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Satellite Tournament Strategy Guide - Poker Satellite Strategy

Satellites tournaments are a great way to enter a large buy-in tournament cheaply and also a great way to build a bankroll. Many poker sites like Pokerstars allow you to exchange your Tournament Dollars for straight cash or to use them in other tournaments.

Satellite Strategy

Satellite tournaments are very different than standard multi-table tournaments. When playing satellites, you do not have to win the tournament to win money like you do in regular tournaments. This changes the strategy in several ways. Many players play satellites like they do regular tournaments and that is what makes them so profitable.

In this article we are going to focus on Rebuy tournament strategy because these tournaments are the most profitable and have the weakest field of players.

Rebuy Satellite Strategy 

Some of the best satellites are rebuy tournaments and have a neat structure. Most tournaments are turbos and the rebuy period lasts 30 minutes and allows you unlimited rebuys and 1 add on a break. The general rule of thumb is to not exceed 1/4 of the tournament entry during a satellite tournament. So, if you are trying to get a cheap seat to a $100 MTT, you don't want to spend more than $25 in the satellite. This is some wiggle room with this rule, just don't be the guy that spends more in the satellite than the main tournament is worth.

Example: If you're playing and there is a raise and a re-raise, and you are dealt a small pair you should be pushing or calling all-in. There is a nice chance that you are slightly ahead or flipping for a chance to triple up early.

Early Satellite Strategy

The early stages on a rebuy satellite are not very important. You should be trying to find a spot to double up and accumulate chips. You can and should be taking some -ev risks to gain some extra chips. Once you get doubled up or more, then you can play tighter and wait until the rebuy period is over, but don't shy away from big pots if you have the goods. Remember, this is a rebuy and you can't be eliminated.

Middle Stages of Satellites

After the rebuy period is over, then the serious poker begins. Some players get use to playing loose during the rebuy period, so identify those players and take advantage of them. If you stuck to the plan and accumulated some chips in the rebuy period, you should have an average chips stack. 

Keep in mind that the blinds will still be going up every 5 minutes and your chip count and the blinds are the most important factor from here on out. You strategy at this point is that you should be looking to play hands in position, and looking for spots to steal the blinds. There is no reason to be limping into pots or calling raises. If your hand is good enough to call, you should be raising/pushing.

One of the biggest mistakes I see players making is getting involved in big pots out of position, with mediocre hands. You should never be calling your chips off unless if it late and you have to make a move. All you need is one big hand to double up and then you can pick your spots to steal the blinds against opponents with similar stacks as yours.

Blind Stealing Strategy

Keep in mind that it is much harder to steal against stacks that are smaller than you because then need to make a move. You should be stealing blinds when it's folded to you and only if they stack is medium to large. Also, remember that you don't have to steal every  chance you get, you just need to maintain your chip count in relation to the blinds.

Late Stage Strategy

The is an important stage of the tournament. If your chip count is medium to large you are right where you need to be. The most common mistakes I see at this stage is big stacks thinking they need to dominate the tournament and they make too many raises and try too hard to eliminate opponents. Many times they end up losing a few flips, and going out. All medium to big stacks need to do is let the game naturally progress. The blinds will force enough action and the smaller stacks will battle it out and eliminate each other. 

If you have plenty of chips, you should be avoiding other medium to big stacks at all costs. That includes folding premium hands. This is another concept that players cannot get their heads around. Unless you are in danger of blinding out you should not be playing anything! This goes against all the normal MTT strategy, but it makes sense. 

Example: If you are sitting on a stack of 80k with 5 players left, and you are dealt a hand like QQ and a 30k stack pushes in, you should be folding that 100% of the time. 

Another great example is if you are sitting with a healthy chip stack and you can basiclly fold your way to the satellite win. Even if you are dealt AA and a medium stack pushes in, you should be folding. 

So often I see big stacks at the end of these tournaments trying to muscle the table and they end up losing a few 60/40 all in hands, and then they are at serious risk for elimination.

Overall, these tournaments are littered with dead money and players that do not understand the basics of satellite tournament strategy.

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