A poker satellite is a small tournament. Basically what happens is that you join a satellite to try to get into an event, paying approximately 10% of what you would normally pay for the event (I’m using Hold’em as the example, for simplicity). The hosting casino is generally paid a fee (percentage or flat fee) as well as an amount for the dealers, but not always, so be sure to ask. Should you win or split the satellite in some way you will either receive a certificate for the event, cash or chips called “lammers” which work like cash to buy into the event. You can sometimes use the lammers to buy into other satellites, cash poker games or even cash them out at the casino cashier (this is rare). Make sure to always ask as many questions as possible before you play a satellite or a tournament in a card room. Get information beforehand or you may be very surprised at what may happen to you if you win anything. I have heard of casinos calling the IRS on players. Casinos finding out that certain players had warrants out for their arrest and calling the police. Foreign player who were heavily taxed before given their winnings. Lammers that were confiscated. I have seen clueless players sit down for a last minute satellite only to be told that since the tournament was beginning momentarily everyone would be dealt one hand and winner would take all. I have even seen satellites where there was no dealer. The tournament director would simply deal each player a card face up and the high card would win the satellite. I have seen one hour satellites, ten hand satellites, satellites that were self-dealt, I could go on and on. There are also things called super satellites, multiple table satellites, mixed game satellites, etc. Please, do yourself a favor and get all of the information up front before you enter any satellite anywhere.
For some fun history into satellites I’ll relate stories I have read or heard in the past. The first poker satellite was at Binion’s at the WSOP just before the main event. For years the main event had grown in field size. But sometime in the late 70’s with a recession and middle east oil problems the field did not grow. So the acting TD back then, Eric Drache decided to run a satellite event right before the main event started. He told some players who were milling around not having yet deciding to buy in or not (probably their backers were the ones deciding whether or not to buy in their horse) that he would run a quick one-table tournament where the winner would take all. I don’t believe he charged a dime, he just wanted to make sure there were more runners that year than any previous year. It worked out splendidly as that year there was one more player than the year before.
And so a poker satellite was born. Today there are more sats than you can shake a stick at. I remember my friend Tomer Benvenisti won more WSOP satellites than anyone else at Binion’s ever did before or since (at least as far as accounting is concerned). I believe between one table sats, SNG’s, super sats, Multi-table sats and 2nd chance events he actually won 13 main event buy-ins in 2003. That is 13x10k! Plus he finished 5th place in the main event itself.
Satellites are a great way to practice your tournament game with little investment. They are sometimes long and take multiple steps. I remember back in 2006 Glenn decided that the only way he would ever play in the main event at the WSOP is if he free rolled it all the way. So he got on Party Poker and started playing in their multiple step freerolls. Back when we first signed onto Party Poker only one account per household was allowed. So the account was in my name. Miraculously enough, Glenn won a package to the WSOP on his first try. He played in two or three MTTs and simply won every time. So we had a package for the WSOP, food, a room at MGM for a week, free shuttles, free alcohol, poker gear, etc. The whole thing was very nice. The only problem being that the seat wasn’t transferrable. It was in my name. Fortunately the PP representative to the WSOP had just gone through cancer herself and understood there was no way I’d be able to play in the main event. Not to mention the fact that Glenn had won the seat in the first place. So although we weren’t Party Poker VIP’s I was allowed to stay in the PP suite throughout the event, snacking on the free food, watching poker movies and drinking free drinks. This was a huge comfort for me, because sweating a tournament of that size can be as tiring as playing itself. The WSOP was so commercial by 2006 that one literally had to walk a mile to get anywhere. By the time the main event rolled around, players weren’t even allowed to walk down the hall anymore to the Amazon room. We were forced to walk through a carnival of a conference room, adding a quarter mile or more to the distance of the Amazon room from the entrance. The crowds were overwhelming. Sweating wasn’t even allowed half of the time. Gone were my days of darting in and out of tables, talking to my friends. Only press was allowed behind the ropes. Security was everywhere. Poker became a circus. The VIP room helped alleviate the deep fatigue and stress. For everything wrong with Party Poker, the one thing they consistently do right is represent at a big event.
So now that you know a little bit more about satellite poker, go ahead and try your hand! Remember, there are free rolls everywhere, both live and online. You do not have to deposit a red cent. Some people have questioned why I have been linking and shilling Carbon Poker. Well, that is a loaded question to answer. For all of my years of writing previously I absolutely refused to advertise anything or write for money. In the end I didn’t benefit, but I didn’t get burned either. So it was a push (I am so glad I turned down Full Tilt Poker back in the early days and never became one of their owner/pros!). This time around, if I feel that I can help beginning players free roll their way into real money, events, or winning poker players without risking a thing, I will link a banner here and there. If it requires a risk, forget it.
I have not deposited on Carbon. They make it really tough, and we gave up long ago. Not to mention the state of affairs here in the USA and the questions about legality. But will I take free money and grind it up? You’d better believe it. Carbon has so many ways to make free money. They have step SNG’s, which is where I made my first money. The have four free rolls per day (two NLHE, one PLO, one HORSE). They have other free rolls, satellites, low-limit cash games, etc. There are many ways to make money out of absolutely nothing, if you are patient enough. It is a tough grind, but beginning players might actually learn how to play (look at the play itself, not the results). They have a free odds calculator which attaches itself to your tables as you are playing and automatically configures your odds on every hand, every street. You can also have your table designed so that you know the strength of your hand, and your percentage to win at all times. These are good learning tools, just don’t let them become a crutch. You need to know where you are in a hand, so that when you play where those calculations aren’t available (or live), you will not be crippled by the easy odds displayed on your screen.
SNG’s, satellites and other types of free rolls are also a good way of learning other games. When we were playing in the Stud 8 event the other day one player kept complaining about the slowness of the game and the length of Stud tournaments. For me it is incredibly fast. Where else except online can you play 90 Stud 8 hands in an hour??? But for him it was excruciatingly slow. So I asked him some questions to figure out why. Had he ever played Stud 8 before? Ever played live? Ever played a non-Hold’em tournament before? Was he a young, new, inexperienced player? Pretty much all of the above, although he declined to tell me his age. Although he had a huge stack, he was out of the event not long after. These things are very important to know. So free rolls are a good way to play other games and find out what works for you and what doesn’t. It will also help you learn patience and work on your meta-game, especially if you like to play shorthanded or Heads-Up poker.
So there ya go, my excuse for shilling Carbon. Hope you enjoyed!