Satellite into the 2015 Irish Open

Why pay the full price of entry when you can qualify online for as little as €0.50? Last year’s winner got in for €4 and won €250k – here’s how you can do the same…

Okay, so you’ve decided to qualify for the Irish Open via a Paddy Power Poker satellite online – great. We’re here to help you win your seat for as little money as possible. First things first though – you should set aside a reasonable budget. After all, you might not be successful first time around and it’s important that you don’t spend a silly amount of money trying to get in.

It’s not unreasonable to set aside around 20% of the package you’re trying to win. The Irish Open packages are worth €4,500, or €3,500 through a seat-only Cheap Seats satellite, so a €500– €1,000 outlay would give you a great return on your money. You also need to be realistic and appreciate that even if you put aside this much, you’re not guaranteed to get in.

That’s at the top end though. There’s nothing to stop you giving it just a single shot at one of the €5.50 Cheap Seats satellites and going for the ultimate spin-up! That’s what Patrick Clarke did last year and he ended up winning the 2014 Irish Open, taking home the trophy and €250k!

Whatever your budget, a solid satellite strategy will help you qualify. And that’s where we come in. Satellites are different to standard tournaments, where generally around 10% of the field gets paid and the big money is on the final table. When you’re playing a satellite you don’t need to win (unless it’s a winner- takes-all satellite) and you don’t necessarily need to aim for the final table to be rewarded – you just need to do whatever’s necessary to win a seat.

So buckle up and get ready for the ride. Hopefully it’ll be your name on the Irish Open trophy this year!

Early Stage

The first thing you need to know is how many seats are up for grabs in the satellite you’re playing. Look for the ratio of players to seats – the lower the ratio, the tighter you should play. To take an extreme example, if there were 20 seats up for grabs and 21 players you should play tighter than Arsene Wenger on transfer deadline day. If there are 21 players and just one seat up for grabs then you need to play very aggressively – you’ll need to beat everyone to win.

If there are 20 seats up for grabs it doesn’t matter if you finish first or 20th. For this reason you shouldn’t be looking to take any unnecessary risks. In fact the aim is to take the lowest amount of risk possible to get you over the finishing line. Once registration has ended (or the rebuy period), work out how many seats are up for grabs and what the average chip stack would be at that point. That’s the stack you’re aiming for and if you can, try and keep it around that level.

All your standard tournament strategy applies here – play position and play speculative hands early on – but keep it tight. More so than in a standard tournament. A double-up might be great but it doesn’t double your equity, so anyone flipping for stacks at this point is only playing into the hands of the players who are playing tight.

Spend your time working out how your opponents are playing as this could prove to be invaluable information in the later levels. Don’t be afraid to open-fold small pairs and trappy hands from early position. At the same time you’ll be building up a tight image, which you can use to your advantage later on when the blinds get bigger and the antes come in to play.

Middle Stage

It’s time to try to get yourself in a position where you aren’t hugging the bubble come the endgame. During the middle stage of a satellite, your actual cards matter far less than factors like your stack size, your opponent’s stack size, your position, blind increases and the bubble.

Big stack

You should be looking to pick up chips by winning pots uncontested preflop or through simple continuation bets. The easiest way to do this is to play good hands, but you can’t always wait for a premium. Don’t go after short stacks who will be looking to double with a wider range of hands. Go after the larger stacks who are less willing to tangle with you.

Medium stack

As a medium stack you are in no imminent danger of being swallowed up by the blinds, but you are also far from comfortable. Go after other medium stacks, as well as big stacks you can do serious damage to.

Small stack

Your ideal targets should be the medium stacks who don’t want to call you and end up with a bowl of rice. Avoid shoving (as a bluff) on fellow short stacks – they might be desperate enough to look you up. In tandem with stack size, position is crucial. During this stage it is also crucial to keep an eye on the impending blind jumps and try to steal enough to stay ahead of them. You have much more fold equity with a 10BB stack (and even a 5BB stack) in a satellite than you do in a regular tournament, so don’t fret too much.

The bubble

Big stack

This is the dream spot. you can sit back and let the other players battle for the seats, or start bullying and pick on the players who don’t want to play back. If you keep raising and people keep folding then don’t stop.

Don’t feel that you’ve got any responsibility to the other players to take anyone on because you’ve got a big stack – your only responsibility is to yourself. If you want to, just click sit-out and make yourself a cup of tea. Don’t get complacent though. Keep an eye on your stack as you don’t want to get sucked back into the melee.

Who should you be picking on? Medium stacks are the best as they don’t want to get dragged into a short-stack battle. Shorter stacks may be forced to gamble so be careful – they can still make a decent dent on your stack.

Medium stack

You’re in a decent but delicate position. Winning a pot or two with an uncontested shove can turn you into a big stack (as can one double-up), but one ill-timed move can see you out the door. This fear of busting is very real, as you can realistically stay in the middle of the pack for the entire endgame period and win a seat.

Working out if you’ve got a seat locked up is a delicate balancing act and a simple (but not foolproof) way of working it out is this: if you’re inside the cutoff point by more places than there are people who need to be knocked out, you can safely fold everything. For instance if there are 25 seats awarded with 30 people left and you’re in 12th place then you can muck, muck, muck.

