I’ve been playing a good few satellites in the last couple of weeks due to the fact that it’s the time of year for the TCOOP on PokerStars and I’m a micro-tard with a midget bankroll that can’t even think about direct buyins to events like that. That’s not to say I’m ashamed of being a microstakes player, I’m not, I’m proud of it, but I’m also realistic.

There’s some wacky formats to play, and I have good results in the 3xturbo rebuy format, so I thought I’d have a pop at a few satellites to TCOOP events, but especially satellites with that particular format.
If you haven’t played this format before, it’s a super-fast structure where the buyin stack is 3k (or 6k if you double buyin) and then after 90 minutes of madness there is a 30k addon for the same cost as a single buyin.

This is less madness than the 3xturbo format… also less fun.

It’s a format that rewards a player who can find good spots and is not afraid to ship it with a marginal edge. I enjoy them because they feel like gambling, and I do love a punt; as they run at such low stakes, even a micro-bank roll can afford 10-15 rebuys and stay within one or two average buyins.
I started playing the format as an anti-tilt strategy when I’d busted cold from a “normal” tournament, and didn’t want to risk an entire buyin on one stack because I was blinded by grief and rage.
They now form part of my regular schedule because, frankly, they are fun.

PokerStars has a $1 version with $35k gtd every day and the guarantee is always destroyed. I recommend it, especially if you are running a bit hard and need a break from the standard grind. Variance is high in this format, but so is the fun, and if you pay one ounce of attention to pot odds, you’ll be thinking above your average opponent at the mini-micros, so in the long run, you’ll definitely profit (I’m currently showing over 700% ROI in this format over about 50 tourneys with only one final table and no top 3 cashes at all).

Gamble, gamble, gamble.

This week’s blog was originally going to be some sort of strategy article relating to micro-satellites, but a little bit of online research showed me there are ridiculous numbers of articles relating to this, and the majority of them are identical.
I also couldn’t find much that separated higher stakes satellite strategy from lower stakes advice. In short: Remember you don’t have to come first in a satellite, you only have to cash; wrapping your head around the concept of the ICM will help a lot.
If you want more in depth satty strategy advice, Google “Poker Satellite Strategy Advice”, you will be suitably overwhelmed with a plethora of samey advice… enjoy.

WhyNotHowWith this in mind, I decided to focus this blog on WHY you should play satellites instead of HOW. I know a lot of micro-players who don’t think satellites are a good use of their time/money, and I want to explain why I disagree.
Whilst I don’t spend all my time trying to qualify for bigger events, I think it’s really important that I occasionally play one, and there’s two main reasons for that.

Firstly to break the boredom as micro-grinding can be a bit soul destroying sometimes; 5 healthy winning days on the bounce can mean a cash profit of only $100, which is barely enough for a pizza and a round of beers. All of us need a bit of excitement in our lives occasionally, and when I sat down to play the TCOOP Event 3 ($215 PKO) I definitely felt a buzz that I’m not getting when I sit down to play The Hot $5.50.

Don’t get me wrong, if I make it to the last 3 tables of The Hot $5.50, I get a buzz, but I rightly deserve that after 6 hours of play! In a big event, I am buzzing from the first hand.
This may not be the best mental state to play optimum poker, but it’s good mental training for the times I am super deep in my normal tourneys, and it’s a great feeling. Knowing I’m sat with $215 worth of tournament stack that cost me $3 is worth something to me, even if it’s intangible value, it definitely has value.

The second reason is for game skills experience and training.
I am better than a large number of my average $5-$10 opponents, my HUD stats provide me with evidence of that. I am not better than the average $215 player, and earning a seat to that game for cheap is a cost effective way of forcing my game to develop.
A lot of the strategy advice that I read is discordant with my average game, and when I play up, I get a chance to use some of those trickier moves, and see how they work in the situations they were written for.

The old adage about chess is very relevant to poker- you won’t get better by only playing people who are worse at the game than you are. Of course, in poker, very unlike chess, I can occasionally luckbox my opponents, which is why playing in a big event for buttons is so exciting.
Playing so far above my average buyin is not just good training for massive buyin games, it’s useful experience for when I naturally move up a level. I’m not going to jump from $5 to $200 in one move, even if a sick bink lands me a bankroll that can sustain it- that stack of cash would not last long because I’d be too far out of my depth.
I may want to think about moving up to playing an average stake of $15-$20 sometime in the next year, and even at those stakes, my game will be beating less of my opponents than at $5. I need every bit of learning I can get, and although reading strategy is invaluable, it can only take me so far, sometimes I’ll have to get my hands dirty with experience.

You can’t grow seeds without getting your hands dirty.

When I do move up a level, I will still play the smallest possible satellites to large events, if I could buyin for less than $0.75rebuy satellite to a $215 event at the moment, I would, but I can’t. When you’re a micro maniac, there’s only so small you can go, but even if my average stake becomes $20, I will still look to buyin for large event satellites at much lower stakes, I will just play a few more and be more immune to the variance.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be all about the big dream bink, although that is a definite attraction for me, I’m that sort of personality, although I know not everybody is.
I have, on several occasions, played a satellite and then cashed in the money, because I felt my bankroll needed a pick-me-up more than I did. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this.

PokerStars allows you freedom with your satellite monies, as I think any decent operator should. If you win a 40buyin seat, you can unregister from the target event and take the money as “tournament dollars”.
This is not a bad plan if you think you will be too nervous to play a large buyin event, and feel like you wouldn’t even enjoy it; I’m all for playing for the dream bink, but only because I think it’s fun, if that’s not you then there is no point!
Playing satellites with a view to cash in the seat is an especially good plan if you are the sort of player who routinely runs deep in tourneys, but doesn’t seem to get close to the big money. Satellite tourneys are (usually) about survival, not accumulation, and if you find you’re busting out of normal tourneys in a minimum cashing position, you may find you improve your overall ROI this way- it’s not for everyone, but if you’re sick of min-cash in micro-tourneys, play a few satties and see what happens!

I think there are plenty of reason why micro-players should play satellites, and I definitely recommend and encourage it, especially at formats you know you have success at. Good luck and let me know how you get on; don’t forget me if you score the dream bink.

Here’s a short video about a dreaming micro player that made me chuckle. I was obviously appalled at the bad language in the video, I fucking hate swearing, but some of it definitely rang true!