Satellites – When your Bankroll Just Isn’t Enough…

George | November 11, 2008

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You do everything right. You play a solid game of poker. You manage your bankroll properly. Because of this, you consistently play well at a certain level. Way to go! I have a lot of respect for you if you can do this. Most online poker players tend to deposit and lose it all, or cash out their winnings immediately. It seems you understand the importance of growing and becoming a better poker player. Start low, move up step by step, and, most importantly, move back to a lower limit instead of risking your bankroll and having to reload.

Although the first paragraph seems to focus on bankroll management, it actually doesn’t. This poker article is about how you can play among the big players, like in the Sunday Warm-up or Sunday Million at PokerStars, without going broke.

Online satellites are +EV

The best way to play in higher buy-in poker tournaments is through online satellites. Satellites are +EV; you play to qualify and usually don’t need to finish first. Often, you’ll see that regular tournaments have a payout structure where many players get ITM, but only the top 5 receive significant prizes. When playing satellites, about 1 entry ticket per 10 players is guaranteed. This means your chance to achieve your goal in a satellite is much higher. You don’t need to finish in the top 5 out of 1,000 players (0.5%) to get paid well.

Greg Raymer

I chose to blog about this subject because I will try to qualify online for the main event of the World Series of Poker 2009. Yup, that’s right! I am inspired by stories about Chris Moneymaker. He qualified through a $39 satellite and won the 2003 WSOP Main Event. He wasn’t just an exception. Greg “Fossilman” Raymer did the same a year later. He qualified through a $160 satellite and won the 2004 WSOP Main Event.

Closer to home is the success of my friend Avy Rijnbergen. He qualified last year on PKR and played his way to the Rio in Las Vegas for just a little over a buck! He didn’t win or get in the money, but he had an unforgettable experience!

Sunday Million satellites

Back to the main subject, I will update you about my attempt to qualify for the next WSOP in a series of articles. I plan to start writing these articles next month.

For now, let’s focus on the Sunday Million. This is a fascinating weekly tournament at PokerStars with a $1,000,000 guaranteed prize pool. The winner can easily get $150,000 or more.

Usually, you need a significant bankroll to back up playing such a tournament. The buy-in for this online poker tournament is $215. Let’s do some bankroll math: $215 x 30 = $6,450. Does this match your bankroll? Probably not, since you’re a visitor of Poker For Free. (Exceptions excluded, of course.)

Don’t be disappointed yet. PokerStars offers several satellites to qualify cheaply for the Sunday Million:

  • 500 Frequent Player Points (500 FPP)
  • $3 Rebuy
  • $3.30 Triple Shootout
  • $11 Rebuy
  • $11 Triple Shootout

Basically, you only need a bankroll of $90 to take a shot for a share of $1 Million. Of course, having a bit more wouldn’t hurt. For example, the $11 Rebuy tournament, on average, gives 1 entry for the Sunday Million to 1 out of 6 players. Do you now understand what we mean by saying that satellites are +EV?

Let’s do some more poker math to give you some perspective:

Satellite TournamentMinimum BankrollRecommended Bankroll
$3 Rebuy$90$180
$3 Triple Shootout$90$135
$11 Rebuy$330$660
$11 Triple Shootout$330$495

Sub Satellites

Sub satellites are low buy-in satellites where you can qualify for another satellite.

Many times, you will find a range of multi-tier qualifier tournaments. You can start playing for a very low buy-in of cash or even FPPs. Eventually, you can play your way up to a grand final. This is usually the case when they give away tickets to events like the WSOP, WPT or EPT. This way, any poker player with skills but without a budget can take a shot at fulfilling their dream.