Qualifying for Live Poker Events via a Poker Satellite
With so much live poker available nowadays, it’s very tempting to get involved on the real-life felt. However, it’s not always cheap to play live poker, with some tournaments costing several hundred pounds to enter and most of the prestigious ones well into the thousands.
Sure, there is likely a £30 or a £50 competition taking place at a local casino near you, but at some point, you may want the big game experience of taking part in the main event of a festival or tour.
While most players don’t have the bankrolls to be able to play in big buy-in events, there are opportunities to get a seat at the table without having to cough up the full buy-in. The simplest way to do this is to win a seat in the target tournament via what is known as a satellite tournament.
What is a Satellite Tournament?
Most online poker players will already be familiar with the concept of satellite tournaments, as most sites have them into their online tournaments. They enable players to enter tournaments that have bigger buy-ins than they would normally afford to enter.
Poker satellite tournaments are qualifying tournaments that award seats into bigger buy-in tournaments as prizes. They typically cost about 10-20% of the buy-in of the target tournament to enter.
For example, a main event of a popular poker tour costs £1,000 to enter, but there is a satellite to it which costs just £100. Therefore, for every 10 players who enter the satellite tournament, £1,000 in prize money is collected, which is enough to generate one seat in the main event. If there are 50 players in this satellite tournament, then a total of £5,000 prize money will be collected, which would be enough for 5 seats into the main event. The last 5 players standing in the satellite tournament win their entry into the £1,000 main event.
Satellite tournaments can take place both live and online. Live poker satellites tend to take place at the venue where the target event takes place, often on the same day that the tournament starts.
Satellite poker tournaments into live events, however, usually take place several weeks or even months before the event occurs and prizes often include more than just an entry into the tournament itself. It is more common than not for online satellite prizes to also include several nights in a hotel, some cash to spend on travel to get to the event and perhaps even a goody bag with a branded t-shirt, cap, or a hoodie. Some of the best online poker sites go a step further and host special parties and excursions for qualifiers while they are at the event.
How to Choose Which Event to Try and Qualify For?
It’s not as easy as it seems, there’s quite a lot to consider before entering an online satellite into a live event:
- Where is the event taking place? The location of an event is one of the main considerations for any player. Unless you plan to spend all your time at the poker tables, you’ll probably want to take in some sights, visit some museums or galleries, eat in some restaurants and indulge in some nightlife outside the casino. It helps if the event is in a place you would like to visit anyway, but if not, it’s worth doing some research on what else the location has to offer.
- How old do you need to be to play? Usually 18, but events in some countries may only be open to players above 21, so if you are aged 18-20, it’s a good idea to know this before you try and qualify.
- How long is there before the event begins? Sometimes online poker sites put on big guaranteed satellites close to the event taking place; and while this may present good value, it can also give you headaches trying to book last-minute travel. It’s worth checking flight availability and costs before you start playing.
- Can you get the time off work to travel? Also worth considering is how lenient your boss is on last-minute holiday requests, as often you’ll be winning a seat at an event that takes place within 2-3 weeks of the satellite.
- How much will you invest in trying to qualify? This is something that is down to the individual, as people have different reasons for playing satellites. Some people who plan on playing the event anyway (by buying in directly) also like to play satellites. For others, the only opportunity to play in the main event is to win a seat via a satellite. Be sensible, decide how much you are willing to invest beforehand. Perhaps set a limit on how much of a percentage of the event buy-in you are willing to invest in satellites, as you don’t want to be investing too much, otherwise, you’d be better off just buying into the main event directly. As most satellites cost around 10% of the value of the target event to enter, it's maybe a good idea to set a limit of around 30% being the max you plan to invest. In most cases, this will equate to around 3 satellite entries.
