How to satellite into a major live tournament (part 2)

If you want to learn how to satellite into the Irish Open, follow Keir Mackay’s journey and learn from his mistakes and the pros that know

Not read part 1? Click here

Last month, Keir ‘Kez69’ Mackay kicked off his Irish Open journey with a grind through the feeder satellites. It wasn’t pretty. With his £500 stake courtesy of Paddy Power Poker bruised, and coaching from last year’s Irish Open champ Niall Smyth going in one ear and out the other, it was time to buckle down.

This month, Keir gets help from 2011 November Niner Eoghan O’Dea and tries to reveal how to satellite like a pro while swotting up on some live tips before the big day. Will he finally bink a seat? Will he be in Ireland by Easter? And will he ever quit moaning about variance. There’s only one way to find out…

Q&A: Eoghan O’Dea

The 2011 November Nine looks back on the WSOP and ahead to the Irish Open

How do you think last year’s Main Event went?

I was hoping to do a little better than sixth, but overall I can’t complain. At the time, coming in second in chips, I thought I’d do a lot better. I was disappointed for a couple of hours, but after a couple of drinks I was grand again.

Are there any hands you regret?

Not really. When I bluffed A-Q into Pius Heinz’s Queens it cost me a lot of chips, but I don’t really regret anything. I could have played a few things differently for sure, but you move on. I don’t want to think about it again in some ways.

How did you handle the pressure at the final table?

I enjoyed the build-up and I didn’t really feel too much pressure. I took about 60 people out there for support, and once I’d busted, we all just went out and drowned our sorrows for the next few nights.

Do you think the experience has changed you?

The money hasn’t really changed my life too much. I’m maybe a bit more relaxed now when I play poker, knowing I’ve got that money behind me. But the Paddy Power Poker sponsorship has been the big change.

And what’s next? Are you looking forward to the Irish Open?

Of course! It’s massive. It’s in my home town and I always want to play well every year. I’ve only ever had one deep run. I was pretty sick with food poisoning. I shouldn’t have been playing. I was in the toilet for the whole
first day and was sick all over the corridors. Everyone was looking at me like I was some embarrassing drunk.

What makes the Irish Open so great?

There’s no other tournament with the same craic. The bar is always packed and people are constantly buzzing and if you qualify online, the Sole Survivor €100k added bonus is pretty good value. The Irish Open has always been renowned as one of the biggest tournaments in Europe and the big names always make their way to it. Hold’em came to Ireland fi rst in Europe and Stu Ungar and people like that always used to make an appearance. It’s a great tournament.

Week one – Mr Romance

Playing in the Irish Open would be a highlight of my donk-filled life and I wanted it bad. So much so, that I kicked things off on Valentine’s Day. Up and down the country, men were treating their other halves to a ready meal and a discount bottle of wine. Me, I was stuck in a hell of min-raises and suck-outs (and not the good kind). While my girlfriend pleaded with me to close the laptop and show her some attention on the year’s most romantic day, I was too busy bubbling like a pro. One day, six back-to-back bubbles.

From $2 feeder satellites, to $30 rebuys, I was on fire, battling my way to heads-up only to blow up time and again. It would set the tone for the month and would ruin my mind (and possibly my relationship).

After help from Niall Smyth in month one, I had learned how to crush the feeder satellites and my new goal was to master the fine art of direct satellites. But that had to wait. Try as I might, I couldn’t win a tournament. And to make matters worse, I’d burnt the ready meal. In the sixth tournament of a tear-stained day, I got dealt pocket Aces heads-up, I raised, my opponent shoved and flipped over A-9. The board came 8-10-J-7-Q and I went to bed alone. ‘At least it’ll be good for the article,’ my editor told me. The girlfriend still hasn’t forgiven him.

Week two – cheap and nasty

If week one was brutal, week two was downright nasty. That was until I entered a money-saving €4 satellite and finally ran-good(ish). After an uneventful few hours I was four-handed from a starting field of 35 and staring a €200 ticket square in its beady little eyes. Three-handed, still grinding. Heads-up, still grinding.

As Olly Murs murdered a ska mash-up at the Brits in the background, I was guilty of my own crime against humanity. My final opponent was what could clinically be described as a spew-monkey-mega-fish and I was picking off his overbets with ease. But then I was dealt 9-10 on the button and made my standard min-raise. Flop: 10-J-A. He bets half the pot and by now I’d picked up that this meant he was strong. I decide to flat call as the effective stacks were 40BB and I could raise any number of turn cards.

A second 10 on the next street was perfect. He bet, I shoved, he showed J-3. River… Jack. No one likes to bubble. But losing to someone who plays poker like a chimp bashing away at the keys in the hope someone will feed them a banana hurt more than my kick to the balls on Valentine’s Day. And that really hurtr.

‘You can’t let it get to you,’ Smyth told me afterwards. ‘Satellites aren’t easy.’ To better make me understand the finer points of direct feeders, Smyth looked round the back of his sofa and pulled out a hand history from his satellite into the Irish Open from 2011 (see below).

