Ariston's guide to Satellites pt 1
May 1, 2011, Posted by Pokerfarm
Ariston's Guide to Satellites (Part 1)
With the WSOP just around the corner, it's that time of year again as people start dreaming of playing the main event. The cheapest way to make this a reality is by winning your seat online. Fortunately for you, you're in good hands - Pokerfarm's Russ Cawley AKA Ariston is on hand to help you get there...
You want to win a seat?
World Series time is approaching and I am sure a few of you will be trying to qualify. I know for a fact a lot of you out there won't bother because "it's a dream" or "the same players win the satellites anyway". In a way this is correct because the same players win satellites by playing to a strategy. I believe that Gultann plays satellites the same way as I do (he also won six last year) as from what I have seen his method is very similar. Those who do not want to qualify for big events, need their heads examining! It isn't just a dream; you have the same two cards and the same stack of chips that I start with so you too can get yourself a shot at the big time.
This article will be split into two parts; the first part will cover how to play the different size stacks that you find yourself with after the first four levels. The second part will focus on what to do when you reach the final table, how to play when there is more than one seat, making deals at the table, the mistakes that I have made, and lastly the hands that have won me the seats to the big events.
A lot of the things within this article will go against most of the things you know about the game and many of you will disagree with some or all of the principles. All I can say to doubters is that in the last 18 months I have played 29 super satellites and won six seats (I also finished very close in another five). It works for me so there shouldn't be any reason it won't work for you. Ok let's get down to the good stuff.
The first hour (usually levels one to four)
This is where most players in satellites make the biggest mistakes. You have a nice starting stack and a slow blind structure with small blinds so why do we normally lose between 40-50% of the field at this stage? Because they are careless - no other reason. There is no excuse for getting knocked out in the first four levels. If you play completely rock like for the first four levels you'll find that the fish normally throw chips at you anyway. In early positions I wouldn't be playing any hands barring pockets pairs or AKs and even then I will be playing them very passive. If you keep the pots small and play them on your terms you will not go broke. Middle positions can limp with the odd suited connectors and the same hands as above, again do not build pots - there is no need to. Round the back should you be attacking blinds? Nooooooooooooo! Why would you want to risk it when the blinds aren't worth having? Stick to the same hands you would play from middle positions and play very passive.
Defending your blinds is also a no no as there is just no point, if someone wants it let them have it unless you have a monster. If you pick up a draw with any of the above hands, play it very weak by check calling or calling other peoples' raises. Make sure the odds are correct if calling to hit a flush and don't risk to much of your stack chasing the dream card (this is the exact opposite to how I would play draws in most MTTs and one of the main differences between satellite strategy and cash MTTs). If you flop a set with any of your pairs this is the only acceptable time to go broke in the first four levels - play them tricky and look to get paid. I would be looking to check raise on the flop (again not something I would normally do as I normally lead with my sets) as this play normally commits people to push with their draws - if they do and hit then you are forgiven for losing your stack. I will normally have a cash game or a STT running at the same time during the first hour to stop me playing hands, if you wake up with AJ in the BB and it is the first hand you have seen in 40 minutes it may be tempting to call a raise or even reraise yourself. If you have been playing cash games or a STTs at the same time you know where the AJ goes - straight in the bin. At the end of the first hour you will either have built your stack to an average or big stack by being gifted your chips or you will have anted away a little and be a short stack. Unlike my other articles I am going to explain how to play all three stack sizes from here on in - it is possible to win the seat from all three positions I can promise you.
The middle stages
This section is split into 3 different categories for which ever position you find yourself in, being short, average and big stack. For the sake of argument the short stack can be defined as the bottom 10% of the field or less than your starting stack. The average stack is double your starting stack and the big stack, well those with a lot more chips then any one else!