- What does the rest of the festival schedule look like? Most live events worth traveling to take at least 4 days to conclude, often longer. Although we all believe we can make the final table and take home the trophy, in reality, most of us will bust on day 1 or early on day 2. It’s likely we will have a few days to fill and usually there are side events and cash games to play alongside the main event. It’s worth familiarising yourself with the festival schedule to see what else you could play if your ultimate main event dream ends up in the gutter, as it frequently will. One of the key things to consider is how much you can afford to spend on side events. Some festivals are qualifier-friendly and have many low-priced side events, however, the more prestigious events and tours with bigger buy-in main events often have quite pricey side events alongside.
- What type of poker satellites are available? This varies from site to site and while several years ago there was a lot more variation in the types of satellite format, nowadays most online poker sites tend to run them as re-entry tournaments, usually limiting the number of re-entries to 2 or 3. Typically Sunday is the main day for satellites to take place, but some sites also run them on other days of the week.
- What’s the chance of winning a seat? This varies from site to site and from event to event. Usually online satellites into live events will present around a 1-in-10 chance of winning a seat, e.g. if it costs £50 to enter and the target seat value is £500, then one seat will be awarded for every ten players who enter the satellite. Anything up to around a 1-in-12 chance of winning a seat presents a realistic opportunity to bag a seat into a live event. Some sites offer satellites with a 1-in-20 chance of winning a seat, which makes it less likely that you will be packing your bags for a poker vacation but is still doable. Any satellite with a higher than a 1-in-20 chance of winning is a less viable way of securing yourself a seat in a live event and should probably be avoided.
- What’s in the goody bag? ‘Goody bags’ were once an essential item that pretty much all sites gave out to their online qualifiers, but as time has passed and live poker has matured, this is now not always the case. Having said that, most companies still like to look after their satellite poker qualifiers and provide some added benefits, such as parties, excursions, masterclasses presented by sponsored pros…and sometimes this does still include a goody bag. And in that goody bag you are likely to find a t-shirt, a cap, maybe a hoodie if you’re lucky, a pack of cards and perhaps a phone charger or some other cool item.
- Read the Ts & Cs Finally, it’s important to make sure you know the rules. There is no standard approach to the rules relating to winning satellite seats into live events. Each online poker site has its own set of terms and conditions and rules on how they deal with things such as requests to postpone the use of a seat to a later event, or expiration of unused satellite tickets.
Satellite Poker Qualifying Paths
Typically, online sites will run online satellites to live events for about 4-6 weeks prior to the event taking place. The exceptions to this are big events, such as the World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event or the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, which may have qualifying periods of 3-4 months.
There are also some sites, such as Grosvenor Poker, that award live event credit as prizes rather than seats into specific events. This gives the player even more flexibility to choose which event to use it for and allows players to qualify further in advance.
WSOP Satellites on GG Poker
GG Poker doesn’t run live events of its own, but it does run satellites for third-party events, most notably for the World Series of Poker (WSOP), for which it is the online sponsor. GG Poker also hosts online WSOP bracelet series.
Their extensive ‘Road to Vegas’ online qualification schedule for the WSOP features packages including travel expenses and hotel nights, in addition to the $10,000 main event seat. GG Poker also lay on a lounge for players to use during the series.
Live Event Satellites on PokerStars
PokerStars hosts online satellites to the European Poker Tour (EPT), the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), the Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT), the Brazilian Series of Poker (BSOP), the Eureka Poker Tour and the Estrellas Poker Tour. PokerStars also sometimes hosts satellites to non-PokerStars live events, such as the Irish Open.
Usually, satellites on PokerStars are available for 3-5 weeks before an event takes place, although for some of the larger events such as the Barcelona EPT or the PCA, the qualifying period may be longer. At EPT festivals there are actually two main events, as a 1k ‘national’ main event usually kickstarts each festival. PokerStars provides online satellites to both main events.