If you are not quite safe but not totally desperate, the best course of action (without a good hand) is to shove from late position into similar-sized stacks who really shouldn’t call you without a premium hand.

Small stack

Okay, the vultures are circling, but the good news is you’ve still got a chance of winning a seat. your best hope of chipping up is shoving into medium stacks who can’t afford to call without good holdings.

Position when shoving is crucial, and if you find yourself in a good spot you should just shove your entire range. It’s preferable to shove any two cards into a mid-stacked big blind than attempt to get a-7o through from early position.

Some satellites can get very squeaky. If you’re on the bubble and you’ve got a short stack then open up the other tables and keep an eye on your short-stack rivals. are they going to be forced all-in before you? If they are, don’t make a move until the action’s passed them.

One thing you’ll find is that generally around the bubble there will be lots of players with short stacks. 10BBs could be an absolute monster and 3BBs could be enough to get you over the line. Use your judgement – going out on the bubble with eights when a shorter stack would be forced all-in next hand is a big mistake.


Some satellites play out as a winner-takes-all or with two or three seats up for grabs. the most likely place is in the finals where the real glory awaits you.

Now your strategy needs to change and you’ll have to play aggressively. Accumulating a big stack early on will stand you in good stead later on.

How to accumulate a stack early on

1) Guess who?

Profile your opponents as quickly as possible. you’re looking to identify the fish – the players who will stack off to you with an overpair when you’ve made a big hand. things to look out for include open- limping preflop and folding to too many three-bets.

2) Three-bet for fun!

You should be looking to three-bet in position as much as possible against players who call too much. as well as your obvious value hands you should be looking to three-bet with hands like J-9 suited. you’ll get other players to fold bigger hands behind you and you’ll end up playing the rest of the hand in position.

3) Monsters!

Play hands that can flop huge like suited connectors and small pocket pairs. When you connect in a big way you’re looking to play for stacks, so make your bet sizing big enough that you can shove on the river.

How to play a big stack

Congratulations! you’ve got a big stack early on and you’re in a great position to make a deep run and win your seat at the 2015 Irish Open. there’s still a long way to go though. Here are some tips that will see you through to the end.

1) Don’t meltdown!

Pick your battles wisely – attack but be smart. remember that chips are your weapons but they’re still a finite resource.

2) Raise more!

It seems obvious but you need to be open-raising more hands – two to three hands an orbit if you want a specific number to be aiming for. attack blinds who are likely to fold. Players will now view you as loose and will pay you off when get a big hand.

3) Re-steal!

Look for the players who are attacking the blinds and ignoring you and your big stack in the middle. If you’ve identified a player as weak/tight then the chances are others will have as well. If someone raises into these players then a three-bet will often take down a decent pot. they’re not going to want to get tangled up with you without a premium hand as you can potentially bust them.

Rebuy rumble!

If you’re in a rebuy satellite you’ve got a safety net should you bust – but you should see this as a Plan B rather than an excuse to play recklessly. Even if you’re playing a rebuy your aim should be to qualify for the lowest amount of money possible. By all means try and accumulate a stack early on, but you should still be playing solid poker.

If you are looking to get in at a minimal cost, you will be best served following a very selective and tight approach. If you are willing to put in say four to five rebuys, then you can take a few more chances but you still have to be selective about how you play.

One thing that is very important is to adjust your play after the rebuy period ends. Too many players don’t do this and bust out quickly after the break. They’ve forgotten the safety net has gone!

Tight and selective

Use this approach if you’re looking to win a seat on the cheap. Obviously, the less you are willing to invest the lower your odds of winning a seat, but there are many successful players who regularly win seats only putting in one or two rebuys.

The main reason these players are successful is because they take advantage of the weak play that typically exists during the rebuy period. By limiting themselves to a very narrow range of hands (big pairs and big Aces) and playing these hands very aggressively and committing themselves preflop they are usually getting their chips in way ahead.

There are, however, two problems with taking this line. First, if your opponents are paying attention they will know that you are playing only premium hands and will be much less likely to gamble with you. Second, the rebuy period itself is limited to a particular time frame and it is not impossible for you to go that entire time without getting one of the playable hands.

Take a few chances

This is the category that most rebuy satellite players fall into. These players don’t mind taking a few chances and are willing to put in some money in order to win a seat. This does not mean you should play every hand, but it does mean you should be more speculative to try to win a big pot.

Any time you can see a flop for under five big blinds and have a hand that plays well in that given situation you should do so. For example, suited connectors are a great hand to play in a multiway pot but are not as profitable in a heads-up situation. A hand like A-10 or pocket nines plays much better against one opponent than it does against three or four.

Postflop you should play very aggressively. If you flop top pair or a draw, you should not be afraid to push your hand hard. If you call and lose the hand, that’s fine – that’s why why you’re playing a rebuy.

There are no guarantees but the beauty of the rebuy period is that if you lose you can just get more chips. Use this to your advantage.

Paddy Power Poker are running Irish Open satellites daily for as little as €0.50. Claim a free €5 satellite token, along with $10 in cash, when you sign up today through this link…

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