Direct action

Smyth takes Kezay through key hands of his 2011 direct sat to the Irish Open

Hand 1: River running

STACK: 6,922
BOARD: 8♠-8-A♠-2-K
WON/LOST: +9,500

The player on my right had been trying to outplay me all tournament, and when he opened from the hijack, I decided K-9 was strong enough to three-bet. I completely missed the flop but had to c-bet. When my opponent decided to flat call and check the turn I knew he wasn’t strong and could easily have a weak Ace or spades. He bet less than 20% on the river as a blocker bet but I was getting 5/1 on a call and even though I wasn’t beating much, it was too good a price to fold.

If you want to bluff in this spot, you need to give your opponent poor odds to call. If he’d put me all-in on the river or bet 60-70% pot I would have folded.  

Hand 2: Loosey Goosey

STACK: 11,747
BOARD: 10♣-6-K-5♠-K
WON/LOST: 20,257

K♠-J♠ is a loose open eight-handed, but by this stage I was easily the most active player. I was three-bet from middle position and called to balance my range against my image. You always have to make sure you’re getting a good price when calling with marginal hands and be aware of your opponent’s stack size.

If I had been three-bet by a short stack, I would have folded but his three-bet was too small and we both had 50+ BBs. I c-bet the flop but would have mucked if re-raised, and decided to check the turn for pot control. I led out on the river to make it look like I missed with Q-J or 7-8 and I needed to get value from the hand in case he had sevens or eights. He shoved with A-4 and it was an easy call.

Hand 3: Nice and bubbly

STACK: 47,848
BOARD: K-10♣-4♠-8-8♠
WON/LOST: 30,032

This hand secured my seat at the Irish Open. It allowed me to just sit back and steal blinds without ever getting involved in big pots. The player on my left three-bet shoved A♠-9♠ into my UTG raise for 35BBs. No one does this to fool a big stack and it was a fairly easy call. If you fold your big hands like A-Q, A-J, K-Q in this spot you’re giving away too much value late on.

By shoving, my opponent was basically screaming he didn’t want to play a tricky hand. If he three-bets for a few thousand, he gets the same info as shoving his whole stack, it’s thoughtless. From there, I had 60% of the chips and it was just a case of applying pressure on the blinds and keeping my stack healthy.

Week three – back in the game

Despite Smyth’s best efforts, by week three my heart just wasn’t in it. I needed either a glimmer of hope, or some fi lthy donkout to restore my faith in a higher power. And then like a drunk bridegroom it finally came. I won a €30 feeder satellite thanks in bulk to playing like an aggro donk, angry with the world and angry with my rub of the green. The bubble run was over!

Finally, I could try my hand at a €120 direct satellite. Finally, I could make headway on my trip to Ireland. Alas, poker is a cruel mistress. She lets you flirt with success, take it out for dinner and maybe get it home. But when you think you’re about to score, she whips down your pants and laughs. All the pre-game signs were good for the €130 satellite; just 10 players, a massive overlay and no relationship worries in sight. But I just didn’t have the bottle.

Limping out in a miserable fourth place, I turned to my missus for comfort. ‘Haha! You can’t even win a four-man tournament,’ she cried, not quite grasping the concept of starting fields. ‘Point and laugh.’ Clearly week one was still on her mind. ‘You’ve got to stop raising hands like K-Qo UTG,’ Smyth raged at me.

‘Eight-handed I’d just muck as more often than not, hands that give you action when you hit the fl op will have you beat. You also can’t call any three-bets with this as you will never know where you are. I never want to be giving up a hand when I raise UTG, so only play big hands, mid-connected suitors and all pairs as long as you are deep enough to profi tably call three-bets.’ Got that? (At least one of us has).

Week four – one last shot

Time was up. I had no more chances, no more bankroll and very little patience. There was just enough left from my original £500 stake to make one last run at Ireland and I stumped up €230 for that Sunday’s five package GTD direct qualifier. Fingers were crossed. Prayers were said.

115 players took their seats alongside me, all chasing the €5k prize. I’m not going to lie, around 45 of them were better than me, simple as that. Satellites are tough. The poor ratio of seats to players means you have to run like God to even come close, and I’d surrendered my faith by the fourth bubble of week one. But let’s not end on a bad note. I’ve had a hell of a time trying my luck on Paddy Power Poker, and with all the overlays and round-the-clock satellites, the site is perfect for those hoping to play their way to this year’s Irish Open.

I’ll still be in Dublin this April to follow Smyth and O’Dea, and I might even dabble in a side event or two. Who knows, maybe I’ll even discover what this world famous craic is all about. If you’re planning on playing in the Irish Open, or any other big tournament for that matter, make sure you pay attention to Smyth’s and O’Deas expert tips over this page. Trust them, they know what they’re talking about. Me on the other hand, well, just call me the Michael Jackson of poker, because I fecking love bubbles. And young boys. Only joking. I hate bubbles… Good luck!


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