The most important thing to do here is not to panic. As long as you have more than five big blinds (BB) you are fine and there is no need to do anything stupid (in MTTs 10 BBs is the standard but satellites are a different beast). Ignore the leader board and forget the fact the chip leaders have a gazillion chips more than you (I would advise you not to even watch the leader board - as long as you have enough chips to play who cares what anyone else is doing). Wait for a big hand and play it strong (by big hands I mean pocket pairs tens or above, AK or even AQ if you are getting down towards the five BB mark). If you are below 10 BBs just move all-in with any big hand- you will be shocked by how many times the table big stack will call you with junk and double you up. If you nurse your short stack carefully you can get yourself back into the game - the easy thing about the short stack is you have two moves only, all-in or fold. As you progress through the middle stages of the tournament it doesn't matter if you still have a short stack as long as you keep above the five BB mark. As the blinds increase you will find that stealing pots is a must and you must chose carefully whose blinds you are going to have. If there are other shorties on your table those will be your targets as they will need to find a hand to call you. If you move all in on the monster stack he may call you with any two pictures whereas a shorty will need a Big ace or big pair. I decide before I even get my cards I am moving in on the short stacks and it is irrelevant which two cards I hold. Don't think you can't win from this position, in my BPO and Australia qualifiers I was in the bottom three players almost all the way to the final, in both qualifiers I had just over five BBs going into the final (around the 4k mark) and one of the chip leaders in the BPO had 50k+, I still got a seat. Your main objective with a short stack is to stay above the 5BB mark and not do anything stupid. Hang in there long enough and I promise you a hand to double up with will come. You may be shocked how quickly things can change. In my Australia satellite I was sixth out of six players, then fifth out of five and within a few hands (about 10 minutes) I had the chip lead. When you change gears with a short stack and go into all in mode you can have a stack before anyone has even noticed. It only takes two or three real hands and you are up there with the chip leaders.
This is a far more difficult stack to play than a short stack. With an average stack there are different ways to play depending on what you table is like. Decide what sort of table you have (for example you could be on a scandie table - very aggressive, alternatively you could find yourself in a rock garden - very tight) and play the opposite style. The main thing you should be doing in the middle stages of the competition is consolidating your position. You cannot win the seat until you get to the final few players so do not risk too many of your chips because by doing that you drop back into the pack. If you have a nut draw against someone with less chips to you, put him to the test and push all in – it's his tournament that's on the line not yours. If you have a nut draw against someone with more chips than you, play it weak and passive and try to catch it and get paid - do not get knocked out chasing draws. When the blinds get big and worth stealing use the same principles as a short stack and steal only from people shorter than you. The most important thing you should not be doing as you get towards the final is calling peoples all ins. If someone moves all in and you find yourself with AK or TT,JJ,QQ etc just fold. You have to get your chips in the middle first or do not bother. I know most of you out there will totally disagree with this point but it is one of the main reasons I have won seats - NEVER CALL!!! I will give some examples later of people who have called all ins and lost their seats because of doing it. I don't want to hear all the badbeat crap - if you don't call you can't get a bad beat. Folding aces and kings may be correct in some circumstances but more on that later. To give yourself a simple example you are on the BB with AK and a nice 30k stack with 11 players left and the button moves all in for 27k - easy call and he flips over 8T os. Happy days you think I have now got 57k - wrong, roughly one out of three times you have 3k and have probably blown your chance at the seat. By having 57k does it automatically give you a better chance at a seat? Why risk a bad beat just so you can moan how unlucky you were? I would rather just fold and go on to win the seat. If you have JJ in the BB and he has just one over card again you are only marginally better than 2-1. Simple rule you must follow if you want to win multiple seats - GET YOUR CHIPS INTO THE POT FIRST OR DON'T BOTHER......DO NOT CALL!!!
If I get to the end of the first hour with a big stack I am already on the plane as far as I am concerned. I will keep the pressure on the table and constantly be running re-steals on people (click here to see article on bluffing for definitions of re-steals) and putting people to the test (I believe the best MTT player on Betfair Poker is Kinghawko who does this perfectly, if you need to learn how to do this just watch him whenever he has a big stack in any of the MTTs on here). The first pot I lose that drops me down below huge stack I slow down and go into consolidation mode similar to playing an average stack. If you have a big hand play it very strong with huge overbets (aka "buzzerstyle"). Avoid confrontations with any other bigstacks wherever possible and do not go to war with a big stack without the goods. There is no difference at this stage between a 70k and a 120k stack (you are not more likely to be guaranteed a seat by having 120k than 70k I promise you). I have only had a big stack in three qualifiers over the last 18 months and I managed to win two of them (the other I lost six consecutive pots as a huge favourite in the final four - every time I got my chips in first though).
Next month find out how to play the final table and what strategy needs to be applied when there is more than one seat up for grabs. Also there are some handy tips on the dos and don'ts in Satellites by learning from my successes and mistakes at the tables.