The most cost-effective way to play a big live tournament is to satellite in. Here are Dara O’Kearney’s winning secrets
1. Eat the live ones
Online satellites offer up great value because a lot of inexperienced live players enter them as they really want to play a certain live event. Often they don’t take them seriously or treat it like a real poker game. Instead, they will play it like a video game and not give it the same focus they would if it was a competition in their local casino. These guys are the value.
2. The time is right
At certain times in the week satellites can be much softer than usual. In the week of a UKIPT, for example, most of the regulars are playing the event, which means the satellites tend to be very soft. All full-time poker players play during the weekend and because of that a lot take Mondays or Wednesdays off, so those are also really good days to grind the satellites.
3 Set a budget
You should be willing to commit at least 20% of the final tourney buy-in to your satellite play. Whatever percentage you commit is more or less your percentage chance of winning a seat. For example, if you spend £200 to try and qualify into a £1,000 UKIPT event, you will have about a 20% chance of doing it.
4 Nice and slow
Early on I play even tighter than I would in a normal MTT. There are a few reasons for this. I’ll usually be playing 12-16 tables early on and I want to keep my decisions as simple as possible on each table. It can help to create a very tight image which will be profitable later when the antes rise and you have to steal more pots.
5 Hang tough…
I played a WSOP Main Event satellite where there were 54 packages and 1,000 runners. In a satellite like this you are aiming to come 54th, not to win the whole thing. You must take the lowest amount of risk to get there and win a seat. You should pass up any marginal spots, particularly when thinking about reshoving with a 20 BB stack. In a satellite that stack size is plenty and you don’t have to press the panic button. Unless I am in the desperation zone I will pass up any marginal spot and try to survive my way to a package.
6 …or just go for it!
In a winner-takes-all satellite your strategy should be the absolute other extreme. You have to be more aggressive than you would even be in a normal MTT – it’s more like a cash game where you are trying to win all the chips on the table. Aggression is the only way to win the seat. You need to take every single +EV spot.
7 Big time bully
If you get a big stack you have two options: relax and try to lock it up, or raise every hand. If you keep raising and it keeps getting through then why stop? The key is that if someone does play back at you don’t get involved. With a monster stack it’s also fine to just click ‘sit out’ and wait for the bubble to burst. Doing this can actually speed the tournament along as all the other players will now go crazy for your artificial extra big blind! It’s important you don’t assume your seat is locked up too early though. The bubble can go on for a long time – much longer than a normal MTT – and a few shorties doubling up could pull you back into the pack.
8 Rear window
It’s very important to always keep an eye on the lobby. Once the final number of runners is known (either after the late reg or rebuy period is over) I look at the lobby and work out what the average stack will be once the bubble is burst. If 100k chips will be the average then that is the figure I am trying to get to in my head, and once I reach it I will be playing very cautiously and just trying to maintain that stack. I wouldn’t want to take on a flip or even a 70/30.
9 The watcher
You should open up other tables when you are near the bubble. Even if you are the short stack on your table there may be others shorter elsewhere, and now you can see if they will be forced all-in before you. It will stop you from making premature moves.
10 Pump up the volume
Volume is very important in satellites and it’s really a case of practise makes perfect. Don’t just jump in to mass multi-tabling from day one, a gradual climb will be more profitable.