June 3, 2023 Poker Strategy, Featured Articles, Poker News John Bradley

Poker Satellite Tournament Strategy

Online satellites offer a great opportunity for players to win entry into larger, high stakes tournaments for a fraction of the buy-in. Poker Coach John Bradley introduces a winning poker satellite tournament strategy in this article.

Poker Satellite Tournament Strategy

Satellite tournaments do, however, require a different strategy than regular poker tournaments.

In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of poker satellite tournament strategy, and provide you with some valuable tips to improve your chances of success.

Understand the Goal

The primary objective of a poker satellite tournament is not to accumulate the most chips. It is simply to survive and secure a seat in the target tournament.

Unlike traditional tournaments, where chip accumulation is vital, satellites only require you to maintain a stack that keeps you in contention.

Early Stages

Patience is key in the early stages of a satellite tournament, exercise patience and avoid taking unnecessary risks.

Preserve your chip stack by playing premium hands and avoiding speculative plays.

Keep in mind that it is better to enter the middle stages with a below average stack than to bust out early by chasing big pots.

Bubble Play

Approaching the bubble is the critical phase in any satellite tournament. The bubble refers to the point where only a few players remain before reaching the target number of seats.

As the bubble approaches, tighten up your play and avoid marginal situations. This is not the time to take unnecessary risks.

Be the Aggressor

If you do put chips in the pot, try to make sure you are the aggressor and not the caller.

The goal is to pick up chips without risking your tournament life. Shoving gives you this option, whereas calling does not.

Every chip you lose is worth more than every chip you gain in a regular tournament.

In a satellite tournament, this statement is exponentially more true.

Folding Aces

There are a number of spots where you should fold 100% of your hands, even AA preflop.

While AA is the best hand in No-Limit Hold’Em, it does not win 100% of the time.

If you are almost assured to have a seat locked up, then there is no need to call any hand, even AA.

There is no benefit to winning more chips because there is no greater prize than the tournament entry.

Shoving Any Two Cards

Since players often have little incentive to call shoves near the bubble, you can often shove any two cards and pick up chips uncontested, if you need to.

It is worth considering though, that, although you are supposed to fold a lot of strong hands in a satellite, many players will not do so.

This means that you should be careful when shoving any two cards and make sure that your opponents are ICM-aware enough to fold.

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Here is an example of a shove any two cards spot. There are 5 players left in the tournament and 3 players will gain entry to the target tournament.

The four players, other than myself, all have around 4bb and so both blinds should fold very, very frequently.

There are two reasons to not shove 100% here though.

The first is that I nearly have a seat locked up and there is little benefit in winning any more chips for me.

The second reason why I should be a bit cautious here, is that, my opponents are supposed to fold some very strong absolute strength hands here, and many will not be able to do so.

In practice, I will shove a lot of hands in this spot, but not 100%. I think I would shove around 50% of hands.

Poker Satellite Tournament Strategy Conclusion

Satellite Tournaments are a very strange form of poker where the correct play is often very unintuitive, such as folding AA preflop.

This can be seen as a good thing, since it offers more opportunities for your opponents to make huge blunders.

They do offer you the same opportunity however. So, when playing a satellite tournament, you should focus hard, follow the advice given here and be sure to execute the unintuitive plays.

Play cautiously in the early stages, be the aggressor where possible, do not call off your chips lightly and you will regularly be winning seats to the high-stakes tournaments.

Good luck on your poker journey and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask them in the poker coaching section of the VIP-Grinders Discord Channel. 

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