Tournament Satellites: The Magic Number

by , Aug 3, 2012 | 7:00 am

Nothing is worse than attempting to qualify for a tournament by playing satellites, only to brick enough of them that it would have been cheaper to have bought in directly in the first place. It’s a worst case scenario and it doesn’t happen often; but what is the magic number? How many satellites should you play when attempting to qualify?

Satellites are great; they give you an opportunity to play a tournament that would normally be outside your bankroll. If you can get in cheaply, you have a shot at the elusive big score that can change the course of your poker career. And satellites give you that shot with a relatively modest investment.

How many should I play and what type?

It really depends on you. If you’re a multi-table tournament player you should stick to super satellites. Supers generally, depending on the buy-in, give out seats to the top 10% of finishers. This means that there is a whole bunch more seats being awarded than single table satellites.

However, if you have good experience playing Sit-N-Gos, then you should stick to single table satellites. Remember that, in single table satellites, usually only first place wins a tournament ticket.

Because there can be only one winner, it might seem like Sit-N-Gos are more difficult. Yet they’re often your best bet. While there might be only a couple of supers to play in, you can probably find single table satellites running constantly.

You want to play single table satellites the same way you play Sit-N-Gos: tight at the beginning, and more aggressive as the blinds go up and the bubble becomes more evident. When people tighten up approaching that seat, you take advantage and steal more.

But what’s the magic number? Should I just keep playing until I qualify?

No, probably not. You should start out with a number in mind. For example, if there is a $10,000 tournament you want to enter, decide what price you’re willing to pay to attempt to qualify before you start playing. Then stick to that budget. Say to yourself, “This tournament would be an excellent value for me if I could get in for $4,000.” Now plan accordingly. That could be four $1000 single tables, or four $1,000 supers, or eight $500 supers. It’s up to you.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to play nine $1,000 single table satellites when the buy-in is $10,000. Be realistic and set a legitimate price at the beginning. If the satellites have been extremely soft and you’ve been unlucky, maybe add one more. Just don’t go crazy. Your goal is to get in cheap, and if you don’t exercise restraint the entire goal of getting in cheap can be blown.

It’s the age old adage of poker. You need to have a properly sized bankroll and you have to be responsible enough to play inside it. It’s completely ok to decide that you’re only rolled for one satellite. Stick to it, and play your heart out. Only you can truly decide what that magic number is and what satellites you want to play. Figure it out and stick to it, and hopefully you’ll end up getting in for less than you had planned.


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