Online Satellite Strategy – The Basics

This article was posted on December 9, 2013

Online satellites represent one of the best sources of value in online poker, at least for those who know how to exploit them to their full potential. Online satellites offer players access to tournaments far above and beyond their actual bankrolls, giving them the opportunity to do battle for massive prizes, as well as to accumulate some extremely valuable experience in events in which they would normally not be able to play.


Doubtlessly, there are scores of online poker players out there whose primary focus is on these satellites. Some of them are successful, others less so. Here’s a brief check-list to help you get your satellite basics up, thus improving your chances to join the successful.

One of the biggest mistakes satellite beginners commit is that they limit themselves from the get-go, and indeed, there is sound mathematical basis behind this sort of thinking, but that doesn’t mean that at the end of the day, it’s not counterproductive.

To understand what we’re dealing with here, let’s take a look at the following example: our rookie sees a $100 event he would like to play in, so he says he’ll try three $30 satellites. After all, a 4th would cost him a total of $120, and this way he’ll have exceeded the direct buy-in for the event. While from a mathematical perspective, this sort of approach does indeed make perfect sense, from a satellite strategy one, it is harmful, as it will prevent players from attaining their full potential.

If one feels he does indeed have an edge playing these satellites, he should go for all the marbles and not give up just because he doesn’t happen to win straight away.


Above and beyond the above said, there are a number of significant differences between regular tournament play and satellite action, mostly stemming from the different goals of each. In a regular MTT, the goal of every savvy player should never be anything short of victory. This sort of goal dictates a certain type of approach. In an online satellite on the other hand, the goals are different. There isn’t a single winner in the traditional sense: instead, there are as many winners as there are packages offered by the direct access satellite. If there are 20 such packages on offer for instance, one can pretty much consider himself a winner as soon as he makes the top 20. Therefore, the classic all-the-marbles approach is not as productive in satellites as it is in square MTTs.

Early-stage satellite strategy may differ quite a bit from square tournament strategy as well: if the buy-in to the satellite is low, or if it’s a freeroll we’re talking about, the early stages quickly degenerate into a double-up of go home melee, where the luck factor rages and skills take a back seat. During this stage, adopting a radically amped-up version of the good-old TAG approach is the only way to go. Later, when things settle down, falling back to regular MTT strategy is recommended. Hopefully, by that stage, the player who stuck to TAG strategy earlier, has an above average stack to throw around.


During the later stages, the “fox vs farmer” dilemma rears its head. Foxes are players who act aggressively with victory as their main objective. Farmers are those who only aim to advance a few places deeper by staying out of trouble. While in a normal tournament, the fox option is obviously the strategically more effective one, in a satellite – on account of the different prize-structure – being a farmer sometimes makes sense too. Exactly how far one should take the “farmer” approach though depends on exactly how many packages the satellite offers.

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