Poker Satellite Tournaments

Published: 06/09/2010

Poker tournaments may feature as few as two participants playing “heads-up” on a single table or tens of thousands seated at thousands of tables, such as the annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas. Participation typically requires an entry fee called the “buy in,” which can range from very little to a small fortune. For example, a seat at the WSOP Main Event in 2010 cost $10,000.

There is, however, a very inexpensive way to get a place in even the largest tournament, which is to win a free entry through a Poker satellite tournament. Satellites are tournaments in which the prize pool is a ticket instead of money.

Almost all satellite tournaments are precursors to bigger, more lucrative multi-table tournaments. Their initial buy-ins may be as little as a tenth to a hundredth of the cost of entering the bigger tournament and the venues do not have to be the same. Regional and online satellites provide the opportunity for a diverse array of Poker players to get involved at little cost. Even if the winners of these rounds do not make headlines or any cash rewards, several have gone on to incredible success.

For example, in 2003 Chris Moneymaker, winner of the WSOP Main Event, was able to afford his seat by winning an online satellite tournament with just a $39 buy-in. The very next year, Greg Raymer, also a WSOP champion, got his place at the table via a $165 Internet satellite. Both of these players won millions as a result.

In satellites, just as in regular tournaments, the winner of the chance to move up is usually the player who manages to win every single poker chip in the game. Typically, the blinds are raised periodically during the satellite event to facilitate the elimination of players. Other top finishers may also be awarded free major tournament entries based upon when they are eliminated.

Most Poker satellite tournaments are “open,” meaning anyone may enter, although some are closed and conducted by invitation only, such as those held for high rollers at big casinos. The WSOP Main Event, although costly if buying a ticket, is an open tournament as are its many satellites.

Satellites differ slightly from another type of qualifying event called “preliminaries” only in that the latter are more expensive to enter and usually come with a cash prize as well as entry to the next level. Satellites are also somewhat similar to “steps tournaments,” which are Sit & Go events arranged in a bracket structure, whereby only winners advance to the next round or “step.” Again, the idea is to pay very little for the opportunity to win a lot.

Among the WSOP “feeder” events, two of the most popular satellites are those offered by, whose spokesperson is WSOP Champion Daniel Negreanu, and, represented by WSOP bracelet winner Phil Ivey and others pros. Both web sites offer instruction, tutorials, practice events, and their own multi-table tournaments as warm-ups for the annual WSOP satellites.

In particular, has been offering freeroll tournaments that serve as satellites for its own promotions, such as an opportunity to meet 2009 World Series Champion Joe Cada in Las Vegas. Winners of the daily free-to-enter satellites get a shot at a prize package that includes flights, hotel, pocket money, and more.

In the run-up to the 2010 WSOP with its 57 final events, Poker satellite tournaments were conducted every day via the Internet. Most of the winners of those received tickets to live preliminary rounds worth up to $1,000, but had to come up with their own way to get to the venue. Others were given full accommodations, food, and travel money as well, like a paid summer holiday in Las Vegas.

Published on: 06/09/2010

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