Here are some details of the types of satellites on offer at PokerStars, but please note that these are subject to change:
Event: Typical EPT Main Event
- Event Buy-In: €5,300
- Satellite Buy-In: €320
- Satellite Format: Re-entry (up to 3 entries per player)
- Package Types: Seat Only/Seat and €900 Cash/Seat, cash and hotel
- Package Value: €5,300/€6,200. Hotel package values vary per event, but usually around €8,000
- Frequency: 3 times per week (Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays)
- Guarantees: Usually just one seat is guaranteed in most EPT main event satellites, but usually there is at least one super satellite with several packages guaranteed per live event.
Event: Typical PokerStars National Tour Main Event (e.g. Eureka Rozvadov)
- Event Buy-In: €1,100
- Satellite Buy-In: €162
- Satellite Format: Re-entry (up to 3 entries per player)
- Package Types: Seat and €400 Cash
- Package Value: €1,500
- Frequency: 3 times per week (Tuesday, Thursday & Sunday)
- Guarantees: 2 packages guaranteed per satellite
PokerStars usually provide a great player experience for online qualifiers to their live events. Players can expect a bag with a t-shirt, a hoodie and a unique item or two in addition to masterclasses with their Team Pros, a welcome reception, and free sightseeing excursions and activities at most events.
Irish Open Satellites on iPoker
The Irish Open is the oldest poker tournament in Europe and is one of the most prestigious titles to win. Satellites to the Irish Open are available across the iPoker network, including on Bet365 Poker and Grosvenor Poker. The satellite schedule is extensive, with both seat-only satellites and ‘package’ satellites that include €1,100 in travel and accommodation credit.
Event: Irish Open Seat Only on iPoker
- Event Buy-In: €1,150
- Satellite Buy-In: €50/€100
- Satellite Format: Rebuy (€50)/Re-entry (€100)
- Package Type: Seat Only
- Package Value: €1,150
- Frequency: 4 times per week (€50 Rebuy on Wednesdays, €100 Re-entry on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays)
- Guarantees: Varies from 1 - 7 seats guaranteed
Event: Irish Open Package on iPoker
- Event Buy-In: €1,150
- Satellite Buy-In: €150
- Satellite Format: 2-day satellite format
- Package Type: Package
- Package Value: €2,250
- Frequency: Multiple day 1s every day of the week, 1 x day 2 on Sundays
- Guarantees: 1 package guaranteed
888Poker Live Satellites
888Poker is unsurprisingly the home of online satellites to 888Poker Live events, which take place several times a year, in locations such as Madrid, London, Barcelona and Bucharest. The main event buy-in is often €888, but sometimes it is rounded up to €1k.
Event: Typical 888Poker Live Main Event
- Event Buy-In: €888
- Satellite Buy-In: $109
- Satellite Format: Rebuy (up to 10 Rebuys per player) but no add-ons
- Package Type: Seat plus €400 accommodation credit plus €312 cash
- Package Value: €1,600
- Frequency: Once per week (Sundays)
- Guarantees: Usually two packages per satellite
Qualifiers for 888 Poker Live events also receive an 888 Poker Live Tool Kit, which is essentially a goody bag, including the latest 888 Poker branded clothing and merchandising. As 888 Poker Live events are centered around the experience, they also have sponsored pros in attendance, throw parties and have additional activities for players and their guests.
GUKPT Satellites on Grosvenor Poker
Grosvenor UK Poker Tour (GUKPT) satellites take place throughout the year on Grosvenor Poker. Rather than running specific satellites to each event, Grosvenor awards tickets as an ‘event credit’ which can be used in part or whole towards the buy-in of any GUKPT event. In addition, credit can be used for other tournaments run by Grosvenor Casinos, such as their popular 25/25 series or the record-breaking annual Goliath event.
It is a highly flexible system as players can accumulate event credit by winning more than one satellite and use it for any event at a GUKPT festival, not just the main event. Crucially credit never expires, so if you win a seat into an event and don’t feel like using it for a few years, that’s up to you.
Live Event satellites take place every day on Grosvenor Poker with a variety of buy-ins. The value of credit awarded in each satellite also varies, usually being equivalent to the buy-in of the next main event on the GUKPT (£1,250) or 25/25 (£250) calendar.
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