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Satellites and Super Satellites
Tournament Poker
by Mike Sexton

Playing a satellite is a tournament parlay. Satellites are tournaments you enter in hopes of winning a seat into a larger tournament. They provide an opportunity for players to get into larger tournaments for a fraction of the cost and are extremely popular at all major tournaments. Let me give you an example of how they work.

Suppose a Hold’em tournament cost $1060 to enter. A one-table satellite (ten players) for this event would most likely cost $120 to play. The winner of the satellite would get an entry into the $1060 event (and $140 would go to the house). Most casinos host satellites continuously during a major event. Tournaments and satellites have different buy-ins. Players might play a satellite in one game but if they win it, they might prefer to play a tournament in another game. Rather than assign players a seat into a particular tournament, tournaments issue “lammers” (buttons that are usually for $300 or $500) to players who win satellites. They can use those lammers to play in any tournament they wish. Players like having this option.

Another plus for issuing lammers is that players who so desire can make a deal at the end of a satellite. For example, suppose three players had equal chips at the end of a satellite with a prize of a $1500 buy-in. There would be three $500 lammers available (plus some cash for the vigorish). The three remaining players might opt to take one lammer each rather than play the satellite out. This is good for the house as it speeds up satellites, keeps more players in action, and generally keeps the players happy, as many would prefer to ‘chop’ rather than gamble at the high levels of the final stages of a satellite.

Super Satellites are Multi-table tournaments that are held for big buy-in championship events. Players play a Super Satellite to win a seat into a championship event. For example, at the WSOP, where the buy-in for the main event is $10,000, the Supers cost $225 to enter. (Re-buys are allowed for the first hour.) They run them twice daily for a month at the WSOP and they run like a Swiss watch. Supers are extremely popular at the WSOP. Last year, over half of the 641 entries in the World Championship event were satellite winners.

To have a successful large buy-in championship event, it is essential that Super Satellites be run. Why? Because those who are actually going to buy into a championship event like to see ‘value’ for their money, meaning a large field, before they plunk down their cold cash to play. Super Satellites are virtually the only way to ensure getting a large field.

You can even play Super Satellites online for some events. For example, players can win a luxurious cruise for two and a paid entry into the Finals of the PartyPoker.com Million II tournament (March 1–8, 2003), a $7200 value for a $108 buy-in (every Tuesday on PartyPoker.com). The estimated prize pool for that event is a whopping $1,500,000!

To play in your favorite events, I wholeheartedly recommend you go for the gusto and try a satellite and/or Super Satellite.

This story was first published in the Winter 2002-2003 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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