Tournament Poker: Satellites

Tournament Poker: Satellites
By Loki Luchs

One of the things that makes tournament poker so alluring is the idea that anyone can be the next big winner. I find this is especially true for those Al Bundy players who never quite made it to college ball and are desperate for another shot to make it to the pros. The problem is, in many cases, that the major poker tournaments cost big bucks just to enter. For those of us stuck selling (womens) shoes, how are we supposed to come up with ten thousand dollars to play in the major events?

The casinos, in their infinite wisdom(and greed), decided that a good way to lower the cost for players to enter the tournaments was to pool a lot of smaller players money and make an entry for their combined income. These tournaments are referred to as satellites. Most casinos and online poker sites have satellites into the major tournaments, specifically the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour events.

There are several types of satellites into events. The most common is a single table sit-and-go. If a player wanted to play in a major event, for instance the $10,000 a seat WSOP main event, they might enter a $1,000 sit-and-go. (The actual cost includes casino fees, so your buy-in will probably be closer to $1,100.) The ten players will pool their entry fees and will play each other until only one person is left. That player will have their entire entry fee covered for that main event.

A variation of this is seen with the super-satellite. Super-satellites are much more similar to the major tournaments. They often include several hundred (and in some cases, thousand) players. The advantage of being in a super-satellite is that instead of a thousand dollar entry, its more likely to be just over $200. The casino will then pool the money together and make as many seats as possible for the entrants. For instance, lets say that there were 395 entrants, each who paid $200 plus casino fees. This would be $79,000 in prize money, so the top seven players would each be given a $10,000 entry fee. Additionally, the eighth place finisher would be awarded the remaining $9,000 in cash. One of the aspects that makes this so appealing is that you don’t have to be the winner in this tournament to receive an entry! The player who is seventh in chips receives the same payment that the player who has the chip-lead does!

One of the major changes that the internet has had on the poker world is the availability of these satellites. The ability to get thousands of players to play daily satellites is one of the primary reasons for the increase in popularity of poker, as well as the source of the thousands of players in major tournaments. Its no coincidence that the availability of the internet and the exposure on television rocketed the WSOP Main Event from 836 entrants to 8,500+ in only three years time! One of the reasons that Chris Moneymaker was considered to be such a revolutionary figure in the poker world (other than his name) was due to the fact that he turned a $40 online satellite into a 2.5 million-dollar payday. Moneymaker was not the first amateur to win, but he was the first computer-era player to catch a huge title.

Satellites are a vital part of the poker world today. They swell our ranks at the events and offer opportunities to those of us with dreams of glory. While you may not win the satellites, keep this in mind: there are very few places to get the practice you need for the major events other than working your way through the satellite circuit; If you can withstand 300 hopefuls, you might just be good enough to win the big one!