament.

Pre-Tournament Check

The first thing you should do after entering a tournament is to know exactly how the tournament works. Find out how many places are up for grabs in the event you are trying to qualify for. In many cases it will be a number such as 9 or 27 (based upon reaching a final table or the final three tables for example), although the number can be just 1 or 2. If the number is on the higher side, such as 9, you should be aware that finishing 9th wins you exactly the same prize as if you finish 1st. This is very important when it comes to your strategy.

Early Qualifier Tournament Strategy

In general, satellite tournaments can have a varied field. This will be dependent on the buy-in of course, with stronger fields the higher the entry fee, but in general you’ll be up against a mix of players. There’ll be a number of strong players, who see qualifying for a tournament through a satellite a cheaper option in the long run than paying the full buy-in. However, the bulk of the tournament may be filled by recreational players, looking for the opportunity to play in an event outside of their normal bankroll. Overall satellites are usually a little weaker than similar standard tournaments with the same buy-in.

With weaker fields, players will be throwing their chips around more than usual in the early stages, so it can certainly be an idea to sit tight and wait for those big hands. Remember not to play too tight, it will be more difficult to get those chips from stronger players later on.

Reads are very important in the early stages. If someone is particularly loose, aim to get them all-in when you have the goods. Be careful against that player who sits tight and then suddenly hits that raise button – these are players to avoid. Remember, you don’t have to win the event, so it’s not a race for the biggest stack. Satellites are all about survival and being around at the death with enough chips to last.

Satellites: Mid Tournament Strategy

In a standard multi-table tournament, you’ll want to loosen up during the middle stages, due to the blinds becoming larger in relation to your stack size. While this is somewhat true in a satellite tournament, you shouldn’t be taking quite as many chances. For example, you have a 12 big blind stack and a loose aggressive player with 14 big blinds pushes all-in. You know he has a wide range for doing this and you hold a semi decent hand like KJo. In a standard tournament, you might be inclined to call here as you feel you have a big edge and this will give you a much greater chance of winning the tournament. In a satellite, you don’t need to win and only survive, so calling here can be a big mistake, especially when you’re edging towards the multi-way winning line.

Late Tournament Strategy

Consider that you are down to the final 10 players in the tournament and nine players will qualify. You simply need one more player to go out and you’ve made it to the main event. You have a chip stack of 120,000 chips, the second highest, behind a player with 150,000. The rest of the table ranges between 30,000 and 2,000 chips.

At this point, the chances of you qualifying are very good. You look down and see a pair of Aces. Every player in the field folds, apart from the large stack, who shoves all of his chips in the middle. What do you do? You have a pair of Aces. You can’t fold, surely? Well of course you fold. If the opponent is playing a random hand, you have an 85% chance of success here. But more importantly, you have a 15% chance of busting out of the event in 10th place and not securing that seat, which is 14% more chance of busting than you had before the hand. Calling here is a massive mistake, so no matter how much it pains you, bin those Aces and then go on to qualify as you were sure to do anyway.

If you are playing with a short stack with just one player left to eliminate, keep a close eye on the fellow short stacks. At this stage, everyone will be very cagey and fellow short stacks won’t want to risk their chips unless absolutely necessary. Work out which players will have to make their move before they are blinded out before you and let them take the risks. If you work out that you’re the player who is going to have the make the move first, you don’t need to shove immediately. Hang on, if your stack allows it, for the right spot, where you either have a big hand or potentially just one opponent to win against. Hanging on for this right spot might see a fellow small stack make a mistake and exit the tournament before you even have to make your move.